Friday, June 1, 2012

Fieldnotes from the Philly Style Bloggers Meetup

Last night was my first in-person meeting of Philly Style Bloggers, a local group, organized through, that provides a forum for discussion and support among Philadelphia-based fashion-oriented bloggers. The theme of the night was "Get the hang of video blogging."It was hosted by Google + and featured a live video feed through the "Hangout" feature of the platform. Among those present were Fajr Muhammad of Stylish Thought, Karima Renee of Skinny Minority, Sabir M. Peele of Men's Style Pro, Mohammed Shariff of Fame Appeal, and joining us via Google Hangout from Miami, Ria Michelle of the eponymous I didn't catch the name of your blog, Jared, and I apologize to those other people in the group I didn't manage to meet. It's a good group of folks, though, very welcoming and supportive, and all of their blogs are well worth checking out.

I won't bore you with detailed notes from the event (though as a good anthropologist, I did in fact take them), but here are some of my observations, appropriately numbered to lend them the (contrived) aura of weight and significance. Please feel free to comment or disagree:

1) Bloggers these days strive to be as professional as possible. This seems like a common sense assertion, but it is that very commensensicalness that demands interrogation. It wasn't always common sense that bloggers would strive to be professional. In the early days of the blog the whole point was to be off the cuff. After all, blogs were derived in part from the "zine," small-scale, self-produced publications who often flaunted their amateurism as a selling point. Zines, and by extension early blogs, were scrappy and personal, homemade alternatives to the gloss and glamour of mainstream magazines. One of the reasons for professionalism, of course, is a desire to "monetize"one's blog, to sell advertising space to potential sponsors. Another is to use the blog as a method of self-promotion for whatever creative venture one does in their working life. Monetizing has none of the "sell out" connotations it held in zines or in the larger DIY scene out of which they emerged. It is not a question of whether to sell ad space; it is a question of who to sell ad space to and under what conditions. The goal is not to maintain a strict outsider position; it is to position oneself as an insider by one's own terms. And so professionalism has become an unquestioned good among bloggers. Those present, including, it should be mentioned, myself, discussed their hesitancy to add a video feature to their blogs primarily in terms of their feared inability to do so in a "professional" manner. "Quality" is of the utmost importance, as is sleekness of design. No one wants to air their amateurism in public. You keep that stuff to yourself.

2) Bloggers nonetheless see their own personal touch as their primary brand distinction. The key word in this sentence, however, is "brand." Brand and self are indistinguishable in the world of blogging, as they are in more and more aspects of everyday life. The key to effective blogging, goes the common rhetoric, is "just being yourself." What has never been entirely clear to me, however, is exactly what that means. How do you know when you're being yourself and not just putting on an act? How do you tell your projected identity from who you are inside? And is there a difference anyway? I admit, I buy into the whole "be yourself" discourse. I too am striving to do so as much as possible in this blog. It just so happens that who I am is a notorious fake. But then, if you fake something for long enough, then that's who you are. You see the problem?

3) If you don't have an angle, get one. There are certain words that come up a lot when you talk to other bloggers. "Traffic" is a big one. So are "variety," "professional," "monetize," and "quality." But one of the most interesting ones to me is "angle." When I explain to people that I'm an anthropologist doing a street style blog as a method of studying street style blogging I am often surprised to discover that they read anthropology not as my primary motivation, but as my angle, my unique brand identity.  I, like the tens of millions of other bloggers out there, need something to distinguish my blog from other peoples' blogs, and anthropology is as good a way to do so as any other. So, anthropology is my angle. I'm thinking of writing a piece for Anthropological Theory with exactly that title.

1 comment:

  1. What a great meetup! And an interesting observation about the video aspect. I recently had a meeting with Google to discuss the addition of their Hangout video feature as a part of my blogging. I can't seem to come up with a way to do this that I am comfortable/happy with...

    And yes, own it. I love the anthropological aspect of Urban Fieldnotes. Glad it's your angle.

    I think there is a similar meetup group in Seattle. You've got me inspired to check it out.


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