Thursday, January 15, 2009

Minor Analysis Paper, Part I

When it comes to the topic of personal [style blogs or street-style] blogs, many will readily agree they provide a means of self-expression and communication, sometimes even stimulating conversation and interaction within a particular community[1]. Where this agreement usually ends, however, is on the question of the degree that such a heightened individualistic pattern of oftentimes one-way communication becomes socially isolating, encouraging the development of an individualistic identity[2]. Some are convinced that online networks can positively affect the individual’s community involvement, where participants in any particular community can extend their conversations. Whereas others maintain that the personality characteristics distinguishing most bloggers from non-bloggers, such as Openness to New Experience and Neuroticism, might lead to consequences such as “increased private self-awareness”[3].

             In order to explore the validity of either claim concerning an individual’s intention behind personal blogging, it is necessary to examine examples of blogs that fall into this category. Not all blogs are meant to function in such a blatantly self-serving manner; the New York Times and other major publications use blogs to further specified conversations ranging from music to food to foreign affairs, focusing on news items instead of intensely self-revealing photo and journal-style entries. Ironically, in a blog entry for the NY Times “Medium” blog which turns a critical and curious eye towards the media, Virginia Heffernan writes about two specific street-style blogs that have gained considerable praise and a large audience: The Sartorialist [authored by Scott Schuman] and Garance Doré[4]. Heffernan argues that blogs of this caliber function the way any haute fashion magazine would—they provide a temporary fantasy world to which to escape for a momentary lapse in reality-based spatial orientation. Indeed, the images transport the viewer to a place of beauty, of chicness, of shine and silent charisma. They are the behind-the-scenes of magazine photos—by contrast staged and modeled by some of the very same girls and boys who appear on the street-style blogs. However, in the cozy context of off-camera or real life, the characters are somehow approachable, even if they incite a longing almost overwhelming enough to deter some viewers from returning.

Garance Doré, in the “about” section of her blog, amounts its beginnings to a desire “to do something more free, more spontaneous[5].” As a professional illustrator, she was looking for intimate contact with her readers, something that she readily found when writing “little snapshots[6]” of her life.

Scott Schuman’s “The Sartorialist,” which subtly greets the viewer with the statement: “Selected as one of Time Magazine’s top 100 design influencers[7],” is similarly focused on capturing his subject’s character through their dress, grooming and stance. However, as a veteran of the fashion industry [he worked in sales and marketing for high-end women’s fashion designers for 15 years], Schuman brings a more focused and critical eye to his photographs. His reasons for beginning the blog are less self-centered. Schuman’s goal was to shoot “people on the street” so as to give inspiration to other designers. “Rarely do [designers] look at the whole outfit as a yes or no but they try and look for the abstract concepts of color, proportion, pattern mixing or mixed genres[8].” So—as evidenced by his photography and sparse commentary—does Schuman.

Both bloggers create a common place upon which readers may interact with other style-minded individuals. These blogs are a repository for a specific cultural ideal: appearance. Heffernan alludes to consumerism’s current rhetorical situation, where one-time [ is the online home of Vogue] find permanent residence. “Vogue’s Style File blog at, which features celebrities and breaking fashion news, rarely draws a single comment. By contrast, a Garance Doré post of an unnamed woman in houndstooth and stripes drew 78 comments, in French and English”[9]. Furthermore, Heffernan points to Paris’ one-time allure of luxury and extravagance as faded in “this moment of cultural history[10],” cautioning viewers against falling too easily into such tempting photographic magnetism.

            Even though these blogs are not focused on their authors, attention has nevertheless been directed toward the faceless creators. By aggregating the images of others, they have created—whether intentionally or unintentionally—a persona of their own. Some style blogs focus solely on creating this personal persona, such as the blog “The Cherry Blossom Girl[11].” In these instances, the persona actually becomes the common place for people to meet, exchanging small and praiseworthy remarks or inviting the blogger to visit the viewer’s own place of self-expression.  

[1] “Interactive Online Journals and Individualization”

[2] “Interactive Online Journals and Individualization”

[3] “Who Blogs? Personality Predictors of Blogging”

[4] “Pop Couture”





[9] “Pop Couture”

[10] “Pop Couture”


1 comment:

  1. I feel that blogs greatly differ and can be catagorized by the following: Journalistic, non-jounalistic, entertainment, education, etc... Those like Perez Hilton are not in the business of hard news (clearly) and do little to promote education or any level of well-being.
    On the other hand, like you mentioned, bloggers on the NYT can have a valuable impact on readers and can provide a level of information that superceeds entertainment.