Blogitecture at MIT HTC Forum from Kazys Varnelis on Vimeo.
Trained researchers are taught to be reflexive -- critical of their disciplinary conventions, their methods, their epistemologies; aware of the underlying ideologies of the academy and of the research enterprise. And those researchers know to expect criticism of the work they produce. It's not easy to take -- but it's part of the game.
There's no little [Ed., 11/14: okay, critique is not nonexistent, but it's scarce] apparent constructive "critique culture" among architectural bloggers. Yes, bloggers can of course be critical of the stuff they're writing about, but who's launched a serious critique of the bloggers themselves or the blogging enterprise -- or of all the other "other spaces" of design discourse: the peripheral publications and labs and collectives? We have an opportunity to be critical of the role that Manaugh and the Archinect folks and others play in shaping architectural discourse. We have an opportunity to look critically at the net politics of the cLAB / NetLab / Volume (all Columbia-supported; I'd love to take a peek at GSAPP's books!) / New Museum nexus. Yet all we get is boosterism. Fawning reviews. Beverage company-sponsored downtown gatherings in who-knows-how-they-can-afford-this? penthouse studios. Chuckles over the cleverness of it all. Critical comments (critical not only of the argument being made, but also of the blogging practice or platform) posted to one's blog are typically immediately (and sometimes ungraciously) rebutted [Ed., 11/14: Manaugh actually called me a "xenophobic" "Gollum-like figure" -- so we're pulling out the Hobbit attacks, are we?].
Yes, the conversations that take place in these venues are critical. But where's the critique of the venues themselves? And by critique I don't mean that we're obligated to find some ugly underbelly or conspiracy -- but, rather, that we should at least attempt to make some sense of their intellectual architectures and institutional infrastructures, their politics, their publics, their openness and accessibility, their modes of dissemination, their rhetorics, their techniques of self-presentation, their funding, etc.
These "other spaces" are the institution. We seem to mistake the network structure for the politics: we assume that because it's a "satellite lab" or an "independent publication" or an "other space," it's necessarily aberrant, deviant, subaltern -- that it's already engaged in critique and therefore immune to critique itself. Not so. These "other [networked] spaces" are networked right into the big institutions. And in some cases we might say that they constitute institutions in and of themselves. Why do we not apply the same critical lens to the the bloggers and the "satellite labs" as we do to the institutions to which they purportedly offer an alternative?