Ruminations with a Recommendation or Two
From the Editor
Summer is here, but I think we’re living in the late autumn of the print magazine. There’s been lots of talk in academic circles about the dubious future of paper-format journals, but it’s perhaps interesting to consider the migration to the digital realm from both sides of the periodical spectrum — not only from the the Ivory Tower of erudition but also from the populism of Main Street.
The point has been brought home to me over the past year on a number of occasions as I’ve first learned of the end of various design magazines from design blogs. An article in Sunday’s edition of The New York Times (20 June 2010) presents the next logical step. Claire Cain Miller explains the origins of a new online design magazine, Lonny: “Michelle Adams, 27, a former market assistant at Domino, and Patrick Cline, 34, a photographer and photo retoucher, were talking . . . in May 2009 after Condé Nast closed Domino, its sprightly home magazine. Over dinner at Chili’s, they mourned the loss of the magazine and other design magazines, like Blueprint and House & Garden, and joked that they should start their own.” So they did, and 600,000 readers later, theirs looks to me like the future.
A blog, of course, isn’t exactly the same thing as a digital magazine, but this relatively new format seems to be coming of age in its own right, and there are certainly loads of fine examples that facilitate an exchange of information that simply couldn’t have happened in any way even ten years ago. To underscore just two: I’m still a big fan of Courtney Barnes’s Style Court, and I’ve recently discovered a new favorite from Janet Blyberg, JCB. Janet was on the Attingham Program with me earlier this month (she supplies a terrific episodic account of the trip with amazing photographs). As an art historian and museum professional, she brings a smart sensibility to a wide range of topics — including lots of gems for dix-huitièmistes: postings, for instance, on Woodford Mansion in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park and the house built by the botanist John Bartram (also in Philadelphia). The food postings are pretty terrific, too.
In the midst of this media migration from paper to the digital realm (reinforced by the likes of Scribd), things will surely be lost . . . and lots gained. It seems to me that one challenge for scholarly publications is finding a way not simply to mimic the older paper versions but to take advantage of the potential for entirely new features that just weren’t possible previously. The likes of Style Court and JCB might just be doing crucial, experimental work with important implications for even stuffy, scholarly publications. They definitely make the world a brighter place.