The concept of the artist/writer/poet/dancer-in-residence at museums, art galleries, exhibitions and, occasionally, corporate environments is pretty much part of the artistic landscape now.

I’d like to put forward the idea of the blogger-in-residence.

I’ve been thinking about this for a little while and, especially when compared to the role of the writer-in-residence, it makes a certain amount of sense.  The writer-in-residence schemes I’ve looked at vary wildly from place to place but the core aims often include one or more of the following:

  • A piece of writing (or similar tangible outcome)
  • Education – tuition and mentoring
  • Events – readings, workshops
  • Community outreach to widen the host venue’s audience
  • Institutional cohension – providing a focal point for staff members and their families to interact around

It seems to me that a blogger, especially a community-minded one, could be given many of the same objectives. In fact, the position could have parallels with that of:

  • the common or garden writer-in-residence
  • an embedded journalist (as seen in the military)
  • the newly-emerging concept of the ‘social reporter’

What I don’t see this as, is an add-on to a marketing/public relations department. That sort of role carries a very different set of motivations and expectations. It may be necessary to delineate some boundaries but a certain amount of independence and freedom would be required.

Your run-of-the-mill blogger may lack the literary standards you might expect of a professional writer (please excuse the generalisms) but instead they would be comfortable working with an online network, fostering/interacting with a community and working with a variety of media. Over the the period of a residency I think you could see some interesting results.

I’m sure this isn’t an original idea and I’ve been looking for examples of people who have been taken on in this role already. However, all I’ve been able to find are media outlets taking on guest bloggers (not quite what I’m talking about) and bloggers-in-residence at tech companies, seemingly hired for marketing/PR reasons.

The only one I’ve found that fits the bill is the Art Gallery of Ontario who invited Shawn Micallef to blog about the gallery’s recent renovation:

There is simply so much going on around here as Transformation AGO nears completion that we want somebody to cover the events and details around the opening of the New AGO… The best part about running a blog like this is we can explore all this from a whole bunch of angles — inside and outside the building — and invite you, our readers, to join in the discussion

Shawn’s posts on the gallery’s Art Matters blog make for interesting reading as he mixes up news, profiles, snippets of overheard conversation and news round-ups.

That’s one approach, I’d like to hear about others. Similarly if there’s anyone who’d like to explore something like this (or knows someone who might be open to it) then please get in touch.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.

8 replies on “Blogger-in-residence”

  1. Hi Chris – great ideas … I would add to the mix that I see social reporting as blogging plus some other activities to help promote conversations, surface stories, and build relationships. Those could include helping blend online and offline activities, contributing to other people’s spaces, helping develop new social spaces and helping people find their voice online. I like Etienne Wenger’s idea of social artists

  2. I’m guessing writer-in-residence schemes are mainly to get the community/organisation/business to be able to reflect on what it is and what its members can learn from each other. If the blogger-in-residence can connect the community and get it to transmit its stories and learning, then the activity would be more sustainable once the blogger-in-residence leaves that the poem or two left by the writer.

  3. Thanks for this nice write up. When we discussed the two-week project, we thought it might be the first, but some folks pointed out that there have been previous examples, particularly Eyebeam gallery in NYC.

    It was a fun experience, lots of freedom to write about whatever I wanted to write about, but I think “embedded” is the best way to describe it. I was free to say whatever I wanted to say, but I was always concious that there was a bit of inside-ness to it, so it was a bit different than how I might write our own blog or for a print publication. That’s not to say I self-censored, or wrote PR copy (there was no pressure at all to do so), but I think I was upfront about my aim to just write about what is going on, somewhat matter-of-fact-ly, and also talk about the stuff that excited me about the place. Would do it again certainly.

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