With or without readers


Clear author-text-medium relationships.


Do you remember how clear my Orsai graphs were?


Not anymore.

Now, I call it the Orsai mess.

But before you see it, here’s an introduction of what happened.

The graph above includes only the ‘input’ from authors and editors, and is organized according to what medium they were published on (Orsai Blog, Bar Blog, Redacción Blog, Web Magazine, and Print Magazine). This is, so to speak, the text, the narrative of the project and, as any narrative, it relies on a million different strategies aimed at producing a reading effect. Well, in the case of Orsai, it is also a buying effect, otherwise all kinds of bad things happen: authors don’t get paid, magazines don’t get delivered, people get angry and, in short, the project dies.

Well, all of that, as it can be read in the narrative (the graph) is clearly orchestrated and maintained. It is a well-oiled machine.

Then come the readers.

About 400 articles, 5000 readers and +40,000 comments

About 400 articles, 5000 readers and +40,000 comments

Studying the figure of the reader has always been messy. It has also always been my thing. From the earlier posts here, you’ll see that I’m interested in what happens when we read, on what happens when others read the same. Well, what happens when 5 thousand readers read the same? This happens:

This is what I *love* about the possibilities of reading in participatory media platforms. There are traces of people’s readings. And what I *love* about my project: I can study those traces, I can study ‘readings’. So in this case, the original dataset was sliced to leave only those ‘pieces’ with a commenting section enabled – only the print magazine pieces were taken out really. The figure of  the reader is considered not someone who reads Orsai, but someone who comments on Orsai.

Now, from whatever’s going on the the Orsai mess, for now I just want to mention that if we put together each article, blog post, chronicle, short story, and reader comment as one item, readers have produced 99% of that. This is only a +2 year project, and it amazes me how much it is both dwarfed and impossibly expanded by those who read it.

Imagine the possibilities!

*As always, many thanks to versae for all his help. And special thanks to Hernán Casciari for the huge dataset he so generously gave me.

Where is the story?

A lot of research has gone in the past few weeks into the blog aspect of Orsai. Although part of my argument consists of characterizing the project as an intermedial text, it is important to remember that it started off as a blog, a personal blog actually, and the blog aspects of it continue to be fundamental to the whole. The questions I’ve been asking myself then are what makes a blog different from an intermedial text? Is it really different? In what way? The usual. In order to answer that, I have to go back in Orsai’s history.

Orsai’s birth as a blog has a long and interesting story. In the early to mid 2000’s, Hernán Casciari produced a series of blog fictions such as Weblog de una mujer gorda, El diario de Letizia Ortiz, among others. The success of these varied, being Weblog the una mujer gorda the one who enjoyed a bigger readership because of its interactive live textuality and development. For about two years, Casciari wrote Mirta Bertotti’s diary where the story of her family interwove with the arrival of new technologies to their household and the recent history of Argentina. Fittingly, Weblog de una mujer gorda can be seen as Orsai’s “mother”. For about half a decade and while involved in his other blog narrative projects, Casciari kept Orsai a personal blog, one in which everything went: short stories, rants, personal happenings, and whatnot. Then came 2010 when the larger Orsai project started gestating first, “just” as a print magazine, then a publishing house, then a bar, now the publishing house is becoming interactive. Less than a year ago, the blog migrated from bitacoras.com into a new “pan-Orsai site and became many blogs to separate the focus of the content into a blog (as Casciari’s personal diary-bucket), redacción (where the magazine dealings are discussed) and bar (where the bar chronicles go). Increasingly, the narrative of the project has become more and more atomized.

Now, the texture of blogging and its uses might be seen already as a convergent one. The amount and variety of contents and media blogs are known to include — text, video, pictures, audio — is something we’ve come to take for granted. No question there. Also, we’ve assumed that there is a lot of leaking from blogs into other digital spheres such as social media, email, and analogue such as print publishing and live meetings. No question there either. But these two things are actually pretty different, almost contrary to each other. On the one hand is the flexibility of blogs to encase other types of content/media, the other is its susceptibility to spread outside of its digital covers. These are two very different movements. I believe, they are the key to my questions. In Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins argues that convergence is not the “process of bringing together multiple media functions within the same devices”, the way it happens in blogs if we characterize them as devices. For example, whereas Casciari’s other blog narratives where contained in the blog and there might have been some “spilling” off the screen (Weblog de una mujer gorda was later published in print and adapted to theatre) all of it pointed in the direction of the blog as both its source and target.

In Orsai, the story is quite different and more in tune with what Jenkins proposes as convergence —“the flow of content across multiple media platforms”. In many ways, through these two years, the blog has remained the headquarters of the project, where only a portion of the stories are told, while the rest is narrated in other media or “simply” takes place at the bar. The constant narrative of the project makes all of the different media platforms (blogs, blog commentsmagazinebar) stay cohesive. Although in a historical way, the narrative of Orsai can be traced back to the original blog, ever since the inclusion of the print and location platforms, the story not only happens elsewhere, it also gets told elsewhere. The idea of following a story in Orsai becomes literal and to a large extent actual. The narrative is the thread uniting the diverse media components along which readers collect the story.

As opposed to a blog narrative in which the story is made up, by means of different media, within the blog; an intermedial text can be characterized as both the sum and the parts of the story made up also of different media but spread out in various platforms. The role of the reader is key to my characterization of intermedial text. In a blog narrative, the organization of the content is largely put together by an author, it might later on be complemented by the social interactions common in blogs, but readers need not go anywhere else to get the story. On the other hand, in an intermedial text, such as Orsai, the blog might be a meeting point, but the content is collected by readers there and anywhere they might find it. Then they make up the story from what they get.