As my second to last semester of architecture school concludes, I’m forced to look back at my hellish, emotionally charged, and inspiring study of architecture blogging. When I started this study, I knew I had chosen an ambitious project but I severely underestimated the difficulty of architecture blogging. I feel passionately about improving the design literacy of the general public and it was hard to reign myself in.
My project was to research the methods scientists use to communicate their research to the general public and hijack those methods for architects. Nearly every week, I would research one article or book chapter regarding science communication, analyze that information in a blog post targeted at architects, then use my analysis to blog about architecture for a general audience.
I learned about the importance of storytelling, using humor and emotion, the psychological process of engagement, and so much more. The most impactful lessons, however, didn’t come from any of the textbooks or journal articles but the practice itself.
Lesson 1: Architecture Blogging Takes Guts
When I started, I had intended to get as much exposure as I could in order to gather real feedback from real, general-audience, internet people. I didn’t really know what to expect as far as numbers went, and I still don’t really know how I stack up to other bloggers, but I think I did pretty well. From the start of my study three months ago until now, there have been 4,104 views of my general audience-oriented blog, Place Exploration. The average post received 346 views.
In the internet world, where Psy’s Gangnam Style music video has received 2.4 BILLION views, my numbers are pretty minuscule. However, in the real world, to have 346 critics judge your work every week is insane! On top of being numerous, these critics are usually anonymous and free to rip into people’s work without any repercussions and little empathy. Luckily, the comments left on my posts have almost entirely been constructive and/or supportive. One week when I compared postmodernism to punk rock, I received some particularly negative feedback that challenged my determination to continue the study but I took a week off, picked myself up, and used the feedback to refocus my research on an issue I hadn’t previously considered (responsible language use).
Every press of the “submit post” button has made my stomach churn with anxiety. I commend anyone who has taken on the critics of the internet in order to share their passion.
Lesson 2: Architecture Blogging is Difficult Work
My strange obsession with the popularization of architecture has inspired hundreds of topics for me to research but when I finally found the opportunity to begin research, it was a struggle to design a project that I could balance with my classes and my job as a teaching assistant. I was sure that posting two measly blog posts every week would be no problem. Besides, it’s just blogging right? Everyone and their mother blogs so it can’t be that difficult!
Well, if I wasn’t already an over-extended, working graduate student, it may have been a piece of cake but there aren’t too many people who can devote themselves to full-time blogging–there’s never enough time to write something with total satisfaction that it’s complete. As you can see in the chart below, my blog views (and by implication, my success as a blogger), are inversely related to my level of stress. Stress does not a good blogger make.
In addition to the challenge of writing while constantly under stress, an architecture blogger must also be entertaining yet factually correct. Many science communicators rely on dramatic metaphors and rhetorically charged language to maximize the impact of their message. Unfortunately, metaphors and rhetoric inherently communicate with less than 100% accuracy so they must be used with care. Finding the right balance of entertainment and education takes an astounding amount of consideration and I doubt I’ve ever achieved the perfect mix.
Lesson 3: Architecture Blogging is Totally Doable, Rewarding, and You Should Try It
I’ve always struggled in my writing courses and school papers have always been my worst enemies. I’ll admit that part of the reason I decided to study architecture was that my projects would mostly be drawings and not essays. Looking at my record, you’d think I’d be the worst candidate to start blogging but the truth is that anyone can do it.
Blogging about architecture has generated a plethora of fascinating ideas, altered my understanding of the world, and made me a better communicator. I’m certain I’ve broken a personal record for words typed this semester and now my confidence in my writing skills and my understanding of the topics I’ve covered has undoubtedly improved.
There is A LOT of really bad architecture being built instead of the healthy, breathtaking, life-affirming architecture that we are fully capable of designing. If we make it easier for people to learn about the capabilities and implications of architectural design, we’ll surely have a higher demand for high quality design.