The Establishment Blogger and the Globe Tattoo Tatt Awards 2011

Again, we have an on-going “blog contest”, the Globe Tattoo Tatt Awards that applies some veeerrrryyyy familiar mechanics around who they consider to be deserving of “recognition” across a handful of categories. These categories divide up the general subject areas that blogs tend to focus on — activism, issues, technology, fashion, and entertainment — and the awards given for each are given catchy names: The One, Ballbreaker, Stylisimo, Tech Junkie, Artiste, and Wordslayer to name a few.

Who gets to win? Basically the most popular among a list of nominated blogs wins…

Winners are decided by public voting and a panel of judges christened The Tatt Council. Members of The Tatt Council include Dong Ronquillo; award-winning journalist Maria Ressa; Rock Ed Philippines founder Gang Badoy; popular lifestyle blogger and entrepreneur Cecile Zamora-Van Straten; tech blogger and Tattoo ambassador Rico Mossesgeld; director and video blogger Kring Elenzano; Radio DJ Chico Garcia and Hans Roxas-Chua, president of the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP).

It is interesting to note that Globe Telecoms had been a sponsor of “blog contests” in the past. I wrote in 2010 of Globe Telecoms’ sponsorship of the Philippine Blog Awards (PBA) as a context to frame a concept which I describe using a phrase I coined — the establishment blogger

Apart from me having in the last several years taken some issue around the revered role “elders” feel they are entitled to in Filipino society; I find that the overarching irony of the distinction of “Digital Elder” — or, for that matter, the whole existence of a Blog Awards to begin with — seems to have flown over the heads of our venerable opinion-shapers.

Consider first of all that;

The blogosphere is held up by modern-day philosophers to be a classless flat Earth of freely-competing ideas.

Globe Telecom, back in 2009, not only presumed to be an authority on who earns the distinction of “Digital Elder”, it also led the Philippine Blogosphere in its first step on a journey down the road to its transformation into the very caste system that characterises Pinoy society today by creating such classes of bloggers as “Digital Elder” and “Digital Tribe”.

Indeed, the term establishmentisation was a term I coined even waaayyy further back, in my time as a hack for the legendary FilipinoVoices.com (which, though no more than a shell of its former self today, was itself a “winner” of one of these “blog contests” in its heyday). In my piece Establishmentisation, I was lucky enough to be in a frame of mind for that rare eureka! moment…

Interestingly, I happen to be in the middle of the book Down and Dirty Pictures – Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film by Peter Biskind. I draw some parallels to the blogging debate from the difference I now see between Independent (“Indy”) Films — motion pictures created and produced by real artists with real visions, and Studio (“Establishment”) Movies — motion pictures produced with the singular aim of drawing an audience.

Studio movies use formulas — proven cinematic devices that appeal to as broad a range of viewers as possible. In contrast, Indy films are driven by their creators’ visions and passions. As a result, Indy works are far more edgy, risque, and often (the good ones, at least) leave a deep impression on their viewers. The Indy world is the cauldron of creativity that spawned groundbreaking works like Pulp Fiction using styles and stories that no produced-by-committee movie could ever pull off.

For Indy film producers, an audience is a bonus. For Studio movie producers, an audience is the whole point. The latter is driven by credentialism and the former by insight. We all know mass appeal brings home the bacon, whilst edginess and loyalty to vision attracts a far smaller subset — insightful minds. That ultimately is the choice faced by every content producer, be they film makers, illustrators, writers, and — yes — bloggers.

As Web authors, we need to ask ourselves:

Are we seeing our vision through?
Or are we selling out to the Establishment?

Perhaps, to be fair, the fact of the sponsorship of a “contest” that presumes to judge the (proud to be) rabble of the literary world some of whom choose to express themselves in that technology platform called Web logs (now simply known as blogs) by a big corporation like Globe Telecom is an irony that escapes the sensibilities of most Filipinos.

Thing is you never know who or what the subject of your next blog post will be.

What if one day we find out that the sponsor of the award trophy we so proudly display on our bookcase at home operates sweatshops that employ children in the slums of Guangzhou to manufacture the container van-loads of trinkets it imports every year and sells at a 200% margin in our neighbourhood malls?

So much for the big rare lightbulb that would have interrupted an agonising stretch of writer’s block.

In short, by routinely selling out, we paint ourselves into a creative corner with the let’s-not-go-there zones we surround ourselves with everytime we get in bed or play ball with Big Corportate, “generous” politicians, or agenda-laden “sponsors”.

In his recent piece Blog Awards… Do the Best Ones Really Win?, my peer in this small corner of the blogosphere, Paul Farol, attempts to qualify a framework for saving “blog contests” such as, say, Globe’s Tatt Awards from being lumped into the “corporate promotions gimmick dressed up like a blogging contest” pile…

It is only by closely looking at the criteria and the judges that one can get a sense of whether a “blogging contest” will result in real acclaim.

Then again, if you really think about it, what kind of criteria can be devised for a literary form that is still in the process of evolving with the technology that makes it possible?

Indeed. It is one of those things that makes one go hmmmmm

In closing, allow me then (to echo the memorable words in a nod granted to me by the eminent Dean Jorge Bocobo) to quote myself quoting myself:

“Awarding” bloggers is a redundant oxymoron.

Blogging is rewarding because of the prospect of one’s emergent prevalence and endurance in what is essentially a massive free-for-all for memetic dominance. It’s essentially not the sort of environment crybabies survive in. Sound familiar? That’s pretty much the same mechanism that created that wonderous diversity called our planetary biosphere. Are there awards bodies that hang medals for Best Terrestrial Life Form or Best Marine Lifeform? Perhaps organised religion would like to see itself as taking that role as judge of which DNA pattern truly rules our planet, but I believe most intelligent folk would consider the notion silly at best.

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Post Author: benign0

benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.