New year, new blog

Hi, I’m Madeleine. You may remember me from Twitter (@nouveaudigital), where I tweet about art and digital news, and the Pre-Raphaelites. Maybe you ran into me when I gave the paper, ‘Fair was the web and nobly wrought: Digital Curation and the Pre-Raphaelites’, at the recent Pre-Raphaelitism conference at Oxford Brookes or the 2012 CHArt (Computers and Art History) conference. Perhaps you’ve met me at another art history conference or lecture, or through the Pre-Raphaelite Society (come join us, we are lovely). In any case I’m very glad you are here.

You would think it would be an easy decision for someone who has been working in digital advertising and social media since 2005 to start a blog… but as the old adage goes, the cobbler’s children never have any shoes. A less well-known aphorism might be appropriate here however; if you do not have something to say, maybe social media is not for you. Until I started my MA in Art History a few years ago I did not have a single topic that I felt comfortable pontificating at length about. The key word in ‘social media’ is social; you have to be willing and able to have a conversation. For me, it was important that there be a niche topic to base a blog around, something that would give it focus and purpose.* It was equally important that it be something that made the words pour out of me in a torrent, a subject I felt authoritative enough about to be able to argue the toss, with enough expertise to bring something of value or amusement to my readers.

I have always been passionately interested in the Victorian period. At secondary school I was that artsy git who pranced around in long velvet skirts at Latin Club and auditioned for the school play by doing a reading of The Raven.** But then again, I have also been interested in computers ever since my father lugged home that fondly remembered beige brick, the Apple IIc.*** I would poke at that green-screened clunker for hours, gaming or using those screechy dot matrix printers to make clip art posters of dubious quality. As a teenager in the 90s, I spent a lot of time on BBS (bulletin board systems) and CompuServ forums before the internet became as ubiquitous as it is now. When I was doing my undergraduate degree in Design for Theatre, the pursuit of both technology and art held no contradictions for me. I was being taught Photoshop at the same time as traditional figure drawing and painting, and doing image research both online and in the library stacks.

These two obsessions had no problem existing together seamlessly in my head but it did not always work out well in real life, post-undergrad. Workmates who built websites with me didn’t understand why I’d speed off to the Wallace Collection or hide with a copy of Possession during my lunch hour, rather than go for a pint. Why was someone so stuck in the past when they spent all day on the bleeding edge of technology? However, I was determined that they should both continue to have a place in my life and I enrolled in my MA in Art History in 2011 while still working full-time at digital agencies.

The idea for this blog crystallized when I was completing the MA research project that would become that fateful conference paper. As part of my degree work, I tried to shoehorn something about the Pre-Raphaelites into every paper or project; one of my tutors quipped I was actually getting a degree in the Pre-Raphaelites. Our programme’s summer research project was meant to demonstrate the research process and we were encouraged to take risks. So I took one. I missed the seamless fusion of technology and art of my undergraduate work and I was finally going to combine everything I loved into one awesomely (and, as I found later, dauntingly) large project. I made it my mission to find out everything about Pre-Raphaelite-focused web resources. How did they get made? Who made them and who uses them? In the process, I learned more than I could have imagined and made friendships I hope will last a lifetime.

This blog is a continuation of that journey. My hopes are that it will be a good mix of more formal, academically-focused posts and lighter, observational posts. With any luck it will be clear which is which. I also write for other blogs and print journals, and will hopefully be able to share those soon. In the pipeline are posts about how I came to the Pre-Raphaelites, making peace with Wikipedia and my history in all things digital. So I hope I can tempt you back to start some worthwhile conversations.

*= Rather than another blog with artfully blurry food photography or cats with captions.
**= Hint: I didn’t quite get that part in Oklahoma.
***= Dating myself a bit here, since it came out between 1984- 1988.

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