A piece of art

Morgen wordt de beoordeling van het Stimuleringsfonds Nederlandse Culturele Omroepproducties bekend gemaakt.
Krijgt Media Me ontwikkelingssubsidie, of niet?
Ondertussen heb ik de vragen van Ingo Kottkamp beantwoord.
(Pas op: leestijd 10 minuten!)

1. Introduce yourself.

My name is Bert Kommerij.
I write and direct radiodrama and develop/produce new media concepts for the Dutch public broadcast organisation RVU since 1999.
I studied drama at the School of Arts in Utrecht, HKU.
I used to write for theatre. After my study three plays were staged.
For Radio 1 (Holland) I wrote several columns about anything.
For the Humanistic Broadcast organisation I made six radio documentaries about favorite writers: Paul Bowles, George Perec, Heiner Muller, Paul Valery, George Bataille and Walt Whitman. 

My specialty is fiction.
I won two prizes. The Prix Europa in 2003 for The Holland Family and in 2004 I became worldfinalist at the New York Radio festival with Side B.
My work has been broadcasted in Holland, France, Finland and Estland.
Since a few weeks I have a new businesscard. It says: Creator innovative projects and new media.
This means internet has entered my work. And life.
Realized internetprojects so far:

Meneer A
Radio drama developed at the masterclass The Future Of The Small Screen.
Concept: a chatbox with special, unusual functions. (2000)

Download free wallpapers while listening to a four installment radio drama about lifestyle-industry.(2001)

A soundmachine about six basic emotions. (Made with students of the HKU art, media, technology department) (2004)

A docu drama about informationoverload. Clinic version. ( HKU project) (2005)

A soundwalk for two persons. Including worklog. Made for Ipod. (2006)

Radio docudrama becomes TV. About a man who gets lost on flickr.com. Including worklog and film. (2007)

Report about the Warsaw Gaypride 2008. Worklog with daily life picturefeed. (2008)

Work in progress which will result in a movies in ten scenes about media consumption and media behaviour. Flickr project. Including, research, website, worklog, film and choir. (2008)

Radioworks (2000-2008) are online at www.rvu.nl/radiodrama including The Holland Family and Side B.
I do voice-overs for radio and tv productions and produce soundart projects. (Incidentially.)
I’m active on flickr and weblogs.

2. When did you hear of blogging for the first time?

In May 2006 there was a kind of conference at the RVU, the broadcast organisation I work for.
A few inspiring internetpeople were invited to tell about the posibilities of blogging.
The title of the conference was: New Sounds. I was very eager to hear about it. Until then I only knew the archive and creative website functions of the internet. This was different. (Social networks and communities were not mentioned yet.)

I remember there was a discussion between colleagues who were very sceptic about it all. Emotions ran high.
Interactivity? So what!
International connections? We don’t care!
Blogging? Why?
Dialogues? Monologues!
Narrow? Broad!
And what the f*** is a niche?
It was the first time I sensed a real conflict between old and new media.

While I saw possibilities, others started to argue: “What’s the use? Why should we join? We don’t need a new virtual network. Blogging is for amateurs, we are professionals. Internet has no authority. It can be handy for my research but that’s it. What about my privacy? My work is about my program, the final product, not about the workproces, nor me. It will take too much of my time. And I hate writing.”
For I was a writer already, blogging was about publishing to me. On internet I saw all my favorite themes come together in various forms, world-wide: (Mis)communication, informationoverload, anonymity, the strangeness of things, privacy, bordom, etc. It was all there. Personal, direct and uncensored. I read stories and saw pictures I didn’t knew they existed.
I declared internet as a piece of art.
It all seemed very fictional to me. It still does.
So it caused a big change in my work and I liked it.
I was able to add images to my programs. It made my work visable since my last theaterplay.
(A very new experience for a radio maker: images.)

3. Can you remember having aversions against posting private stuff?

No, not at all. Private stuff fascinates me. I like to listen to it, watch it, be part of it. Posting and reading private stuff thrills me. It brings up interesting questions. Is it real? Is it meant to be private? Is it provocative? Why do people want to share it? With what purposes? Does it give meaning to their life? Or mine? Or to their blog?
The more private a post, the more human a person becomes. Still, he or she is virtual, not real, transformed.
No, I don’t have any aversion to private stuff.
I’ve always written in private documents. Now, some parts I publish (but still they are private to me). Some parts I save for other purposes. But what is private the moment it’s on the internet? Private becomes public. What’s private and intimate to me, can be very general and common to someone else. Is the food I eat private? The interior of my house? The car I drive? The books I read? My sexual preferences? The thoughts I have? How unique am I? And… who cares?! Is there another person like me, doing exactly the same things like me, in America or Russia?
These are all most fascinating questions to me.
Another thing is the question of being yourself on the internet.
People think that as long as they are impulsive and emotional, on the spot, in the digital here and now, they are true to themselves, others and the medium. This is me, they say, and this is my opinion, this is how I feel, believe it or not. Personal histories do not count.
I say, being yourself on the internet is almost impossible. At least, it’s not my goal when I publish a text, or post a picture. I’m a player, a chameleon. I want to be as diverse as the internet, not just one me but several me’s.
Internet offers me the opportunity to be several persons; it would be a cruel idea to use it for just one purpose: being myself. What is that?
Besides that, there will always be the eye of the beholder, the receiver, the interpretor, the reader, the audience who has the chance to choose, interpret and judge. if they like. It’s up to you. It’s up to me

4. Which were the first blogs you read and why?

When you start exploring blogs, you always look for the people you know first.
Where’s your family, where are your friends, your collegues, your neighbours? Do they have a digital life? You Google yourself and people you know from the past: ex-lovers, classmates etc. After a while you start doing research for your projects. You discover and meet people with the same interests. Your network starts to grow. You help and inspire each other. You start commenting. You “meet” people.
I discovered that people who work at a broadcast organisation are not very skilled in communicating on the internet. They don’t view it as a tool. Their network is closed. Their only goal is to broadcast their product and reach as many people as possible.
(I think I am a total restless surfer with many interests.)

5. And now, please tell how it came that you created one yourself. (When was that?)

I was working on Screened. I wrote about the project in private documents. Developing ideas.
I decided to publish some of those texts, to see what would happen. Then it became addictive, a second nature.
I went to web-log.nl. I didn’t want a special weblog, I wanted to join the “real thing”, to discover how it worked. I kept the log locked for I was not interested in comments at that time. My first log was a read-only one.

6. What were the first difficulties?

There were technical problems in the beginning. What’s a dashboard? How does it work?
I constantly forgot my password. Things got mixed up. It takes some time to discover how it works. Starting an account. Choosing templates and fonts. Adding pictures and movies. Publish.

7. What do you remember of the first reader comments?

I was looking for a place to upload images and pictures. Flickr.com looked reliable to me.
I didn’t know anything about commenting or stuff like that. Sharing images, I had never heard of.
Until a woman from Berlin added a comment under a picture I had published of my parents embracing each other.
Lucky you“, it said.
This was the first comment I had ever received. This is now 28 months ago.
Her name was me_maya.
So I started exploring and learning in public.
Leaving comments myself. Coorporating as a member. Experimenting.
Most important for me, I had something to write about.
I think it’s all about writing to me.

8. There are a lot of guides on the net how to handle a weblog properly so one attracts many readers. Did you follow them?

No. The nice thing of blogging, is that there are no rules. Not really. You can discover it all by yourself. You’re in charge. My logs are related to my projects. I use it as an inspiration for myself. As a tool. In the world of broadcasting I have to reach as many listeners as possible. As a blogger I can get in touch with persons, not masses.

9. Which blogs are you hosting now and for what purpose?

http://www.flickradio.nl Reports about the long tail of the project Flick Radio. I publish mail, answer questions, publish festivalnews, add remarkable developments and explore the question: how to broadcast radio on tv?

http://www.mediame.nl Is about the developments on the workproces and collects research.

http://www.eenhomoinpolen.wordpress.com Is about my trip to Warsaw with radio documentarymaker Adinda Arian. She made a feature about the Gay Liberation Front in Poland. Listeners can read about our trip, the things we discovered and background stories. While listening to the radio documentary you can watch the pictures we made during the trip and shared on Flickr.

10. How frequently are you posting and how often do you check for new comments?

Most comments I receive in my e-mail. (There’s a special function on your dashboard which handles that.) About the frequency of publishing, it depends on the fase the project is in. I’m not a very regular one. Sometimes twice a day. Sometimes twice a month.

11. Does your blog need a lot of care, and is the time spent on it a burden for you sometimes?

This is a question I get very often. But the time you spend on your blog is part of your work. How can it be a burden? As long as you love your work, there’s no problem. If you don’t like writing, don’t start blogging. Or you should start a videoblog or a photoblog. The value of your log is in your own hands. (Go find a platform that suits you.)

12. Recollecting your time as an active blogger, has the initial purpose why you started blogging changed?

Yes, my expectations are getting higher. I should publish and comment more often.

13. Have you changed yourself‚ through blogging?

No, not me. But my friends and collegues did change. They seemed more sensitive to it then I thought in the beginning. They like it when I write about them. But they don’t like it when I publish e-mails, for instance, without asking.

14. Can you say a few words about the contributors/ commentators to your blog(s)?

They are all creative persons. Amateurs and professionals. Actors, writers, composers, photographers, students. Most of them prefer to stay anonymous. They send e-mails which say: don’t publish this on your log!
This makes our conversations very exclusive.

15. Are they basically the same people or does this change a lot?

No, basicly they are the same persons. Sometimes a new person pops up. But this is also in my own hands. If I comment more, I receive more comments. What you give is what you get. Last few months I have been a louzy commentor.

16. Are there moments when you are irritated by them? Disturbed? Annoyed? Did you ever feel the need to exclude somebody?

Yes. I excluded one person once on Flickr. Because this person liked to interfere in my work in a nasty way.
I asked him not to, but he said: “Internet is a free space in which I can do whatever I want.” So I excluded him. Then we talked. (He was right. The nastyness is gone now.)

And can you describe moments when they proved helpful? Inspiring?

The firtst time I wrote about Kendra, the main character in Flick Radio, someone send me an article about Youth on the Internet. It came from the New York Times. It inspired me to write more about her. When a new book or film or website is released, concerning my subject, people send me mail or leave a comment.

17. Does it give you a thrill when a new comment pops up?

Yes. I am a curious person. Even spam and advertisements can be inspiring to me.

18. How active are you as a commentator of other blogs?

It depends. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I’m very selfish in that way. For instance, I’m not good in blah-blah comments filled with instant emotions and non-stop opinions about anything. I try to be a thoughtful character. In some cases, during research, I operate anonymous.

19. How private is your blog? Can you draw a general distinction between what you tell to the public and what you like to keep to yourself/ to your friends offline?

No, I can’t. I realize there’s an audience out there, somewhere, always. Writing a good sentence can make me very happy. I try to keep my virtual identity as flexible as possible. Some is true, some is fictional. I am not a journalist.

20. Have their been blog posts which you regretted afterwards?

No. When I regret a post, I delete it. Or edit it afterwards.

21. Which are the qualities of self-expression that only a blog can offer (compared to email/ secret diary / book or paper publishing / direct conversation)?

It’s all in one. It’s more complete then all of those together. Add interactivity to it and you’re complete. That’s what is most appealing and fascinating to me. The total completeness of it.

22. The internet is said to be open for everyone‚ but isn’t it true that blogs (as well as podcasts, videocastst and other stuff) are often about gaining attentiveness and publicity?

I’ve never experierenced that.

23. Is it hard for a new blogger to be enlisted in the relevant blogrolls? To be noticed, read and commented by more than a handful of friends?

It depends on your contributions. If you are a louzy writer or not interesting at all, it’s hard. When you work at a broadcast organisation you’re lucky, ’cause you can have a lot of free publicity, once your product is ready to be broadcasted. When my log is mentioned in a newpaper I get more visitors. (In old media terms internet will always be backstage. For me stage and backstage are equal, both most valuable.)

24. What are your general thoughts/observation on this struggle for attention? And how would you regard your own blog in terms of public success?

It’s hard to say. When you look at the amount of visitors on a log, you can not compair it to the thousands of people who watch television or listen to the radio. Still, one post of one person can change a whole program or concept.

25. If bloggers can be typified: what type are you?

I’m a curious player. A contributor.

26. And now, the short version of all the previous answers: What does blogging mean to you?

It means everything to me, it means nothing. (It is as if it has always been there.)

(To be continued…)

Bert Kommerij.


5 Responses to “A piece of art”

  1. Maurits Says:

    Ingo stelt een welhaast perfecte serie vragen die waarachtige bloggers allemaal moeten bedenken te antwoorden. In ieder geval doe ik dat al lezende.
    Op 26 antwoord ik:
    My social life.

  2. bert kommerij Says:

    Ik had nog veel meer willen schrijven bij vraag 16 a.
    Zo zijn de Media Me presentaties tot nu toe 100% via internet tot stand gekomen. De interviews, de teksten, de muziek van Marco, de video’s (Maurits!), kortom alles.
    Plus natuurlijk het CC verhaal.
    Maar dat staat al op dit log.

  3. Bert Kommerij, waarom blog jij? | Marco Raaphorst Says:

    […] radiomaker uit Berlijn, stelde mijn collega Bert Kommerij een paar vragen over bloggen. Dit leverde een reeks verrassende antwoorden op. En nee, dat zeg ik niet omdat hij een collega is. Wij zijn collega’s geworden omdat we […]

  4. Maurice Says:

    Leuk en interessant gesprek, Bert. Heel erg jij.

  5. bert kommerij Says:

    Hahaha. Dankje Maurice!

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