The spaceless domain of the web can feel like an endless chasm between yourself and other users. Location is approximate, cities are vague, geotags are general. In this space there's a liquidity of speech, oozing out of twitter handles that are incongruous, playful approximations of a person. A stream of unknowns becoming just another instance of personal distance which we all take from our digital lives, backseating into non-specific names, highly selective content or all out barrages of thought (often universal in tone). It's doesn't, however, take much to put physical bodies to these digital auras, and critical content becomes a battleground of sub tweets where flirting or slating is all for the taking.
In local scenes where the known players lie on a digital strata there develops a trend of whimsical back patting and PV high fiving, nods of acknowledgement both on and offline. Writing is often a promotional marketing tool for all parties rather than a critical landscape on which to play on. At times it feels on a similar level to H&M hooking up with Koons, everyone's a winner and we're all sold a glowing sense of pleasure, 'celebratory' ain't it Jeff?
In this sense it starts to tap away at the potential of actual critique for shows/gigs/productions/events replacing reviews with a kind of generic outpouring, neither affirming nor denying much of value. Few are willing to risk or exchange social and cultural capital. Some of the best critique comes from a source uninterested in the social hierarchies of its critical target, with a position that orbits far enough away as to never feel much of a gravitational jolt if things go awry.
There is another side to this as well, one of patronage, patronage that doesn't rely solely on financial currency, but social and marketing currency. It plays to the strength of the neoliberal artistic workforce and their endless mass of cultural capital. Here varieties of capital are exchanged and bartered like market stall goods. Social or cultural capital can be pushed into the hands of those wishing to gain access in this field but with only currency or journalistic output sources to swap.
There needs to be outlets that can play on critique, push artists, developers, curators out of that warm cushy sensation and create a landscape that is excitingly spiky, artistically challenging and competitive, where marketing and business strategy plays as much of an important role as the curatorial spin, and where the circuit doesn't become a biosphere of cliques but has the energy and drive to gain audiences outside of its reliable art-informed crowds. Spaces such as Slight or PostHang from OKFocus get near to the point, ambiguous spots for dialogue, media, content aggregation, however they still feel indebted to the type of social media reliant on people as networks; networks whereby there is a notion of friendly connectivity, an idea proliferated in hacker-spaces and desk co-ops that ooze a kind of silicon valley San Fran startup mentality of code sharing and tech help only a few feet away. There needs to be a divide between the collaborative exchanges and critical exchanges, which can often feel blurred or too slight within an art context to be visibly understood. There needs to be a divide between the social and critical mindset of artists, spaces & curators, where the exchange of ideas can be a open-access open-form ground in a separate sphere from the day-to-day exchange, either anonymous or not, but critical, worthwhile and without an attachment to any ulterior currency involved. There is definitely a use in taking models such as GitHub, a collaborative enterprise for code review, sharing and management to build software and implementing a similar model for art world critique and art world collaboration, under the same sphere or programme yet allowing them to exist as separate but relative entities.