Continued growth on new digital platforms

The online street art community has continued to grow since 2006. In that time, more avenues of online communication have also opened up. There are many more blogs and Flickr users, some more forums and now social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where photos are shared and discussions can be had.

The sheer number of blogs and the people reading them has grown enormously since Wooster Collective first became a mainstream street art blog. In July 2012, a Google search for “street art blog” returned over half a million hits. While not all of those links are to individual blogs, I subscribe to over 30 blogs about street art or graffiti that are not promotional blogs for an individual artist, gallery or festival, and the number of street art blogs that I don’t subscribe to far outweighs the number that I do. That said, a select few blogs tend to stand out from the crowd. As of mid-2012, some of the major street art blogs by visitor count and international reputation included Wooster Collective, Unurth, Vandalog, StreetArtNews, Brooklyn Street Art, Juxtapoz and Arrested Motion (although Juxtapoz and Arrested Motion cover a wide range of art including street art). Of those blogs, Unurth,[1] Vandalog,[2] Brooklyn Street Art,[3] and Arrested Motion[4] all launched in 2008 and Street Art News[5] The top-tier street art blogs easily get over 1000 hits a day, and artists and gallerists, as well as casual street art fans, closely follow the sites. Steve Harrington and Jaime Rojo of Brooklyn Street Art even write about street art for The Huffington Post. While platforms like Tumblr and Instagram that focus on photographs can be better sources for a cavalcade of images, blogs still tend to be the sources of record for street art-related information.

In addition to “traditional” blogs, there are also Tumblr blogs, which have a strong networked context. Whereas some street art blogs do not tend to link out to other blogs, blogs on Tumblr are all about sharing content from other Tumblr blogs, which are credited as the source (although crediting the photographer or the actual creator of the content is less common). This tracing of sources, particularly when the source is another Tumblr blog, is built into the framework of the site. While some Tumblr uses are the artists themselves, Tumblr’s real strength is that, like Twitter or Instagram, many people viewing the site have Tumblr pages themselves and are eager to repost interesting content that they find. Some street artists even have fans who have created fanpage Tumblrs devoted to their work but completely independently of the artist. While Tumblr blogs are rarely places for in-depth analysis and generally do not have much content beyond images, animated GIFs and brief bits of text, they are extremely popular and offer massive amounts of fast-flowing visual content.

In 2011 and 2012, the street art community began moving to Instagram. While Flickr has not been left completely behind, their 2013 redesign alienated some users, and Instagram is appealing to amateur photographers who just want to see and share cool photos. The Instagram application for iPhone and Android is designed to make average photos look better; engage users through commenting, hashtags and “likes”; and allow users to quickly upload and distribute photos taken on-the-go. But Instagram has some downsides too. The service’s focus is on immediacy, so users archives are not as easily searchable as on Flickr and uploading is limited to those with smart phones, making the service a bit of a walled garden for low-resolution photographs. If you’re plugged into the network, Instagram can deliver the latest in street art photos from around the world right to the palm of your hand, but as it becomes the default way to distribute photographs of street art, if presents difficulties for those who want images to be easily accessible for more than a day or two.

Twitter was a sort of precursor to Instagram, where the street art community has been able to spread news more quickly than ever before. While Twitter’s focus is not on images, plenty of images and videos are linked to in tweets. And street art news can come in textual forms as well, like rumors of new work by Banksy (okay I hate to call rumors news, but that rumor is the quintessential example of what lights up the Twitter streams of street art people). Twitter, like the forums, has facilitated public discussions and arguments between fans perhaps living a few minutes away from one another or across oceans. While the more in-depth discussions sometimes end with “okay, this can’t be figured out in 140 characters,” Twitter does provide a starting point for conversations that can continue through other, often less immediate and public, means. Many of the top Twitter users within the street art community are bloggers, Flickr photographers or artists who built their initial popularity elsewhere but use Twitter to supplement their main activities and actively engage with others.

Finally, when writing about social networks, Facebook is impossible to ignore, and street art has made its way onto Facebook, too. Most blogs and websites about street art also have corresponding Facebook fan pages where they can link to their latest posts, communicate with fans and post photos and videos. Between fan pages for blogs and artists and fans sharing links with their friends, Facebook can drive an enormous amount of traffic to a website. During 2013, Facebook has been the largest traceable source of traffic for Vandalog. Facebook is also a place for person-to-person connections. There are artists, fans and gallerists who use their Facebook accounts to interact with one another on a more personal, rather than professional, level. Street artists have gone from being anonymous to posting photos of their babies on Facebook for all their friends, family and fans to see.

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  1. "Unurth.com WHOIS Domain Registration Information from Network Solutions." Network Solutions, n.d. Web. 12 July 2012. <http://www.networksolutions.com/whois-search/unurth.com>.
  2. Rushmore, RJ. "Vandalog Launches." Vandalog. N.p., 15 Oct. 2008. Web. 12 July 2012. <http://blog.vandalog.com/2008/10/vandalog-launches/>.
  3. "Brooklyn Street Art." Brooklyn Street Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 July 2012. <http://www.brooklynstreetart.com/theblog/page/465/>.
  4. "Awakening." Arrested Motion. N.p., 20 Sept. 2008. Web. 12 July 2012. <http://arrestedmotion.com/2008/09/hello-world/>.
  5. "StreetArtNews - About." StreetArtNews. Facebook, n.d. Web. 12 July 2012. <https://www.facebook.com/StreetArtNews/info>.

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