Weblog modern equivalent of a Wunderkammer
Comparison between Wunderkammer and Weblog
The similarities and differences between a Wunderkammer and a Weblog are analyzed through the owner(s) of the small Weblog and owner(s) of the Wunderkammer. To make things a bit easier we assume that for both collections there is only one owner that is collects and maintains the objects. We also assume that both collections and their owners are known within a certain community. As Weblog we could choose for example the weblog of the murdered Theo van Gogh, or criticaster Wim de Bie or politician Donner. For the Wunderkammer we take a wealthy citizen from the 17th century with a cabinet of curiosities.
First we look at the place of collecting. The Wunderkammer owner of our 17th century friend would have a cabinet with cupboards filled with curiosa. These were thematically ordered. The themes derived from his interests and these didn’t need to come from scientific origin. The Weblog owner has with his Weblog build a collection of his interests as well. This one is mostly not scientific. This collection is then ordered and divided in categories and themes. They form together as in a book the table of contents or index of his Weblog. The subjects of both owners come from their own interests. For example the owner of the miracle-cabinet with a great interest in flora, could divide his cabinet in for him special plant specimens An Weblog owner that is interested in satire-prints could divide his Weblog in types of satire-prints. For example politics or sport.
Both categorize their collections for overview, making them able to finding back physical or textual/graphical objects for use. The sub collections borders are not very exact or responsible The contents does not have to be scientific or correct according to current journalistic standards. The size and direction of expansion in the collection follows completely personal needs of the Weblog owner. “You’re not a designer, you’re not a writer, and you’re not an editor” (Julian Dibbell). The owner of the Wunderkammer decides as well if he or she wants to collect certain items and the way of ordering his collection. The added information to the collection is for both by themselves produced or provided from third sources, unique and rare.
As with many collections, there can come a moment that the collector of the cabinet of curiosities or Weblog owner wants to share his collection and opinion of it. The motivation can be diverse. In order to collect more objects, recognition, approval and status for his collection. The holder of the Wunderkammer has a small, select group that he invites and where he shares his interests with. The Weblog owner that has a public Weblog in principle invites the world to view his website. However, he too can decide to introduce a membership, allowing only a select group of individuals to respond to his placed objects. Even when the Weblog is public and freely accessible for everyone, only a select group of people visits the website with similar interests. This group of people can grow out to a virtual community that visits each others webpages regularly.
Within the virtual community you have a number of large Weblogs where the community engages into discussion with each other and share information, sources and other businesses. When a Weblog joins such a community than belongs their page to a certain Blogossphere. The page has become part of a collection of websites where other individuals can find information. The information is then shared on their Weblog or in other ways shared with others (Schutte, 2005: p. 68). With a Wunderkammer a similar process takes place. The owner of the cabinet that has created a small select group around itself conducts practically the same steps as the community members in the virtual communities. Together with his small select group he engages into discussion, using the objects of the Miracle Cabinet as leads. Dialogue is created and opinions are being formed.
Both the owner of a Weblog as the Wunderkammer seems to use their collection as a mean to achieve status and a certain identity. The Weblog owner creates with his Weblog a identity on the Internet within the group of people that together with him share the virtual community. In case that he is a fanatic collector and owning interesting objects or stories, then he will be often referred too in discussion or conversation with Weblog-owners. For example by making a link to his Weblog. A list of this kind of links is called a Blogroll. It contains all Internet addresses that a Weblog owner want to share with others, because he find the content of these Weblogs interesting or it serves a other of his interest. Often this means that owners of Weblogs have more contact with each other, where they share objects and have discussions.
For the owner of the Wunderkammer identity and status play a similar role. The objects of his collection and the access that he has to obtain several objects gives him a certain status in the group of interest. Others will refer to him and make contact with him when his collection provides reason for it. These catalogs are a nice example of it. The shared interest for certain objects sets off a discussion in the community of the Wunderkammer as the virtual community, discussions, sharing opinions and other forms of communication. They determine the status and identity of the collector. Having a miracle cabinet. Wunderkammern can be seen as the third public place, besides family and work where around a social network is build.
The collectors of Wunderkammern try to collect as many objects as possible that are of their interest and fit their point of view of the world (Hiler,2002).
Wunderkammern religious critics, later including the science community, was that these cabinets of curiosities provide a fragmented world-view. They were considered a potential threat to the church authority and a factor of disturbance to the scientific community. Certain Weblogs are receiving the same critics from current authorities. A well-known example in current media are the fundamentalist websites from the Middle East, where youngsters in the West are encouraged to Jihad or other acts of violence. Their authority undermining opinions that certain virtual communities have on the society create a public debate. There is a call for more control, order and law on the Internet. Probably as long as not all opinions online are bound by the same jurisdiction, this call cannot turn in actual effective action. The problem of current authorities is that they have no dominant position in the opinion making and world-view of the blogosphere. In the past museums became dominating over Wunderkammern and their catalogs, because they were able to create a historical line in their collections. This created a completer world view than the Wunderkammern. Science and journalism has been very critical of Weblogs, because there would not comply to journalists norms and values. In particular for not providing references and context of information .
The Internet growth at the moment faster then the best search engines can index and present in a fast and accurate manner. Especially when objects are collected because they are considered for personal reasons to fit within certain themes or interests.
The problems of ordering the collection of Wunderkammern meant their end and rise of museums. On the Internet these ordering problems are becoming more urgent as well. The Wunderkammern created catalogs. Search engines seem to fulfill as similar function, but does not seem to satisfy the wish to index everything. Museums have eventually solved the problem of a lacking historical line better then Wunderkammern could. The latest technology in search and indexation technology tries to create a historical line in the data. There are experiments with an online encyclopedia, like wikipedia (a Wiki). Archiving earlier post on a Weblog can be seen as a method as well, similar to the catalogs of Wunderkammern. More and more are Weblogs trying to segment their own history in an encyclopedia of uses and events within their community. They offer often an option to search on the publication date of an object with a search script. These options and possibilities where not possible for third parties in the time of Wunderkammern. These options were not possible for third parties / outsiders with a cabinet of curiosities. However, till the moment that these systems have been made perfect and completely implemented and integrated, will the current comparison between a Weblog as the modern equivalent of the Wunderkammer hold.
In the end will a Weblog often cease to exist when the owner stops posting and collection information on the blog, for example because of age, death. This was the case with most Wunderkammern.