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Saturday, December 17, 2005

(Final Paper) Human Communication is Evolving in the Blogosphere


Just a Tool?

So, what’s so new about blogging?

Not much, we might think at first. Blogging is just communicating, no? Maybe a new tool for the task, a new stage for the act; but, the act is still just communicating.

The new tool, however, has some unusual characteristics. It makes much easier, freer work of making messages. And in that case,
laws of human economic , social, even evolutionary behavior predict for us that more messages will be made.
And, the new tool sure as heck makes it easier to circulate messages, to many more eyes and ears and minds (and hearts?); therefore - more circulation of images and words and thoughts (and emotions). Following from that, clearly, this tool creates the result of more messages received. Noticed. Processed. Responded to.

So, is what’s new about blogging just that there’s more communication going on?

There's more to it than that. We at least have to add that the more communication going on is more communication that gets recorded (at least for a short time), and more communication that’s interactive. A quality that makes blog communication a weird kind of hybrid compared to all other kinds humans have used before; a cross between the ‘medium model’ and ‘human communication’, to put it in one linguist’s terms.

“Human communication, verbal and other, differs from the ‘medium’ model most basically in that it demands anticipated feedback in order to take place at all”

says Walter Ong (Orality and Literacy, 2002, Routledge – London/New York, pg. 173).

“In the medium model, the message is moved from the sender-position to receiver-position. In real human communication, the sender has to be not only in the sender position but also in the receiver position before he or she can send anything.”

And with this in mind, we also need to add that the creation and circulation and receipt of messages in the blog environment (the ‘ ‘sphere‘) has reached the quantitative level of mass media - the quintessential 'medium model' -
(‘Currently tracking 23.2 million sites and 1.8 billion links’
while at the same time operating, qualitatively, at the 'human communication' level, the street level of individually-controlled messages. Human level, that is, with a touch of anonymity and remove. Graffiti, expanded out from the single metro tunnel wall to all the computers online across the whole planet.

Is the Tool Evolving the Tool Users?

But even adding those qualifiers; So what?

Well, here’s so what: There may be enough more communication going on that communication itself is getting magnified for us; we’re seeing in closer detail those basic filaments that make up communication. And, more importantly, there’s enough more communication going on that communication itself is changing shape. There’s enough quantitative change to drive a parallel qualitative change. Not only the birth and survival rate, but the interaction rate of messages has grown enough to allow some bursts in the evolution of messaging itself.
(like how the human brain works)

So, what effect does this all have? Maybe we can get some good glimpses and clues by looking closer at the big types of communication we looked at as a class; those open bazaars of lonely-heart connections, tribal info-sharing, news forum-entation, and the coral reef aggregation of different kinds of blog art. Maybe, too, there will be something to say about how the whole universe of blog messaging is behaving, since
Big Bang , and might behave beyond.


1. Making Messages

Freedom of Voice

The ‘sphere is a new kind of setting to say what we want to say; and there’s a new kind of freedom is in the new setting.

On the ‘medium’ hand, the blogwriter is not bound by the fining and refining production of putting stuff on paper. The flittingness of putting words on an electronic screen makes it less important than on a paper page to comb and coif the verbage; or to worry so much about the legacy of what goes on the page, in the constant immediate turnover and updating (‘Blogs are constantly updated ‘, as we observed in our September 8, 2005 seminar, ‘observers and statistics can hardly get a handle on them’). The rolling screen medium makes a typical paper voice not only less important, but out of place.

On the ‘human communication hand, the blogtalker is not flexed and twisted by whatever immediacy and emotion and intonation and body-language would typically wrap itself around the face-to-face talk encounter. The talker is free to use, so to speak, the one-level-removed buffer of the written word, and the immediate voice of talk... both at the same time.

Is there risk that in a blogcommunication we lose both the one-to-one intimacy of the writer and the reader on the page, and the warm-blooded voice of live talk? Some. But the ‘sphere is a more anonymous place, and maybe therefore a place the true voice comes out easier in. Kind of like how you get that almost supernaturally deep-down-self sensation when you wear a mask.

Who's Really Talking

Without the abovementioned conventional intimacy and warm-bloodedness, and with the potential for complete anonymity, the act of making messages in the ‘sphere can become a dilemma. When we start typing and clicking (or, a few steps back, even when we set up the
floorplan of our bloghouse), we’re forced to hone in a new way who we present ourselves as really being. Survey any sample of blogs, even the small sample of the ones we all created in our seminar, and we’ll find a mix of cryptic, unnamed, mysterious writers, and all-out-there myselfs with all the upfront information in the profile… real name, messages to friends and family. The mix reflects the different ways different ones of us figure who we really are, and how much (or how little) we want who we really are out there on the stage. And as we discovered and discussed with each other in the course of our seminar, the whole exercise of making a blog and blog messages triggered individual evolutions of persona and presentation.

We also discovered, among us and outside our camp, multi-site bloggers, and media ‘pros’ who sideline with blogs in the ‘sphere. Within any one, do voices vary? Where they do, which voice is the true voice? (We’ll leave these as rhetorical questions; or, better yet, a good excuse to extend the future of our camp by keeping an eye on the multi-voiced among among us… we know who you are!)

Of course, there’s more at stake in the honing, at least in the sense there’s exposure to more people, in the ‘sphere than in other conventional communication settings. The big exception is, of course, the conventional communication settings of performance, especially performance by widely exposed performers for big audiences. And this, of course is what makes the ‘sphere so compelling to most everybody, not otherwise being performers for big audiences. In the new ability to
yip to huge numbers of people (even in just the potential, imagined sense), there is a new evolutionary need for us most everybodies to adapt to being performers, to sorting out what’s the mask and who’s behind the mask and which one is more authentic and which one we want out there on the stage.

We made much, in the waning days of our seminar, of the authenticity of the persona of popular performer Johnny Cash. The Man in Black became our trope for sorting out genuinity from staging. Well, I'd have to say (‘cause I heard it from his own daughter in this radio interview ) that Cash was an animal who was more himself, more in his natural state, on stage than in 'real life'. Lots more humans, as bloggers, are adapting to the 'survival' behavior of knowing whether they are - in the communication act - that kind of animal, or not.

2. Taking Messages

Honing the Senses

We mustn’t forget how core the reader's inner ear (outer eye?) is to all this. In our seminar, conductor Colin early spoke of the common species of blogwriter “who doesn't really have to worry about readers". We need, I think, to qualify that classification by saying the blogwriter just doesn't have to care about old paper-page reader expectations.

Our expectation, it appeared, was that our bloggers be genuine. I was hooked by John’s observation that the less genuine (sometimes referred to as ‘personal’) the blog is, the less connective power it has. It may be that another thing making the ‘sphere so attractive to so many inhabitants is its conventionally contradictory qualities of being mass circulated without being veneered with a layer of slick. Why else would we have been so taken with a blogger like
Sally , writing downright dry diary entries that couldn’t be more relentlessly matter-of-fact about nothing more than her own life’s little details.

To recognize what does and doesn’t meet such expectations, we need to hone our sense of smell to sniff out the genuine. In the case of Sally, and our maybe even more favorite (and how could she be more opposite?) friend, Coffey (a.k.a., Tiffany), we knew it when we read it. As the weird hybrid of Ong’s ‘medium model’ (the intimate page) and ‘human communication’ (the warm-blooded voice), a blogread is a communication encounter that forces us to pay attention, to listen a little better (this may be why its such an attractive setting to so many talkers). Kind of like old fashioned, at-a-safe-distance pen pal letters. Very unlike the daily human talking and listening restrained by (sigh) great familiarity.

Which makes our sense of smell for the genuine on the ‘sphere all the more remarkable. In the conventional ‘human communication’ setting, there are lots of signals available to the antennae. And, most ‘medium model’ encounters are carefully staged to make us feel genuinely connected but we’re aware of the staging (at least when we close the book or walk out of the theatre). But, to sniff authenticity out from a screen full of electronic typeset? Whether we smell it unmistakably, or learn to tip our noses higher to at least get better than no scent at all, we’re talking evolution here, folks.

Message Taking Turns Message Making

There is the possibility that as message takers without the guaranty of the message maker’s conventional ‘medium model’ blood sweat and tears, and without the message maker’s warm skinned voice within reach, the message we’re getting is created as much by us (wished, or skeptically tarnished) as by the creator; that we’re more prone to get the message it all wrong.

Painstaking statistical sampling might tell us with some accuracy whether communication miscues are more likely in the ‘sphere or in the conventional ‘medium’ and ‘human’ settings (a project for another researcher, on another day). I would steer, however, away from the quantitative here and daresay that we’ve all experienced misunderstandings on electronic text, but that they are qualitatively no more or less significant than our notes or letters that go awry, or blundered words on the phone, or an overdone burst of voice or body language.

I would steer even further away by saying that - in this communication setting in ways not so true in the conventional settings - we are OF COURSE creating the message as much as the (initial) message maker. That’s how it works in the ‘sphere.

Compared to conventional human communication settings, the message takers are not already known or in view when the message is first made; I haven’t spotted you in the crowd and cornered you by the punch bowl, or dialed you up, or sold tickets to fill the seats in front of my stage. And, compared to conventional medium model settings, especially mass media, sure, I’m broadcasting not knowing who’s going to tune in, but here in the ‘sphere my broadcast BY DESIGN goes two ways (except if I’m a blogger who doesn’t open up to threads, but that would make me no blogger at all), and al you’s are poised to broadcast (‘focuscast’?) right back at me.

Even more to the point, the message taker has easier more instant ability to shape and expand and replicate any piece of or any whole message she or he is threading through; and, by necessity has to define what the outer edges of the message even are. The nature of the setting itself makes a blog message more porous (heck, skinless) than its conventional cousins. Blogwriting and blogreading get more intertwined, and work more like the human train of thought... somewhat linear, but running back and forth and branched with, as far as one brain can manage in any one sitting, infinite sidetracks.

To put it in terms of
these three communicator roles, the message maker and message taker are actually sharing a role, and the most blogcentric role of all, at that: the Connector.


Though pecking at a keyboard in front of a computer screen is a solitary task, it’s easy to feel like we’re not alone on the ‘sphere; to get into that mindset of threading through a busy New York City street, catching glimpses of – and sometimes going partway down - the sidestreets at each corner. Unlike in conventional human communication, we’re in the midst of countless conversations; and, unlike in medium model mode, we can join any one of those conversations at any instant.

In this vast swirl of communication, lots of kinds of groupings and links occur… and can occur. For the most part, these are groupings of an old nature, familiar from before we evolved our communicating into the ‘sphere. But they are beginning to show signs of new behavior with the new communication tool in hand. Even more behavior changes and evolutions are possible, but unrealized. Let’s look closer at a few.

1. Our Own Gangs

To look first at evolved behavior in small, narrowly focused groupings, what better example can we turn to than our own blogging seminar? The
testimonial of our conductor, as expanded and reshaped at the outer edges by us who were initially positioned as message takers, indicates that something new – compared to our conventional seminar experiences – happened here. The increased connection and thoughtsharing that emerged can be attributed, I’d say, to the blog tool we had in our hands. The tool allowed us to, simply but to significant effect, communicate more with each other. More hours in the week, and in an additional mode: the hybrid medium model/human communication mode, that resulted in additional layers of exposure.

An example of a bigger specimen, with more growth on the vine, this science blog consortium called Tangled Bank , itself part of a yet bigger jungle of blog ‘carnivals’ (“basically a mechanism to spread the attention around, and direct readers away from a few well-trafficked weblogs to other deserving sites, usually with a theme"). The dynamic here is a tribe that connects and interacts primarily in the ether of the ‘sphere, and is actually designed to extend runner-roots outward and to continually form (and grow) itself as a grouping.

Theoretically, a conventional ‘human communication’ effort can achieve a
similar dynamic of group formation. Similarly, a conventional medium model message can
generate a swell of sentiment , but rarely forms a grouping that identifies itself around the medium. But emergence of groupings in the ‘sphere has the new sophistication of geometrically faster and wider-broadcasted human communication-like connections, and forms better-structured connections than medium communication can generate or sustain.

2. The Town Hall Meeting

Who's In Charge

The bigger, looser groupings of people sharing a social and political landscape hold together, in part, by common information sharing.

In our contemporary social and especially political landscape, we have a bit of a problem. Our medium model conventions are
narrowing down the sources and voices of mass information-sharing messages. There are lots of concrete examples of how this narrowing down results in us being misinformed, and maybe worse, uninformed. Just take the latest Washington scandal: a president ignores laws in order to spy on citizens, and our institutional source of ‘all the news that’s fit to print’ learns the news, but agrees to keep it from us because
the president doesn’t want us to know. One more chapter in a long, sordid story of the conventional medium devolving and narrowing down our information sharing.

Not only is this crap going on, but it appears to be the vision – held by the major wealth and authority holders in our political landscape - of how things should be. In snippet linked in one of our seminar postings (3 Nov 2005 by Colin), for example,

“ Steven Downs, an executive at Ingersoll-Rand, complained,"A blogger can make any statement, about anybody, and you can't control it". Downs found this to be a "difficult thing". “

As A.J. Liebling put it,
"Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one".

Grass Roots News

So, let’s repeat a familiar theme, here. There are aspects of the ‘sphere that look at first glance kind of simple and logistical, but that become fairly profound when we look closer at their effects. The quick and wide broadcast aspect is an obvious example – making circulation of information more abundant. But the most important aspect to consider in this context is that the ‘sphere is – as Mr. Downs states it above – unregulated, out of anyone’s (or any institution’s) control, anarchistic.

The access to message creation and circulation, unhampered, can turn and is turning literally millions of former (conventional medium model-era) news message takers to news message makers. How each of them
behaves, how good or bad their information is … these are certainly big things to consider. But, more fundamentally, the collective effect is the growth of grass roots news. With less cost and less constraint (at least, constraint wholly imposed by others like authoritative censors and advertisers), people can talk about their own own home town town, or build a global bulletin board (www.indymedia.org). And, the latter example offers a striking sample of how this evolution in communication has generated
an evolution in collective action.

How this grass grows, and supplants the old medium model institutions, will be really worth watching. Scholars are already pondering and predicting the effects of blognews on conventional journalism. One
such ponderer says

"First-hand reporting will be the distinction between blogging and journalism,"

"A blogger in Iraq can detail things on the ground that journalists often can't...Bloggers are viewed more as fact checkers to keep the media honest. The challenge for mainstream media is to keep up with bloggers' speed."

The recent emergence (or, was it re-mergence?) of actual, unembedded, gut-level-observation journalism we saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina could be a telling episode. The medium model pack noticed itself coming to life, but didn’t say much about whether this emergence might have been, at least in part, newly evolved behavioral driven by blognews like

As the large, unwashed mass of news takers (at least, in our initial position at each message), we're the ones who'll make whichever predictions come true come true. Will we turn more toward the ‘blogger’s speed’ and immediacy and unfiltered voice, and adapt to doing our own information sorting and organizing (develop our own “jungle cunning”, as Colin posited in our September 8, 2005 seminar), and wean ourselves off the medium model sorting and organizing
conventions we now depend on? That will depend; not only on our intrinsic capacity for adapting into sharper sorters and organizers, but also on what we do in our groupings, our tribes, large and small, to train ourselves and train our young as message makers and message takers.

3. Art Sharing

The Adapting Artist

In a simple technical sense, there is lots of what we can call ‘art’ that can be posted electronically. So, the 'sphere allows
lots and lots of art to be displayed and circulated and linked and reacted to by lots of people. The sheer amount of circulation that happens and can happen on the ‘sphere is remarkable, compared to the conventional direct or ‘human communication’ settings of physical galleries and performance venues. Compared to the conventional medium model of art distribution, putting art out on the ‘sphere is less costly, and hardly at all restricted by gatekeepers; and, is absolutely more open to interaction with the ‘audience’.

For the ‘message maker’, this has potential evolutionary effects. For example, more message makers can get into the game, and so more people get that basic experience of putting stuff out there… and all the self-examination and competition and effort-polishing that entails. This is a bit akin to the popularization and explosion of personal of photography when that technology emerged. Big difference, though, is that the galleries in the ‘sphere are exposed almost infinitely more than anyone’s uncle’s shoeboxes full of old vacation photos.

This potentially vast exposure is overlaid with the reality of immediate reaction. From, potentially, lots of people, and complete strangers at that. In this aspect, sharing art of any type on a blog contains an element of performance – the getting-and-or-being-prepared-for immediate reaction element. The type of adaptation the message maker makes in response will vary by message maker: Do I be more spontaneous & experimental? More painstakingly perfect before hitting the ‘publish post’ button? More prone / less prone to hang unfinished draft work out there to for , re-shaping based on the reactions? No matter what, some adaptation will happen.

What’s maybe most remarkable about this circulation and interaction, compared especially to the mass media’s model of medium-model of art distribution (artmongering?) is that the reactions come from ‘the people’; and that even for those using the ‘sphere as a door to recognition by the conventional gatekeepers, the nature of the gallery makes the people’s reaction (vs. the critic's' reaction) the big event.

Gallery as Studio

More profound than any evolution in artist behavior the ‘sphere might spark is the adaptations we make as message takers. Back to the analogy of threading through city streets, the quick turnover and agglomeration that happens on the ‘sphere makes all streetcorners look every day new: of particular note when it comes to artstreetcorners. And, of particular impact when we consider how the message taker turned message maker role works.

In the art ‘sphere, quite unlike human commucation conventions and completely unlike the conventions of pre-packaged mass media, we’re the ones who are shaping the show. We control which streetcorners to turn down and return to and collage together and circulate further, and every sit down at the computer becomes its own gallery. Especially in the circulation act, we join the message makers, and can add to the mix a whole additional gallery that some other message taker might put in their collage, and circulate, and so on. Group creation.

Artists and art-sharers working in human communication coventions can vaguely replicate this expansive creation-reaction-connection-creation cycle by putting the work
in exposed, public places , and even
layering blogsites on top. But, the ‘sphere is where the evolution of this collective creation behavior is going fastest, and furthest.


We talked in our seminar about meme theory, and about the ‘sphere as a rich soil for meming – replication and imitation - of units of human thought or behavior (or messages, to simplify the terminology). The ‘sphere, however, appears to be more than that. The ‘sphere not only circulates and broadcasts messages, it promotes the synthesis and reshaping and expansion and further circulation and broadcast of them. As more messages get created, the entire web of communication gets bigger, while staying webbed together. And within the expanding web, what conventional meme theory considers to be message units, immutable, become spores, growing and metamorphizing on contact.

The technical fact that the ‘sphere records, and lingers as a recorded impression of, a continually growing number of messages (while some atrophy, to be sure) is remarkable enough. But most remarkable is that all these messages, however loosely or closely, interact with each other. In this aspect, the ‘sphere is a living example of the Hindu-mythical and fairly infinite ‘Indra’s Net’, where
every thread has a dewdrop on it and every dewdrop is reflected on the dewdrops around it, which in turn are reflected in the dewdrops around them, and so on ad infinitum with every dewdrop containing a reflection of every other one in the entire web.

Lofty talk, admittedly. But even in the mere potential for this type of all-reflecting connectivity, the ‘sphere is doing something and being something that no other communication medium does or is. In addition to all the evolutions that it generates in individual message makers and message takers and groups, and all the newly evolved message makers/takers and groups that it forms (the tool shaping the toll user), the sphere appears to be generating an evolution in the shape and behavior of the messages themselves. And that web of messages is at the same time
an impression of and an expression of all the human communicators that helped to thread it together.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

In Search of the Lost Chord

I'm shocked, comrades, at your limited (timid?) range of 'religion' vision! Just to expand things a bit, here's some outright poetry (with a pictorial flourish) http://www.livejournal.com/users/plawiuk/36456.html
a blogger banged out about nothing smaller than the cosmology of the universe itself. Who says science can't be religion!(in its sincere awe).
And how could we leave out this sect? http://deadnews.blogspot.com/2005/08/miss-him-when-hes-gone.html
What a perfect open altar the blogosphere is for the faithful to lay their roses. A makeshift gathering place, in these days where tours are no more.
Along similar lines, but back toward more churchy environs, here's another worship-sharing experience the 'sphere offers... a devotional set list off the ipod! http://www.mtsi.org/pat/2005-06-18-0618051228jpg

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Religious Rubber

I get this vague déjà vu sense, in some religious blogs, that I'm back min politicoblog land again: lots of talk, little action. Action in the religious realm, of course, would be some kind of attempt to connect with the divine, some kind of mysticoblog experience.
In the MSB (mainstream blogosphere), Salon's Table Talk page on "Mind & Spirit" has a few funny little things like this The One-Word Christianity Thread that might qualify at least as experimentation. But, at base, it's mostly just wordplay. Granted, there is a bit of inspired wordplay in the mix. Get this (from the 'bumpersticker' on down):
Joeman - "Don't pray in my school, and I won't think in your church!" -- bumpersticker Could any kind of Judeo-Christian thing have the answer anymore? Or is the recent liberal adoption of Torah, Kabalah , and Talmudic study, just another cutesy-poo phase of knick-knackery akin to the quaint robbery of All Things Indigenous we saw in the past 20 years (the pinnacle of which was "a dream-catcher on every rear-view" -- as opposed to, say, reasonable living conditions for kids on the reservations from which certain spiritual practices were stolen)? Or better yet: Do us non-true-believer folks possess the cajones to stick with the religious program long enough to reconcile the egregiously exclusionary nature of religious identity in practice, or will we forever be wandering the watered-down "spirituality" highway, picking and choosing the more endearing qualities of a given practice, yet never being part of the meat and potatoes core which foments mass change for better or for worse? Or am I confusing the modern mandate for fundamentalism in all things religious with the essence of a more sustainable and less judgmental belief systems? Anyone?
Not to mention the transcendental effect of a good chuckle from the ubiquitous irreverents in the crowd: Ten Biblical Ways To Gain A Wife

To get more psychological: What's all this serious testimonial blogging about? If this guy http://doxoblogy.blogspot.com
didn't have such a free and easy way to post out on the web his thirteen "I believe/I don't believe"'s doxology, would he instead be accosting hapless bystanders on the grocery line? Is the 'sphere the ultimate public confessional, where exposure to others boosts one's own atonement?
This blogger http://lighthousenetwork.blogspot.com/2005/11/lost-in-blogland.html offers a bit of group psychology, critiquing the "God Blog" community. A more sincere sort of intra-group-self-evaluation than we've seen in most other blog communities (I mean, God, in contrast the politicoblog critiquers just rip each other's jugulars out!).

The rubber begins to hit the road in blogs like this one, into the mystic... ,which is a complete intrigue. Something's happening here, some discernable electric connection between the blogger (self-referential as he tends to be) and his threaders. It's just hard to tell how much concrete action is happening after all the breathless enthusiasm... if any any of the crazed visions are actually getting executed.

We start hitting real live wires here http://onlineintercessors.com/intercessors-needed. Full use of blogconnectivity, in action.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Not Quite as Bored as You Were

Nifty little study, this was:
Among all the statistics, one asks, what are the most salient? Certainly, "in three years the average B-list blogger will be getting significantly more reader attention than the average unsyndicated US newspaper article or column, and the average A-list blogger will be getting almost as much reader attention as the average US daily paper", is the article's key finding. But, what key variable accounts for the finding? My vote goes to this one: "About 40% of blog readers have posted comments on blogs." Without knowing the precise statistic, it's easy to surmise this 40% is far higher than the portion of newspaper readers who get (or take) the opportunity to see their own letters to the editor on the pages. A new dynamic on an old dynamic.

The Tipping Point thread got interesting fast when the talk turned toward three roles people play http://www.zylstra.org/blog/archives/001006.html
Seems easy to peg one's self when the options are that simple and stark. Blogs, of course, play all three roles, though maybe less the Maven than the Salesman, and by far more than the others, the Connector. Tying it all together: Tipping points happen as fast as connections connect.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Pedalling hard in catch-up mode

Some delayed reactions to last week's assignments (not just away, but consumed on business for oh this long last week):

Debate Blogs
The Slate blog debate page is like reading a headline box on a newspaper page one. Where do you draw the line between a little headline lead to hook the reader into the long version, and a downright digest of the longer version?
Hard to disagree with those who see through the 'debate' trope, after reading the eight-hundredth one-sided blog screed, lacking any subtlety let alone substantial recognition of an agreeable point in the opposing point of view.
Not that other media do any better in this regard. In fact, even stuff like talk TV argue-fests does a little better in some respects (at least the arguers face-to-face). Hell, even local League of Women Voters candidates night debates can turn into rounds of soundbites. Where is a blog that truly transcends?
What we should be looking at is the 'sphere itself (not the molecules that make it up), the blogcollective, being the forum. Blogradio.com blogger has it right, when he describes his/her place in the scene with these quotes:
"Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one". --A. J. Liebling (I own this Blog, GET-IT?) --DA
"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self." --Cyril Connolly
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."--Louis D. Brandeis
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." -- Margaret Mead
An important parallel reality to bear in mind with Colin's obsesssive little network chart.

Wiki World
The creators of the Flu Wiki could be talking about all Wiki when they say
"No one, in any health department or government agency, knows all the things needed". The most sound response of intelligent world citizens should be, of course, to "pool and share our knowledge"; and the most democratic and egalitarian way to make this happen is, of course, "turning the wheel over to the community, to take it where the road leads us." O course, without the hawk eye of editing, any world citizen with bad information (or intent; although with something so vast and unagenda'd, who would bother?) might mess up little pieces of the collective knowledge pool.
In the interest of science, while meandering through Wikipedia, contribute your own piece of additional information. How easy! (you'll be glad to know the article/bio on Thomas Merton, under the 'Pacifism' heading, now includes the important fact that his mom was a Quaker).

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Musings on the Classosphere

On Authenticity
Elin/Nile wrote this http://nileblog.blogspot.com/2005/10/second-thoughts.html and it makes me think this: So, let's say you experimented by upkeeping two blogs: one, by a cryptic, unnamed, mysterious writer; and the other by yourself, with all the upfront information in your profile, real name, messages to friends & family, etc. Which would (truly) be the really authentic one?
Eric has a point about the nuances of authenticity vs. baloney, in his dissection of our assigned writing about 'new' generation liberals (read, 'liberal bloggers'?) and "their ability to market a certain idea of themselves, more successfully than they are able to make their "selves" match that marketed ideal". But, I can't say I agree there's anything remotely new about that. I mean, just look at the old (pre-blog) rhetorical world of politics. Just look at all those 'liberal' leaders in Congress who've been taking labor's campaign money and work for generations, then selling workers up the river every time a labor rights bill or "free" trade treaty or banking bill comes up for a vote. Need a rounder sample? Turn to those 'conservative' leaders... like the Texas space alien Tom Delay, who says with a straight (sort of) face that his challengers are really just trying to thwart him from doin' the Lord's work!

On the Blogaesthetic
In those bleary-eyed hours of clicking and linking and backtracking, it occurs to me the 'sphere in one sense is just one more technology phenomenon, plodding in a line of other media technology phenomena gone by. Maybe it's like the popularization (or, as they say in Grandiose, 'democratization') of the camera; where over a short period of time millions of people got easy cheap access to cameras and photo developing without getting any correlating skill with the tool and as a result the world gained hundreds of millions of shitty photographs.
Is the blogosphere just a vast, electronic shoebox full of hundreds of millions of shitty writings by people with access to new writing tool but no more skill than they had before? As one might ask about the advent of popularized photography, are these mountains of dung the price we pay to liberate the few good unschooled but skilled artists in the crowd?

On Blognition
Blog writing looks like the human brain train of thought... somewhat linear but with many expansive sidetracks as you go. Just look at our own class for some good examples of this 'classic' style: http://thescreaminmemey.blogspot.com

On Pure Communication
The profoundest power in the 'sphere is the linking it allows when people really need to be linking. Holly's blog says it all http://www.takethisdotcom.blogspot.com/

On Threading
John observes that the Republic of Dogs piece 'smacking down' (love that meme) Kos "is quite a bit longer than we all seem to agree is advisable for posting in the blogosphere. But, nonetheless, he managed to inspire 124 comments, so obviously he's connecting". Could be, as John also observes, that smacking down Kos itself unleashed a latent flurry of anti-Kos fury; just because Kos is Kos, and Kos is trips the "obnoxious" wire out there (out 'here'?). Could be, too, that a long post with lots of opinions and insights and arguable points will generate lots of comments, due to its sheer idea-volume. Give the people more to react to, and they will react.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Rhetoric muse

"Does the blogosphere have its own writing aesthetic?"


Grossly oversimplifying, maybe, but just look at it: blog writing is made more talksounding than even real talk. Making up new words. Slang grammar.

The flittingness of putting words on an electronic screen makes it less important than on a paper page to comb and coif the verbage. The rolling screen medium makes paper voice not only less important, but absolutely flat sounding.
And don't forget how core the reader's inner ear (outer eye?) is to all this. Can't agree with the good professor's assumption of the "...writer who doesn't really have to worry about readers". The writer just doesn't have to care about old paper-page reader expectations.

The freedom is in the new setting. Not bound by the fining and refining production of putting stuff on paper. Not flexed and twisted into the shape of whatever immediacy and emotion and intonation and body-language accompanies a live talk encounter. But at the same time free to use the one-level-removed buffer of the written word, and the immediate voice of talk... both.

Not sure why our friends like Sally (http://cornflower.blogspot.com/) writing properly diarytic, "It's-been-a-busy-year" Christmas card style sites are at all popular, or even considered true blogs (though, one must admit, Sally's relentless matter-of-facting does include the occasional subtle plea for connection... dare we say, e-companionship?), but their writing sure ain't blogstyle. It must just be the off-beat-ness of their attitude, for putting such stiff stuff out there on the open 'sphere (like earing an outdated wide necktie on the 6:50 a.m. Metro, not giving a damn what the rest of the suits think).

What is blogstyle ('I can't tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it') is creeping into other writings; mainstream journalism writing, for one. I mean, just look at this: http://www.courant.com/news/local/northeast/hc-jeni1016.artoct16,0,993671.column .