Tuesday, April 04, 2006

It's a "Metaphor"

What is blogging like? I mean this question to be framed in the recurring theme of modern life about which I blog from time to time. The paraphrase of this idea is something like this: "The things that seem new and different about the modern human condition are repetitions of the same old things in new context. The things that seem like they never change are, in fact, new." My argument for this is somewhat tenuous and perhaps tautological, but it is more or less that the Nature of Things is for them to continuously change, so that a phenomenon that seems constant is actually having to resist the sort of natural order of things. I realize that this doesn't entirely make sense. But, for the purposes of reading this post, take it as an a priori. After that you can dismiss it.

If ones operating theory is that something that seemed like an utterly new phenomenon was in fact the natural evolution of an old one, that the new one had simply grown out of the old one, what was blogging before it was blogging? Blogging is nigh ubiquitous now, some people get paid to do it, and I was noticing yesterday that an alarming amount of my information about the outside world is coming from blogs. It is, at least right now, relatively democratic--anybody with internet access can write one for free, anybody with internet access can read anybody else's blog (offer not valid in China). (nearly) Everybody's writing. (nearly) Everybody's reading. So I don't know, what's that like?

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sageblue said...

18th Century London, in short. I'll throw in Philadelphia as well...just so I can link to this:


I mean, this all seems very McLuhan-esque, no? Seems to me that blogging has merged the diary with the newspaper with the telephone...or some other media...how would you explain it to a 75-year-old?

Transient Gadfly said...

G -- please defend that thesis.

i am (of course) going to go earlier than that with (of course) the printing press, the first use of which to make a book in English coincides roughly with the "discovery" (by the europeans) of the Americas -- that is, their world is literally expanding. and the printing press means that, all of a sudden, books can be made cheaply rather than each and every blasted one being copied out by hand (expensive). so instead of writing being the exclusive purview of monks (guess what they wrote about) and reading being similarly confined to just the very wealthy, very royal, or very religious, suddenly everyone is reading and many many many people are writing and publishing too -- which means that there are books suddenly (and thus ideas) not written by the church. holy crap! this changes everything. talk about expanding worlds.

maybe blogging is more personal than that. maybe it is more like letter writing. but the huge shift in who has the power to speak/publish/share ideas (and thus what those ideas are) feels very renaissance (of course) to me.


Rebecca said...

okay, sure, perhaps the scope of communication has changed (although I'm not entirely sure about that. perhaps the speed of information moving has changed, but not the scope. folks in Africa were getting news from India and beyond long before the printing press. (Chaudhuri, Asia Before Europe) think oral narrative people).

But the news, stories, information, knowledge isn't necessarily any greater, it's just that we have this idea that we might, someday, be able to have access to it all. (this is called modernity.)

if, to use a non-Eastern example, we look at Chaucer and the oral narratives out of which that text grew, we can see plenty of narratives built by ordinary people about their lives, major events in politics, religion, debates over economies. it's not that the world hasn't changed. it has. it's just that blogging isn't a revolution or unique. or very unique (sorry sorry. couldn't resist).

technology, whether the invention of oil paint, the printing press, the quill pen, the IBM selectric, the move from papyrus or palm leaf to this radical thing made out of pulp, seems to me to follow as much as lead (to shape, but not catalyze) revolutions in a Kuhnian sense. Luther with the nail in the church door. Velazquez acknowledging the viewer of his paintings. Siddhartha (later 'the' Buddha) deciding that self-starvation isn't 'all that'.

blogging is cool. it allows us to have a village in a space that has lost that village. it is 'down the pub' for physically scattered like-minded people who don't have time to walk from town to town to see one another. what's the revolution? we're not there yet, I don't think. still too stuck in Luther-Velazquez-individuality-modernism-capitalism land. blogging may be there for the revolution, but it won't be that revolution.