Wednesday, March 21, 2007


When I see a lot of blogging about blogging, I begin to feel something's gone terribly wrong, so I try to avoid the practice altogether. This time, however, I'm going to make an exception.

Recently, Nicholas Carr offered up a biting post on the subject of Twitter (an entity to which I'll confess not getting as well); in the comments, he left a link to a piece by Geert Lovink quite critical of blogging as well:

"As a micro-heroic, Nietzschean act of the pyjama people, blogging grows out of a nihilism of strength, not out of the weakness of pessimism. Instead of time and again presenting blog entries as self-promotion, we should interpret them as decadent artifacts that remotely dismantle the mighty and seductive power of the broadcast media. Bloggers are nihilists because they are "good for nothing". They post into Nirvana and have turned their futility into a productive force. They are the nothingists who celebrate the death of the centralized meaning structures and ignore the accusation that they would only produce noise."

Introspection ensued.

What am I doing? What are you doing? Why do I do I write this blog? Why do I read your blog?

It's hard to come to just a few simple answers. I feel I could write a great deal on the subject.

I subscribe to several blogs for a variety of reasons. If there's a common strand linking them all together, perhaps it's an admiration for the intellect and talent of the authors.

With some blogs, it's a matter of specialized, common interests. The MSM, for example, doesn't tend to write many articles targeted at readers interesting esoteric mathematical topics or learning how to start a fire in the wilderness with a soda can.

Along similar lines, I read several blogs written by academics outside or on the fringes of my own field. Attempting to plow through a paper written outside your own field can easily fail to meet the requirements of fun, but academic blogs are often written in a casual style; not only can they give one a feel for what's going on in a particular discipline, they are often very informative and educational.

There are a number of smart individuals and great thinkers doing a lot of great writing in blogs. Given the general lack of profitability of blogs, the motivations of many bloggers seem purer in comparison to other media where profit motives are more intense.

RSS feeds make it easy to aggregate a disparate choir of thinkers into a single medium. Reading the words of intelligent people appoaching problems from a variety of angles is one of the better means I've found at getting to the truth--or at least trying to do so.

If blogs disappeared, how would I fill the void left behind? I'm not sure I could. In some cases, I could find substitutes to the lost writers, but in other cases, I think it would be difficult or impossible to find replacements. In the case of academic blogs, I could subscribe to journals, but, again, they'd be targeted at professionals inside the various disciplines and the reading would be heavy. In other cases, blogs would probably be impossible to replace due to their degrees of specialization or their very unique blends of subject matter.

There's a phenomenon for which I'm not sure I've yet seen a term--"self-classification," perhaps. People who like the same old things often like the same new things. Even before the existence of, I often found myself searching Google for, say, "Band #1" and "Band #2" working on the assumption that if there's anybody in cyberspace liking both, there might be other things on their lists I like as well. The strategy worked--I found a lot of great music by doing just that.

This self-classification strategy works with blogs as well. Find some blogging geek who likes cooking, P.G. Wodehouse and cave diving as much as you, and he or she will probably wind up blogging about other things you find interesting too. This isn't even a "micromarket." It's more like a "nanomarket."

This is getting too long. Even though there's more to say, I'm going to stop writing for now, but I'll continue to think about it.


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