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<nettime> blog blog failure
Michael H Goldhaber on Tue, 2 Sep 2003 18:39:27 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> blog blog failure

Well, nettimers, I wrote the following blog, but then I thought, you
would probably be more interested in it than the average inhabitant of
the blogsphere; so though it's own my new blog site (
http://blogs.salon.com/0002859/ ), why waste it?
so here it is:

Michael H. Goldhaber

My very own Blog! Wow! Yesterday, at a party, I mentioned to a friend
that I now have a blog, and she said “Be careful!” she then explained
that as a therapist she hears her clients evidently being sucked into
the Internet. I imagine this to be like one of those two-dimensional
creatures in Edward Abbot’s Flatland disappearing as parts of them are
sucked into the third dimension. (There another limb goes, into
cyberspace....). I reminded her that she was supposed to congratulate me
on my blog, which, properly cued, she then did....

So here I am typing away for my legion of readers, though probably there
aren't any. Still, like every other blogger I'm sure, I secretly imagine
the entire planet eagerly sitting down to my latest addition with your
morning coffee, tea, whiskey, water, alfalfa juice or whatever, far more
interested in what I have to say than in your dull boring newspaper, or
spouse or pet or child, or even your own blog, which you yourself could
be writing between sips if you weren't so busy reading mine.

When everyone on earth has finally seen the light and started a blog,
then probably the average number of readers for each blog will approach
the magic number zero (except for one's own re-readings, if any). But
still, even if the hit counter shows you as you start your blog each day
that no one has read your latest effort, it's difficult to feel, as you
send your work out over the Internet to the blog server, that no one is
ever going to read what you wrote. After all, one day, thr5ough some
Google search or other, this blog might be discovered, and more and more
people will link to it, so that even my past blogs will be read by many,
preserved as they ought to be for eternity in cyberspace (the blogs,
that is, not the people, but yet the people who blog will also be
preserved to the extent they put themselves in their blogs) .

Now one could just as well imagine writing things on scraps of paper and
letting the wind carry them off, hoping someone somewhere will read
them. Or perhaps one could tack the scraps up to telephone poles near
crowded sidewalks. But the technology of the Internet offers a greater
potential: we all know that some web sites do get millions of hits; why
not this one? The result, writing a blog definitely presents the
illusion that one has a substantial audience, say half the size of the
largest potential audience, splitting the difference, that is, between
what could be and what most likely is. Seems like a sound calculation,
if you don't think about it too much.

All this illustrates to me, vividly and firsthand, the phenomenon I call
"illusory attention." It occurs all over the place, in many forms in
modern life. One of the purest cases is when you are watching someone
speaking directly into the camera on television. She may seem to be
speaking directly to you, even answering a question you have just
silently put to her, but of course she is paying you as a person not the
slightest real attention, since she doesn't know you exist. At the
opposite, equally common extreme, perhaps, you are talking to your
lover, right into her ear, perhaps, on some deeply intimate subject,
while she is secretly thinking about renewing her car insurance, and you
are none the wiser.

To be sure, every human attempt at getting attention, whatever it may
be, founders to some degree. No two people understand words in exactly
the same way, or gestures or any other form of expression either, so we
are never completely perfectly heard.

Just as modern technology enables the illusory attention offered by a
sympathetic-seeming talking head over TV, so the Internet, with its
personal web sites, listservs, chat rooms, and now blogs , makes the
illusion of one's outpourings reaching an audience seem far more real
than tossing the scraps of paper (or just whispering) into the wind
would lead to.

And we do want attention. The knowledge that there is a huge audience
out there apparently enhances the chances that someone who perfectly
gets what I have to say -- yet without having thought of it yet yourself
-- is reading this. You , perhaps. That prospect is so pleasing.

Of course, though a close reader will see that I am very intimately
revealing myself in the foregoing, this blog lacks the kind of personal
revelation many blogs apparently have. (I really am not sure about this,
since I have only ever read three or four blogs by anyone else. As with
all of us, I suspect, writing my own blog seems so much more
interesting, and in fact, carries for me a greater charge of illusory
attention; which is another deeply personal admission, so there!). Freud
spoke of the the train's carrying his child away necessitating the
telephone to bring her [voice] back. In a similar manner as we have more
walls between us, and thus more isolation, we need all the more to
reveal ourselves more fully in some other way.

Why do we have more walls? At least in America, it is because we live in
far bigger houses, per capita, than a generation or two ago. Most middle
class children can now expect not only private bedrooms, but private
bathrooms. Even many couples have no need to share a bathroom. If we
didn't indulge ourselves this way, the old economy, the one I refer to
as the “money-industrial economy,” would be in much worse shape. We
haven't found a way yet to export construction-ndustry jobs (unlike
factory or tlemarketing or software-writing jobs) . Constructon is more
and more devoted to private housing. It is one of the few jobs not
demanding a college education that still pays well. So we all are moving
towards living in mansions, or being destitute, according to the weird
dictates of the old economy in its death throes. One of the main ways of
staying in the top half is now, in fact, judiciously getting attention.
A simile I have used elsewhere is that while the old industrial-era
ruling class wanted to live in houses with one-way glass windows from
which they could see out but no one else could see in, now things are
reversed. To get attention, you have to put your life on display. See
the National Enquirer, or even the New York Times, for ample examples.
That requires turning the one-way glass around , the ideal being to be
seen without having to waste one's attention in seeing hoi polloi more
than necessary. With blogs, we can all aspire to this.

I'm no different,even if I am judicious in concluding that my sex life
is not likely to interest anyone, not even a cloistered nun (who
probably is not on the Internet anyway) but perhaps my mental life
might. Okay, Okay, please don't bother writing  to say the brain is the
chief sex organ. I know this; in fact the foregoing is obviously pure
porno, as pure as one can get. By the time you are through having
orgasms over this, who knows, my next blog may be up. You could check


Michael H. Goldhaber
PH  1-510 339-1192
FAX 1-510-338-0895
MOBILE 1-510-610-0629
mgoldh {AT} well.com

What have I learned in all these years, by way of wisdom? Most
importantly, I would say the notion that we humans came into a world
without meaning, but we invented meaning; it is to us to give things,
including ourselves what meaning we choose to give, and though our power
to do that is not unlimited, it is the most difficult and most important
power we possess, a task we can never successfully assign to others, and
can hardly avoid, a task that is always open before us, and one in which
there are no predetermined right answers, and quite possibly not even
any absolutely wrong answers, much as I would like there to be. The
world is not a book we can read, but our very existence as humans makes
it a book we can--and inevitably do--write.

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