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Re: <nettime> The banality of blogging
Kimberly De Vries on Wed, 15 Aug 2007 22:30:04 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> The banality of blogging


On 8/14/07, Benjamin Geer <benjamin.geer {AT} gmail.com > wrote:
>
>
>
> So did the printing press when it was invented.  But as far as I know,
> nobody has suggested that texts published using printing presses are
> inherently... anything.


Actually, in the disciplines of composition and rhetoric quite a bit
has been written about how changes in technology change how people
write, whether we speak about printing presses, word processors,
email, blogs, or whatever. Many of these changes are related to how
technology changes writers' perceptions and experiences of both the
process and the product. I don't think anyone would make a blanket
statement that writing produced with any of these technologies is
inherently anything, but it is affected by the method of production.

> The first books printed were Bibles, not
> because printing presses inherently lend themselves to printing Bibles
> above all else, but because that was what a lot of people wanted to
> read.  Similarly, if there are a lot of banal texts published on
> blogs, it's not because there's some necessary connection between
> blogs and banality, but because a lot of people want to publish and
> read those sorts of texts nowadays.


I don't know that people are any more interest now than in the past.
The Paston Letters which were written between about 1420-1510 were
essentially the same mundane detail seen in many blogs to day and
they been continuously in print from the late 1700s. (Now online
here<http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/PasLett.html>).
So I think at least some people have always wanted to read this kind
of thing. Whether more want it now could be true, but I don't think we
have data to support that claim. (or if someone knows of it, please
tell me)

> Banal public self-revelation is a vast social phenomenon,
> encompassing huge sections of the publishing industry and the media,
> and banal blogs are just one small part of it. At the same time,
> though, great texts are still being published, and some of them are
> being published on blogs.


I agree.

> A fairly recent preliminary survey by the Pew Internet and American
> Life > project confirms that most blogging is personal
>
> What does this really tell us? I suspect most email is probably
> personal, too, but is that interesting in itself? What's more
> interesting to me is that here we are on nettime, having a very
> unusual sort of discussion about media, culture and politics, and
> email made it possible.


I think it tells us that it may be too soon to say blogs are going to
revolutionize community, for example. Also, for those of us who teach
writing, learning about how personal writing leads to more critical
writing is of great interest. This transition can be observed in many
blogs.

As for Nettime, well yes, that's interesting--maybe Geert needs to
update his chapter on it :-) --but in fact I think that the way
personal matters are completely excluded here also precludes the
development of critical ideas from personal experience on the list,
which is our loss.

> Similarly, I think it's interesting that a French university
> professor, specialised in Arab literature, is using a blog to publish
> some of the fruits of his research on media and publishing in the Arab
> world:
>
> http://culturepolitiquearabe.blogspot.com/
>
> Or that an anonymous Egyptian is using a blog to publish analyses (in
> English) of developments in Egyptian politics and literature,
> reflecting an apparently vast network of contacts among the political
> and literary elites:
>
> http://baheyya.blogspot.com/
>
> Or that blogger, political activist and free software advocate Alaa
> Seif (http://manalaa.net) uses his blog to publish news, analyses and
> opinions on politics and technology in Egypt, not in the literary
> Arabic of newspapers (a language few Egyptians feel at ease in), but
> in Egyptian dialect, in an uninhibited, often hilarious style that I
> suspect many readers must find liberating.  And that when he was
> arrested last year, his friends launched an international campaign to
> get him released... using a blog (http://freealaa.blogspot.com/).


There are plenty more example too, and I agree, they are interesting.
But I don't think this is case of either studying and discussing one
kind of blogging practice and not others. Why restrict ourselves that
way, especially so early in the game?

> Email made nettime possible, but it didn't make it inevitable.  There
> are also mailing lists where people discuss banal personal
> experiences.  Social factors, not technological ones, make the
> difference.  Nettime is above all a certain kind of social
> environment, and that (not the technology used) is what explains the
> presence of certain kinds of texts here.


Yes, but technological factors shape who the audience is and perceived (or
known) audience changes how people write, and what kind of responses they
get.  And then of course the responses may change their writing as well.
Here our audience is mainly list members; though the archives are there I
don't expect to get email from someone not on the list who happened to be
reading the archive.  On the other hand, group blogs are read by more people
and generate many more responses from people outside the list of
contributors.  I think this can affect the way discussions unfold in many
ways.

> So to study blogs, I think you'd have to study the ways they're used
> socially, looking at, for example, networks of links between blogs
> to identify communities of writers. Of course, the social phenomenon
> of linking is nothing new; in book publishing, it's called citation.


Yes, I agree this should be studied as well and in fact it is. I know
of a collection being put together right now that focuses on this
exact topic. Many people are also studying meta data as well; tagging
etc. (And I'd argue that tagging at least has no parallel outside
of library subject headings and that their use by bloggers is quite
different from anything we've seen before).

And, while yes, linking and citation are comparable in many
ways, one effect of attention being paid to links is that people
are taking a new look at citation in general, and finding
additional avenues of exploration. For example this 2002 article
<http://www.hodder.org/linking.htm> by Mary Hodder shares some ideas
with a 1996 article<http://wac.colostate.edu/llad/v1n3/rose.pdf>on the
rhetoric of citation, but linking differs substantially in allowing
those linked to to know of the action and to respond in a variety of
ways. At the same time, it would be interesting to investigating if
there some interesting response has been made to textual citation that
has been overlooked because of the way we thought about books and
articles when they were only issued on paper.


Really, I'm not sure now what exactly this argument is about, because
while of course we aren't all interested in the same things, I can't
imagine that any of us here would try to claim that anything was
not worth questioning and studying, given the breadth of interests
embraced by list members.

Best,

Kim




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