Wednesday, April 26, 2006

There is no such thing as a blog(ger)

Simon Dumenco's Net-savvy insights are a refreshing alternative to the clueless Ludditry of so many who opine on bloggers.

"OK, you might argue, blogging is aesthetically a different beast -- it's instantaneous media. (Well, since the dawn of the 24-hour news cycle, pretty much all media has had to learn how to be instantaneous.) It's unpolished. (The best blogs I read are as sophisticated as anything old-school media publishes.) It's voice-y. (The best old-school media I read tends to be voice-y.) It's about opinion, not reporting. (The best reporting to come out of MacWorld in San Francisco last week was published on blogs.) It's, well, often sloppy and reckless (and Judy Miller wasn't?)."

That was January of 2006. Let's back up to a June, 2002 column by Arnold Kling at the amazing Web hub called Corante. Kling discusses several aspects of how blogs work in spreading information, comparing the dynamics with those of the traditional mass media.

"My prediction is that in niches where the ratio of information value to entertainment value is high, blogs will prove to be superior mechanism for disseminating news. For example, local politics tends to have lower entertainment value than national politics. To me, that implies that at some point we will start to see elections for school board or city council influenced more by coverage in blogs than by coverage in newspapers."

There's a lot of diversity here, and this is just in media. You can find many reasons why individual bloggers blog. The only thing that unites them all is the technology they use.While this technology certainly has its implications (insert inevitable McLuhan reference here), generalizing about the blogosphere paints a deceptively uniform, and distorted picture.

Stephen Jay Gould, the science popularizer, made much the same point about the diversity of species that I am making about bloggers. Just as there is no such thing as "the bat" or "the dog", there is no such thing as "the blogger".

The stereotype of the pajama-clad political warrior or poster of lurid Internet material is just that. These certainly exist, but they are not the typical blogger. In fact, it's hard to define a typical blogger. People blog for many reasons. And there is no reason to expect bloggers to be any better or worse than the rest of society. So, surprise! there will be criminal bloggers. Writers who warn about the dark side of bloggers with an anecdote about a cannibal blogger (see "Clueless Ludditry") only show the shallowness of their understanding.

This sort of thing was excusable, perhaps, in the 1990s when the Internets were new. The Heaven's Gate stories made much of the group's having a Web site. This led to much chatter about how dangerous cults can use the Internet, perhaps to recruit your child. Protect your family against this frightening technology. Tune in at 11 and investigative reporters Bob Blowdry and Kitty Chatty will show you how.
Now excuse me while I post new messages about my cult (cash donations only, please), troll for lurid Internet photos, and provoke a flame war with political partisans. Soon, I'll have to get out of my pajamas and go to my day job.

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