Sunday, January 27, 2008

This is Not a Blog (re: NYRB)

An interesting picture of the blog world emerges from Sarah Boxer's essay "Blogs," in the February 14 issue of the New York Review of Books, now on-line and in your mailbox. What are blogs like? A characteristic feature is bloggy writing. According to Boxer, "Bloggers thrive on fragmented attention and dole it out too....And if they can't put quite the right inflection on a sentence, they'll often use an OMG (Oh my god!) or an emoticon, e.g., a smiley face :-) or a wink ;-) or a frown :-( instead of words." How do blogs operate? "The law of the blogosphere is Hobbesian: survival of the snarkiest." What are bloggers like? "Bloggers have fouler mouths, tougher hides, and cooler thesauruses than most of the people I've read in print." They are fixated on superheroes. Their writing is "grandiose, dreamy, private, free-associative, infantile, sexy, petty, dirty."

OMG! What am I doing wrong? (LOL).

There are, thankfully, many corners of the blogosphere. It doesn't paint an accurate picture to collapse us all into the sort of writing we may have enjoyed in 6th grade. To characterize the blog world this way is something like writing an essay on literature, but only taking up the romance novel. The kind of blogs Boxer writes about are an important cultural innovation (whether we like them or not), and there are common attributes across genres -- most importantly the issue of connection with sources in the rest of the web, something that has not yet effectively come to the on-line versions of traditional journalism. Even Boxer's essay lacks links to the blogs she mentions.

The blog world is also a place for writers who have things to say that won't make it into a newspaper, and sometimes things that need to be said more quickly than a print publication cycle would allow. Blogs like this really are blogs, not some second category of writers who don't have the hang of the genre yet.

Boxer's essay mentions, but does not really engage, a list of blog-related books, including Daniel Solove's important new work, The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet (Yale University Press). Others are: We've Got Blog: How Weblogs Are Changing Our Culture, ed. John Rodzvilla (Basic Books); Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob by Lee Siegel (Spiegel and Grau); 2.0 by Cass R. Sunstein (Princeton University Press); Blogwars by David D. Perlmutter (Oxford University Press); We're All Journalists Now: The Transformation of the Press and Reshaping of the Law in the Internet Age by Scott Gant (Free Press); Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World by Hugh Hewitt (Nelson Books); The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture by Andrew Keen (Doubleday/Currency); Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel (Wiley); Blog! How the Newest Media Revolution Is Changing Politics, Business, and Culture by David Kline and Dan Burstein.
[More links to follow later -- this blogger has an off-line deadline today! ;-)]