Wednesday, September 13, 2006

What Does it Mean to be a Blogger?

I've been reading the essays in Uses of Blogs, which I recommend to anyone who has a serious interest in the blogging phenomenon. I’m not ready to delve deeply here into any of the essays, but one line in Alexander Halavais’s essay struck a chord for me. In “Scholarly Blogging: Moving toward the Visible College,” Halavais writes: “[S]o varied are the behaviors of bloggers that it is a bit surprising that the same term in used to cover them all.” (p. 117)

Indeed. In the recent dust-up over whether Pluto should be labeled a planet, the “anti-planet” faction argued, as they have for years, that Pluto is just too small to be put in the same rank as Earth, Jupiter, and the rest. But wait a minute – by that logic, is it not downright weird that we use the same term to refer to Earth and Jupiter? In fact, we don’t, exactly – Earth is a “terrestrial planet,” while Jupiter is a “gas giant” or a “Jovian planet.” The term planet itself means “moving star,” and is left over from the days when all we knew about Jupiter and Venus is that they looked just like that – like stars that moved.

And so we have this term, “blogger,” derived from “blog,” in turn derived from “weblog.” (Side thought – if we hadn’t shortened “weblog,” what would we call people who write them? “Weblies?”) It made sense to have one word when it was still possible for one person to read all the weblogs out there, or most of them at least. At that point, blogging was a subculture not terribly different from the zines phenomenon of hand-made, photocopied magazines, where even people writing radically different things had a sense of being part of a special tribe. (Another side thought – what’s happened to zines in the Age of Blogging?)

But like the word “planet”, the word “blog” becomes increasingly inadequate as more “reverse chronologically sequential narratives with a networked audience” come into view. What I’m doing and what Markos Moulitsas is doing really don’t have much to do with each other – and we’re both far removed from most of what goes on over at MySpace. There is no “blogosphere,” and thank God, because I hate that word. Physicists speculate about the possibility of multiple universes, and talk about the “multiverse.” Well, I don’t know if there’s a multiverse out there in space, but we’ve definitely already grown one here on the Internet. What should we call it? The multisphere? All I know is that my historian colleagues of the future are going to go nuts trying to figure this out. Good thing I’ll be retired by then.

(PS – Boy, this post has made the spellchecker nuts – someone needs to inform Microsoft that there’s this word “blog” – wonder if they know?)

1 comment:

lcreekmo said...

I dunno, it sure took them a while to figure out there was an Internet, though they did catch up with a vengeance.