Wednesday, February 10, 2016

We Built This City on Blogrolls

David Weinberger:

But, we thought, the most important challenge blogging posed was to the idea of the self in self-expression. Blogging was more about connecting with others than about expressing ourselves. Truth, we thought, was more likely to live in webs of ideas and responses than in the mouth of any one individual braying from soapbox, whether that soapbox was The New York Times or a blogger read by five people. By linking and commenting, we were consciously building a social space for voices in conversation.

...So what happened?

Mainly, Facebook happened. Constructing social networks by blogging takes work. You have to read, respond, post. You have to stay on top of the topics sweeping through what used to be called the “blogosphere.” Facebook is much better at building social networks for people. And you don’t have to spend serious time writing essays. Twitter lowered the character count further.

Blogging still lives, Weinberger triumphantly concludes, which will only be surprising to those who have repeatedly pronounced it dead, in which "dead" is understood to mean "less novel and popular than it was ten years ago", which is only "death" if you conceive of social media as the world's longest fashion catwalk where "uncool" is the undiscovered country, from which no tech-savvy hipster has ever returned, awaiting at the edge, and if you're that shallow and flighty, you probably prefer gifs and emoticons to words and sentences anyway. All of which is to say, personal essays have been around ever since Montaigne scratched his bald head and pondered "What the hell do I know anyway?" before picking up his quill. They'll still be around after different technological platforms come and go.

Given how many other blogs I have seen turning off comments, though, I think that whole "connecting with others" idea has long since lost its sparkle. Facebook can have it. Leave this space to those of us who have always known that the best thinking and writing blooms during solitary reflection.