Dan Farber yesterday responded to my response to his post extolling the virtues of the blogosphere. I’m now going to respond to his response to my response to his post. I’m not sure whether this back-and-forth supports my thesis about blogging or shreds it into little pieces, but it seems like a good way to sign off before the Thanksgiving holiday.
This year, by the way, my family has decided to avoid all the nuisance involved in putting together a big meal in the meatspace and instead indulge in a digital simulation of the feast through the new Google Holidays (beta) service delivered through the Google Brain Plug-In (beta). What’s great about the service is that, because it’s supported by ads, you can enjoy your virtual turkey with all the trimmings while at the same time getting a head start on your Christmas shopping. Thanks, Sergey!
Where was I? Oh, yeah: blogging. Farber notes that:
Nick’s critique of blogging is really ironic. He started blogging in April and has now become part of what he calls the fantasy community of isolated egos. Clearly, the blogosphere is not as collegial or knowable as the Harvard campus.
I’ve been struggling with that irony as well. For the time being, at least, I’m going to revel in it rather than resist it. As to the alleged merits of the Harvard campus, I haven’t been there in a couple of years and have no plans to return.
Farber goes on to sum up my motivations as a blogger:
Instead of writing longer articles and waiting months for them to appear in print, or just emailing with his colleagues, [Nick] can offer and receive near instantaneous feedback, which, by the way, is all fodder for going ‘deeper’ and creating end (some revenue-generating) products, such as books, articles and speeches.
I’m not sure about the fodder point – so far, the blog stuff and the other stuff haven’t melded much, and the time given to the former has detracted from that given to the latter – but he’s right that instantaneous, self-controlled publishing is awfully seductive. Web 2.0 is kind of the apotheosis of the vanity press. But that seductiveness is, I’d argue, part of the problem. It’s so easy and cheap to circulate in the blogosphere, or the broader webosphere, that we, as a society, will inevitably tend to spend more and more time there – a trend, it’s important to remember, that Google, Yahoo, et al., have enormous economic incentives to propel. Slowly but steadily, the internet comes to mediate the way we take in and disgorge information, ultimately influencing, even reshaping, the very way our minds work. I really think that guy Richard Foreman was on to something when he wrote:
I come from a tradition of Western culture in which the ideal (my ideal) was the complex, dense and “cathedral-like” structure of the highly educated and articulate personality – a man or woman who carried inside themselves a personally constructed and unique version of the entire heritage of the West …
But today, I see within us all (myself included) the replacement of complex inner density with a new kind of self-evolving under the pressure of information overload and the technology of the “instantly available”. A new self that needs to contain less and less of an inner repertory of dense cultural inheritance – as we all become “pancake people” – spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button.
That’s what scares me.