I am a member of a writers collective that meets about once a week to discuss our writing and do collective editing. Most of what we discuss is poetry, which I don’t ‘do’, and occasional prose – but I am the only person who contributes ‘published’ works (in the loosest sense of the term… I’m just some kid with a computer), typically in the form of posts picked up from here (or the upcoming NYU Disorientation Guide… stay tuned). I’m always a bit confused about what comments to ask for, because I only have a vague sense of what blogging as-such does. I’ve posted some thoughts on the potential uses of blogging for activist institutions, but I wanted to flesh out further what I think blogging does – in terms of how people read blogs, and in terms of good writing.
I’m taking for granted a few theoretical assumptions that sort of come out in the McLuhan post ,such as the remediation relationship between old and new forms of media, and the ways that new media reflect the desires and stresses created by the old.
Initially, blogging was pigeonholed as an online personal-diary of sorts, or as amateur journalism on a broad scale (with particular emphasis on ‘amateur’). While I find these ideas generally misleading, they contain a grain of truth: both journalism and journaling involve an element of making sense of existence by framing and archiving events by committing them to public or personal record. Both deal with the decay of memory across space and time. I think the first function of blogging is the creation of personal-public memory – it introduces ideas into a potentially public space in an attempt to create controversy, however this process builds steam from the highly-personal nature of blogging, which ties the introduction of those ideas/events to an individual writer in charge of their own blog.
So, blogging grows out of someone’s life – many blogs are explicitly personal, but ones that aren’t often rely on the reputation of its authors as interesting people able to drop smart commentary on events covered elsewhere. Blogging as writing, then, remediates interpersonal interactions by treating them as potential content for publication, and blogs become spaces to manage the perception of those interactions by writing about them and submitting them to public memory.
However, blogging also takes a cagey relationship to other forms of media as well – the ‘agenda setting’ function of blogging described above grows out of the troubled relationship people have to contemporary mass media companies. I don’t think its any surprise that blogging as a phenomenon grew up around the time that mass media consolidation severely reduced the diversity and critical content of mass media products. Many (political) bloggers dislike mass media, or at least develop their sense of purpose in writing via the perceived failings of some larger media company.
The interpersonal function of blogging manifests itself in several ways – one, the tone of blogs (generally personal, casual), but also the way that bloggers relate to each other – the ‘blogroll’ practice, and the prorogation of links via email tips shows that bloggers relate to their writing as an (inter)personal venture.