February 15, 2005

The complex subject of blogging.

I don't have a recording of today's Chaos and Complex Systems seminar, where I talked about blogging, so I'll have to try to see what I can remember. I didn't stick to my notes very much, because we had the lights low to see the projected computer display and also because I got carried away explaining the various websites I was projecting and I was very open to whatever questions the twenty or so people in the seminar wanted to ask.

Here's a list of quickly fading memories of what I talked about.

1. I did not resist the temptation to begin with the cliché of explaining the word "weblog." I thought of resisting, but I felt I should reach out to the full audience, which I did before descending into the sort of talk about blogging that probably left anyone who didn't already know the word "blog" far behind. But so what? It was the Physics Department! Am I not entitled to think these are the smartest people in town? Let them deal with it!

2. A reporter from The Capital Times was there taking notes, and a photographer from the newspaper took a bunch of shots of me at the beginning. I'll be interested to see what the reporter writes, especially since, at one point, when I referred to the way journalists and not bloggers are supposed to maintain a politically neutral stance, an audience member snarked that I didn't read some newspaper famous for its liberal slant, and I said, "I read The Capital Times," before remembering the Cap Times reporter was in the room. Whoops!

3. One area of interest to the audience was why a person blogs and what blogging does to you as a person. Blogging can be too seductive, too addictive. You can really love it in a way that drags you out of your "real life." Two things I thought of to talk about in response are: A. traditional writers might be thought to be too reclusive and self-involved (wouldn't people have told Marcel Proust to get out of bed and engage with life more?), and B. people who are socially or geographically isolated might use blogging to leap over the confines of their real life (I mentioned a woman staying home with children, a person in a rural environment, and -- slightly veiled -- a moderate, hawkish, female lawprof living in a priggishly lefty midwestern university town).

4. A second area of interest was politics. What is the role of blogging in the organization of political debate and activity? I talked about the Eason Jordan case, which – I don't know if you've noticed – I've never before written about on this blog. I talked about "swarming" and the accusation that bloggers are a "headless mob" or "slavering morons." What does MSM have to fear from us? Are we just "more speech" in the "marketplace of ideas" way or is there something unfair about the way we can pick our issues and be as one-sided as we like? Or is that all quite funny, considering that we are the little guys and MSM has held far too much power, far too long? I aired my various theories about how left-wing blogging behavior is quite different from right-wing blogging behavior, and that the right has a far more effective approach.

There was much, much more, but, unfortunately, like most of life, it's hard to remember the details!

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