The Golden Age of Blogging

I like the opening of Jonathan Sterne‘s first post back after summer vacation so much, I’m stealing it whole:

Jonathan Sterne: Greetings, loyal rss aggregators, assorted robots, and extremely dedicated readers. After a summer hiatus, this blog awakens refreshed. Sure, blogging is so passé that it’s cast as a quaint, dated practice in Julie and Julia, but that won’t stop me.

I’ve been hearing this more and more lately, but if both Julie and Julia are saying it, it must be true: Blogging is dead, alas, or at least not what it used to be. Bloggers are posting less, readers are clicking less, and nobody is getting undeservedly famous anymore. The Church of What’s Happening Now has moved on.

Mark Athitakis: I suspect that when somebody says that blogging had a “golden age,” the person means that there was a time (circa 2002) when it felt new and exciting, and the media wanted to do stories about it, and some people got a lot of attention really quickly (book deals! movie options!), and everybody got to have lively discussions and post pictures of puppies or argue about string theory, and it was a thrill because we all had a brand-new toy to play with and we knew who was reading us and we were finally, finally, getting some interesting e-mail.

To which I can only say, thank you for stopping by, zeitgeist. I was never any good at being ahead of the curve or, worse yet, of the moment. Go to your FaceTubes and TwitSpaces with my blessing, o shiny snackable media people. Behind the times is when this blog belongs.

If the Golden Age of Blogging is over, bring on the Silver Age: more apes, weirdness, and self-doubt. When I started blogging, on the first day of the 21st century, it seemed like a weird if not sordid habit. I have no real problem with it going back that way again. Blogging’s almost always been weird. Now it’s old and weird. Why do those two adjectives ring a bell?

Yes, OK, I’m on Twitter, and I can feel the lure of it. That’s where the party is this year, no doubt about that, but it’s the kind of party that feels more like work than hanging out to me. Maybe the reason “teens aren’t tweeting” is that it isn’t really all that fun? Twitter seems to be the inevitable evolution of the networking side of blogging. Content is shaved to a bare minimum, leaving only the imperative to tweet and be retweeted, work the room, work the room. It’s the Hobbesian waltz of the A-list, the wanna-bes, and the very long tail, laid bare.

Caleb Crain: The internet is inhospitable to quietness. … A text on the internet rarely takes for granted your decision to read it or to continue reading it. There is often, instead, a jazzy, hectoring tone. … The internet is always saying, “Heyyy.” It is always welcoming you to the party; it is always patting you on the back to congratulate you for showing up. It says, “You know me,” in a collusive tone of voice, and “Wanna hear something funny?” and “Didja see who else is here?”

On the other hand: the telephone didn’t kill the telegraph, at least not for fifty years. In fact, the new medium became a vital feeder network for the old, the same way Twitter now channels people to blog posts and other long form articles. When television hit big in the 1950s, it didn’t kill the movies; it made them bigger and better, as Hollywood (re)discovered what they could do on the big screen that television couldn’t. A friend pointed out that the signal-to-noise ratio on LiveJournal, of all places, has gone way up since the “Which Wiggle Are You” quizzes and “25 Passive-Aggressive Things About Me” memes migrated to Facebook. (Mind you, “signal” in this instance refers to Twilight/Jonas Bros. slashfic and long pieces bashing Twitter.) What will blogs become when they no longer have to do double duty as resumes, book proposals, and online dating profiles?

Thank you, loyal aggregators, Googly spiders, and patient robots, for visiting this quiet, cobwebbed corner of the web. Stick around if you like. There is more to come.


I Will Do My Best To Teach Them About Life And What It’s Worth

“See all that stuff inside, Homer? That’s why your robot never worked!”*

Here’s what I’m doing this weekend, unless a certain fetus has other plans: The Hacking as a Way of Knowing Workshop organized by the excellent Bill Turkel and the awesome Edward Jones-Imhotep.

This three-day workshop will explore the theme of E-waste and environmental data. Working in small groups, participants will be given the task of hacking some typical consumer e-waste to create reflective technological assemblages that incorporate ‘nature’ in some form while calling one or more of our basic assumptions into question.

Translation: We’re making killer robots. Reflective, nature-incorporating, assumption-questioning, killer robots. The twitterpated can follow this foolish meddling with secrets beyond our ken at #hackknow. Confession: I’ve been on Twitter for a year now (as “robotnik“) but have only managed to emit one tweet.

*I googled “that’s why your robot never worked” to be sure I had the quote right, and discovered that my own elderly LiveJournal is the number one hit for the phrase. Andy Warhol would plotz: I’ve become famous to myself.