Wednesday, February 04, 2009
There is a discussion on the boards at FM about blogs that sparked a few thoughts today. The person who started the thread about blogs later brought up the 'new technology, impersonal, etc.' statements that I see so often... and that made me think about it in a different light.
In 1440 a huge change came to the world of words -- Guttenberg used is printing press. Some of the people who had collected, copied and horded those wondrous manuscripts of the Middle Ages and earlier viewed it as a disaster because it brought books to a wider range of people. The same laments were heard when the paperback books took off in the late 1930's -- though there had been something like them in the legendary dime novels of the Wild West and the like. However, paperbacks were for the masses, where hard bounds had been for the elite.
We're seeing the same attitude in a lot of things related to the Internet. Every time there is a change in technology that involves the written word, people will decide that it is a problem of some sort, and that it is ruining some aspect of writing. It's not really -- it's just that, like with each of those previous changes, it is making the ability to present words, for good or bad, to a wider range of people. Like the boom of the 'pulp age' in book publishing, people are leaping in and 'publishing' things that are not always great.
Technology does not make the words we type any less 'personal' than the words we would write on paper, or type on a typewriter. If you could read my letters from 25 years ago, they wouldn't be drastically different than what I write here, except for some individual pieces aimed at specific people. Those now go out via email, and not in the general missive to the public. What makes the blog less personal is that it is directed out at more people -- but that doesn't mean it is the only form of communications that a person uses, and people are just as likely to write letters and emails and make phone calls as they ever were.
Blogs help to keep family and friends more aware of some of the basic aspects of a person's life, without having to repeat the same story about the silly cat trick to five different people. It allows the person who writes it to be both personal and impersonal at the same time.
It's not bad. It's not good. It's just words for a new world. It adds to the wealth of communications and it allows people to reach a far wider range of people than they would have with each individual letter -- letters they wouldn't have written anyway, because it takes to long to write to all the fringe people that you know.
Blogs have the potential for wonderful writing. Some people manage it. The rest of us will just use them to explore self-expression, to write about what bothers us, and to be boring most of the time. It doesn't matter if someone finds it an annoying waste of time because it wasn't written for them. It's just who we are. We can't all be briliant, but that doesn't mean we don't have things to say.