Now were was I?

I’m back. On The Reading Experience blog I read a post about a review of the Army of Davids (or Davinas as we have been saying on Debi Alper) — yes, blogging is always so darn nested. The reviewer is called Christine Rosen, who in the excerpt given by Daniel Green (The Reading Experience) makes the point that in being enthusiastic about the "new media" of the Internet and social networking, etc, the "older" media — the press, academies and publishing in general — "provide editors and peer review, valuing opinion formulated by sustained research over opinion produced by a Google search. They are the superego checking the authorial id." I agree. The Reading Experience blog/Daniel Green does not, however, and segues into a rant :

"Of course, another of way of putting it might go something like this: The mainstream media and "academic experts" are gatekeepers making sure the uncredentialed riffraff don’t "broadcast" their unapproved views to the world. They provide peer review that values opinion formulated by appeal to conventional wisdom or by dressing up that wisdom in certain pre-authorized forms of dissent and "contrarian" discourse." Finally:  "I am myself not much of a fan of Glenn Reynolds and his blog, but if this is the best defense of the status quo the ink-stained wretches at The New Republic can find, they need to go back to bloviating school."

Well, I am not much of a fan of Glen Reynolds’ blog Instapundit (I unsubscribed becuase the stream of unfocused link-posts was too much for me; how could any human absorb that lot?), and not being American I don’t fully "get" his politics, but I do fully subscribe to the views he crystallised in the Army of Davinas/ds, that the Internet provides power to the invidividual to choose the information received, to allow him or her to control the communication (the who and the when), to form groups of like-minded people in business, social and other contexts, and so on. The balance shifts from the "old" medium (TV, publication), deciding what it puts out, to the consumer as the power, selecting what to receive and who to interact with.

But the corollory to my mind is, one type of media cannot exist without the other — at the moment. It is no good bloggers ranting on about mainstream media and citing all the great scoops, such as Rathergate, that have (correctly) come out of the inability of some publisher to censor bloggers. Although this is all true, Bloggers need the context of the mainstream media to exist. Similarly it is no good for newspaper editorials, John Updike and co to attack bloggers in some half-understood way, blundering about (or maybe it is all cynical, to sell more copies or to increase brand awareness). The freedom of the bloggers is here to stay, learn to live with it, guys and rabbits. But we bloggers are using the technology created by capitalism,  and we have to be aware of that dependency, too.

Blogging is great psychotherapy for the world. It enables voices to be heard and news to be broadcast that otherwise might not be, as evidenced most clearly in oppressive regimes and war zones. It enables individual people and groups to make connections which is beneficial in so many ways — to mental health, to social support, to feedback for business enterprises (see The Publishing Contrarian and Skint Writer, for example), for creative feedback on writing , art and other activities. It empowers individuals in ways never conceived by the creators of Google, Yahoo et al., although these and other corporations are busy jumping on the business bandwaggons (opportunities) presented. But at the same time, we need to have the editorial process involved in producing a newspaper, a journal, a book, a published product of quality. One enhances the other. As things stand, we can see, dimly, "wisdom of the crowds" ways to make our output sustainable in business terms — self-publishing, DIgg models, small-scale distribution networks for products, Google Scholar page rankings, etc. But it is all nascent. There is no business model to sustain blogger-journalists or blogger-publishers in isolation of the rest of the world.

The goal is not to bring each other down but to coexist to add "value" to the whole. Traditonally published books can coexist with self-published books. Traditional journals can coexist with new forms of Internet "free to read" journal. As things stand, there is an equilibrium, in which the "old" media makes enough money to continue, and the "new" media can react quickly to gaps and cover-ups. The Internet, the blogosphere, and the world are big enough for all of us.

OK, I’ve had  a couple of glasses of wine and a lot of distractions while trying to write the above, so goodness knows what if any sense it will make in the morning. For now, I am switching off for the day. Goodnight to all.

7 thoughts on “Now were was I?

  1. Phew Maxine, I think I just about got what you were talking about.
    I see blogging and myspace etc as similar to the rise of popular music in the 50s and 60s when people rebelled against the suppression of the status quo and invented their own modes of expression.
    The gatekeepers then were just as confused and snobbish as they are now, but it didn’t take long for the establishment to lower the drawbridge and invite the rebels in – now they and their mates all have knighthoods and have become the gatekeepers themselves.
    Same thing will happen to blogging of course, if it turns out to have any commercial or political value, it will be absorbed into mainstream culture and will appoint its own gatekeepers.
    From a different perspective, blogging can be a similar experience to going down the pub and having a bit of craic with your mates.
    In the long run I think blogging will be swallowed whole by the Yellow Submarine and will continue as a minor enhancement to the existing media.

  2. I think blogging and the internet can only be looked at as the ‘sketchbook’. It’s too convenient, too rough-and-tumble to allow for polish and perfection. I think it’s excellent for the instant exchange of ideas and will serve as a ‘spark’, but real scholarship and art probably won’t come from it.

  3. Susan: Yes on one, no on two. “Real scholarship” isn’t easy under the best of circumstances, and I agree that the sketchy nature of most ‘net media now, especially given the affordances they provide for spinning an infinite number of of revs, and spouting off. Penny broadsheets are a close analogy there.
    *But* — I think it’s too soon to claim that “real” art probably won’t come from it.
    Aren’t Picasso sketches real art?
    Can’t ephemera be art?

  4. As I live my life in ‘lanes and countryside’ I found blogging a place to go where I can step out onto the ‘motorway’. This does not mean that I wish to go all the way to the city but that I can watch in safety from a distance!
    Blogging is so many things to so many people and the freedom of the thing allows us to take only which we find useful, entertaining, experiential etc.
    Long may it last!

  5. Thank you all for such considered comments on a rather rushed post — I agree with the thrust of it all. Minx, it is interesting that you see the blogging as the motorway and I see it as an island of personal space in a hectic maelstrom.
    Thank you again everyone — the fact that you have come to comment says it all for me!

  6. Just a bumpkin darling, I’m in the south, life is always ‘manyana’ or ‘dreckly’ as the Cornish say – which means ‘I’ll do it sometime in the next year’.

  7. Great post, Maxine.
    I always thought you were the one who should be writing THE book and this proves it!
    As for whether this is all a superhighway or an oasis – if it can be both at the same time to different people is that not part of the attraction?

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