Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Blogging: Democratic Dialogue, Fundamentalist Monologues, and Self-Expression

Early Adopter

I'm new to blogging so take anything I say about it with a grain of salt. I defer to the more experienced and technically sophisticated.

I started reading blogs a couple of years ago and started writing my own posts last winter. While I've learned quite a bit I still feel like an outsider.

Here's my "day trip" take so far on the blogosphere.

From what I've seen I'd divide blogs into at least three categories.

There are blogs that specialize in what I'd call democratic dialogue. That's democratic with a small "d" by the way. These blogs are rare. They're written in a way that encourages real dialogue and disagreement. I'd guess they make up 5% of the blogs I've read.

Fundamentalist monologues seem to take up 20% of the blogging market. This is the realm of the true believers in various religious and political and cultural ideologies. They occasionally throw a bone to those that disagree but it's mostly an uninterrupted monologue. The comments on these blogs look like they come pretty much from fellow believers, acolytes and wannabees.

Three quarters of blogs seem to be pure self-expression. They're probably created for the fun of it or for the enjoyment of friends or as a kind of digital attempt to connect to people beyond their friendship circles who might be "soul mates."

Blogging idiom and manners are pretty interesting too. The premium seems to be on haiku/proverb length posts that show 'emotional authenticity' and 'wit.' As I've mentioned before, grammar and conventional structure often take a beating too, though to be fair, folks usually do get complete thoughts out there if not complete sentences or paragraphs. It can be the reading equivalent of hearing a phone conversation over a bad connection--you can make out the meaning even if there are a chunks of the convo missing in the static. Much of this is obviously intentional and not a sign of laziness or ignorance, so I'm guessing it's supposed to be a kind of "insiders" language for bloggers and text messagers that distinguishes them from the clueless and "late adopters."

Fundamentalist and self-expression bloggers tend to be territorial about their blogs. Only supportive comments are usually welcome. The former don't like disagreement and the latter don't think it's appropriate. Only the democratic dialogue types regularly welcome real discussion and disagreement.

Sometimes, though, bloggers really do invite discussion but for some reason readers won't engage. I've been lucky with this blog that lots of folks have jumped in, but I've read really good blogs that try to be democratic dialogues but end up as self-expression blogs because folks won't "talk back." That whole phenomenon is curious to me. I'm not sure why people often seem so reticent to contribute.

I've read Hugh Hewitt's Blog: Understanding the Information Revolution. It's a pretty good take on the potential importance of blogging.

The gist of the book is a tribute to Hewitt's good sense but unfortunately in his worst moments he exposes his inner fundamentalist. One of his other book titles is If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It That should give you some idea of the downside of his otherwise thoughtful and helpful book.

Hewitt's really important point (made in his more positive Dr. Jeckle mode) is that the blogosphere has the potential to be an ultra-democratic phenomenon. I agree.

But real democracy always has a hard time making headway in any situation, from ancient Athens to cyberspace.

Fundamentalist monologues have their place in the scheme of things. When they pretend to be discussions, though, I have a hard time respecting them or taking them seriously. I prefer my fundamentalisms straightup and honest. I'd appreciate some of the blogs I read more if they would simply be honest about their lack of hospitality to differing views or perspectives.

I'm very supportive of self-expression, but I'd feel more comfortable if it didn't dominate blogging the way it does.

Democratic dialogue, unedited and uncontrolled by authorities, may be the best thing blogging offers. The opportunity is there. The only question is if bloggers will take advantage of it.


Blogger Jason said...

Welcome back. Happy Birthday.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

Thanks, but did you have to remind me that the big 5 oh looms larger every day! :^)

2:53 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

I, too, lament the insider language and its lack of grammer and conventional structure.

Let's have a convo about that, shall we?

Oh no!! My inner fundamentalist is exposed!!

1:04 PM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

no convos allowed--we just do democratic dialogues here....

3:55 PM  

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