Benjamin Geer on Wed, 15 Aug 2007 14:17:41 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> The banality of blogging

2007/8/13, Kimberly De Vries <>:
> Blogs do offer some terrific opportunities for study and theorizing, and of
> course you are right Eduardo, that they differ enormously from pens in their
> ability to reach vast numbers as easily as just a few.

So did the printing press when it was invented. But as far as I know,
nobody has suggested that texts published using printing presses are
inherently... anything. The first books printed were Bibles, not
because printing presses inherently lend themselves to printing Bibles
above all else, but because that was what a lot of people wanted to
read. Similarly, if there are a lot of banal texts published on blogs,
it's not because there's some necessary connection between blogs and
banality, but because a lot of people want to publish and read those
sorts of texts nowadays.

Banal public self-revelation is a vast social phenomenon, encompassing
huge sections of the publishing industry and the media, and banal
blogs are just one small part of it. At the same time, though, great
texts are still being published, and some of them are being published
on blogs.

> A fairly recent preliminary survey by the Pew Internet and American Life
> project confirms that most blogging is personal

What does this really tell us? I suspect most email is probably
personal, too, but is that interesting in itself? What's more
interesting to me is that here we are on nettime, having a very
unusual sort of discussion about media, culture and politics, and
email made it possible.

Similarly, I think it's interesting that a French university
professor, specialised in Arab literature, is using a blog to publish
some of the fruits of his research on media and publishing in the Arab

Or that an anonymous Egyptian is using a blog to publish analyses
(in English) of developments in Egyptian politics and literature,
reflecting an apparently vast network of contacts among the political
and literary elites:

Or that blogger, political activist and free software advocate Alaa
Seif ( uses his blog to publish news, analyses and
opinions on politics and technology in Egypt, not in the literary
Arabic of newspapers (a language few Egyptians feel at ease in), but
in Egyptian dialect, in an uninhibited, often hilarious style that
I suspect many readers must find liberating. And that when he was
arrested last year, his friends launched an international campaign to
get him released... using a blog (

Email made nettime possible, but it didn't make it inevitable.
There are also mailing lists where people discuss banal personal
experiences. Social factors, not technological ones, make the
difference. Nettime is above all a certain kind of social environment,
and that (not the technology used) is what explains the presence of
certain kinds of texts here.

So to study blogs, I think you'd have to study the ways they're used
socially, looking at, for example, networks of links between blogs to
identify communities of writers. Of course, the social phenomenon of
linking is nothing new; in book publishing, it's called citation.


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