Jeffrey Fisher on Wed, 15 Aug 2007 22:36:37 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> The banality of blogging

On 8/14/07, Jon Lebkowsky <> wrote:
> This is an odd conversation that confuses form and content. "Blog" is
> form, just as "book" is form. You can't make a general statement about
> the content or quality of "all" books; there's a huge diversity.

A good point. In some ways I think it begs the question of the post,
but the question of the post is not clearly formulated, and the essay
seems to want to do too many things at once. Perhaps I recognize it
because my own writing tends to go that way, too. But there seems to
be something about blogging as "feminine," but also something about
blogging as pushing the private/feminine into the public sphere and
so robbing it of its power -- emasculating it? Are blogs, in this
conception, digital femmes fatales? Can't tell.

> What you can say most clearly is that books are generally a
> collection of printed pages bound and organized in a particular
> bookish way.
> Same for blogs. What I find true of blogs is that they're generally
> but not always short form series of posts published in reverse
> chronological order, sometimes with comments, usually with
> permalinks to individual posts, etc.

> What those who argue "banality" are missing is the wealth of
> high-quality writing that we see in blogs, that would never have
> been published in books or periodicals, because of the significant
> barriers one must overcome to write for traditional publications. To
> me, that's the real story. Could be that many blogs are banal, but
> I'm not reading them, are you?

Oh, most of them are, I am guessing. But that doesn't mitigate your  .
point Sturgeon's Law applies                                         .

New media in some cases enable the disruption of dominant mental
and social frameworks within a culture, but no medium, new or old,
minimally or widely adopted, will *essentially* or *ontologically*
avoid, much less preclude or prohibit, practitioners from replicating
and reinforcing extant social and mental frameworks, even if we have
to acknowledge that those frameworks might adapt themselves to the new
media. Indeed, in the case of widely adopted media or formats, one
suspects that they are widely adopted precisely because of the ways
that they enable people to express things they already want to express
in ways that either *feel* new or seem easier or more powerful (or

So to complain that some new medium or new communication channel
within a medium, or whatever, enables most people to reinforce
dominant ideologies, practices, etc., seems like a pretty banal kind
of observation. Of course that's what most people do with it.

The implication of the post that started this thread is that
"blogging," in all its glorious banality, has killed the public
sphere. This is patently false, it seems to me. If the public sphere
is dead, we could just as easily argue that tv (or mass media more
generally) killed it. Or that reality tv (from "The Real World" to
Jerry Springer) killed it. In that case, we could take Eduardo's
post as a way of thinking that, far from killing the public sphere,
blogging (or the Intarwebz more generally) is saving it.

In any event, it seems to me that rumors of the public sphere's demise
are greatly exaggerated. Surely the public sphere is under fire from
numerous directions, but when has that ever not been the case? And how
can we possibly argue with any force at all that blogs in particular
or the internet in general does more harm than good? And why focus on
blogs as making the private public instead of blogs as instantiating
an echo chamber culture? That seems to me the more obvious concern,
but I'm not sure it's any more compelling as an analysis.

Even setting aside challenges one could mount to Hannah Arendt's
understanding of public and private, or the political and the
private (which is probably not the same thing), we can nevertheless
reformulate the problematic posed by the initial post in this thread.
Bonnie Honig is quoted as follows: 'If politics is everywhere then
it is nowhere. But not everything is political on this (amended)
account; it is simply the case that nothing is ontologically protected
from politicization, that nothing is necessarily or naturally or
ontologically not political. The distinction between public and
private is seen as the performative product of political struggle,
hard won and always temporary' (p. 147).

Likewise, nothing is protected from banalization (or maybe just
banality), nothing is necessarily or naturally or ontologically (not)
banal. On the contrary, maybe everything defaults to banality, and
it is only by some effort that we make it otherwise. Or not. But
isn't that precisely Arendt's point about the banality of evil? That
Eichmann resulted from a failure of *thinking*, of reflection, of
reasoned judgment. So our complaint is that lots of people use these
new digi-tools in non-reflective ways, and to be more specific, they
use it to make the private a part of public discourse. What else is

So then, we have to keep an eye on how these things play themselves
out, and do our best to bring a measure of reflection, creativity,
etc. etc. Again, this is the same as it ever was.

Isn't it?


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