This is going to be a bit of a ramble.
Nowadays I’m trying not to use the word “blog” — especially as a verb — too gratuitously in my speech and writing. I avoid it now, much the same way we avoid the phrase “information superhighway,” or refrain from putting a hyphen between “tele” and “vision.” The word has felt more and more out of place in my vocabulary lately, too much a trendy gush for a medium which, as it ages and matures, seeks to leave behind the baby nicknames of its childhood.
I think it started when I saw Paul Ford’s work on the Harpers site. Ford used his own site, Ftrain, as a preliminary test bed, and the result was a front page that yelled “WEBLOG,” complete with post date, recent entries list, calendar archive, and permalinks; yet, you couldn’t find the keyword “blog” anywhere on that page, or anywhere in that site. It was then that I realized: “blogs” are melting into the landscape, becoming part of the medium, not revolutionizing, but easing into, our structures of communication, sitting alongside them as a tool for publication. In McLuhannesque fashion, the medium has gone from “message” to “massage,” and it does bloggers no good to act as though weblogs can continue to distinguish themselves as potent and readable by mere virtue of their being weblogs.
As with other media and channels before it, the weblog has been through its utopian moment, that interval after the introduction of a medium or a channel when its newness, its promise, its accessibility, bring forth bold predictions that this is it, this is the revolution — or at least a part of it — that will bring about peace, togetherness, and sweeping social change. Perhaps weblogs weren’t greeted with the parades and worship services which welcomed the first transatlantic telegraph, but I still see various pundits (there’s another catchword I’ll have trouble purging from my vocabulary) lauding the weblog’s superiority over “traditional” news sources. While it’s true that weblogs are an insightful, informative, immediate op-ed-type supplement to our daily news, I don’t see them supplanting the networks and the press — any more than TV news and talk shows could have supplanted newspapers.
But then, I could be way off on this. Perhaps webloggers don’t entertain utopianist notions that their online journalling will change the world. On the other hand, perhaps webloggers are changing the world in some way, like what we see from Iranian women and connected Iraqis with weblogs. So there is a kind of publishing revolution ongoing; it is not, however, one which automatically validates the content that comes out of it simply by merit of the use of weblog services.
Put another way: when I’m talking to someone on the phone, and I say I’m watching “The Simpsons,” do I need to say that I’m watching it on TV? Or that I send email over the internet? I won’t excise the word “blog” from my speech completely, but I’ve decided to stop being so enamored with the medium that I let it control my vocabulary. Disillusionment with some aspects of the weblog world, based on things discussed in art school about media history, may have something to do with it.
This much is certain: I’m not “blogging” things anymore. I’m writing about them. It seems more dignified that way.