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Are Blogs Dead?

My three minutes from the excellent roundtable discussion at Computers and Writing 2011 session e13 this morning.  Here you go:

I’ve seen the best ideas of my presentation offered by scholars smarter than I.  Consider this a coda or an echo to the conversations that have come before.

I’ve kept a blog since November of 2004.  At some point, it went silent for several months.  When I posted again, I asked “how long can a blog lie dormant before it’s declared dead?”  Clancy Ratliff replied immediately that “A blog will never die as long as the RSS feed stays alive.”

When I first heard of blogging, I thought of Carl Schmitt’s “Buribunker” essay from Friedrich Kittler’s chapter on Typewriters. Schmitt wrote:

the attitude of the Buribunk, which originates from the desire to record every second of one’s existence for history, to immortalize oneself… [the Buribunk] is nothing more than a diary-keeper, he lives for his diary, he lives in and through his diary, even when he enters in his diary that he no longer knows what to write in his diary…

At first  blogging was logorrhea: Live Journal and MySpace and Blogger were eminently updatable.  I’m Blogging This.  This narcissistic torrent of data spilling the uninterrupted, unedited minutae of our lives onto the world stage, is Dead. So Yes, blogging is dead. But the liforrhea has, obviously, transposed itself to Facebook and Twitter, where schoolchildren “friend” their teachers and then post about how boring class is and divorce lawyers use screenshots instead of honey pots.  So No, blogging is not dead.

Some bloggers tried reportage, but these scrappy conspiracists with tenacious typewriters garnered lots of scorn.  Then came Matt Drudge’s Fedora and Monica Lewinsky’s beret, Dan Rather’s fake documents and Trett Lott at Strom Thurmond’s birthday.  Newscasters who’d sneered at the “bloggers” began covering their stories, and journalists everywhere still hold their breath to see what will come next, how the growing army of citizen journalists will overrun the fourth estate, or whether the strategic capture of these wildcatters will succeed.

But consider Schmitt’s warning for the Buribunker:

The path of evolution silently passes over the silent ones; they are outside of all discourse and as a result can no longer draw attention to themselves… Since they don’t write anymore… they no longer stay current, they disappear from the monthly reports and become nonentities…

Both liforrhea and reportage must stay current, they have to keep going, going, going.

Those kinds of blogging are Dead.  They have either evolved into the sleek tweets or the big aggregators.  What’s left are the blogs that do all sorts the other things.  They create and commemorate.  They set trends or snark on them.  They use the long-form, searchable, permalinked platform to craft and publish diverse texts in ways only possible on blogs.  And whereas the temporal priority of the earlier forms has lost its shine, the small pockets of consistent permanence attest to the fact that Yes, blogging is alive, No, it’s too diverse to die. It has become Other.

{ 5 } Comments

  1. Clancy | 21 May 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I said that? I have no memory of it. But I do think it’s true.

  2. Dan | 21 May 2011 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    For the first time since its inception, I’m having trouble defending my blog. I feel like it is not read except by a stalwart few and my mother. It feels so unnecessary in (as you mentioned) this day of Facebook and Twitter. The kind of blogging I do is so passe it’s not even funny. Still, I enjoy writing in long form and honestly, FB and Twitter don’t allow for that. I will probably stubbornly persevere but it seems almost superfluous at this point.

    PS Thanks for being one of the stalwart few! ;)

  3. Digital Sextant | 23 May 2011 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Yep, I searched my archives and couldn’t find the comment, Clancy. But I remember it quite clearly.

    Dan: one of the people at the panel said “Blogging is dead in the way that Latin is dead.” She meant that it is still relevant, but the people who practice it in its original form are fewer and farther between than ever.

    As for defending it for yourself: do you get anything out of it? One person at the conference used the maxim: “Reading is inhaling, writing is exhaling.” For me, the blogging exercise concretizes my ideas about much of the pop culture and news I ingest, forcing me to enact the media-aware perspective I advocate my students learn to have.

  4. Joe Montgomery | 31 August 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Agreed! Digital Sextant hit it on the head. I found THIS blog looking for commentary on thoughts about blogs being dead. I too write/wrote one, very minimally, and when I remembered I had one, I wondered why I had even bothered. Then I too drew my conclusions to F/B and the like. All in all, blogging is still cathartic for the blogger and even if only person reads it- wasn’t that the point?

  5. Digital Sextant | 1 September 2011 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    To a degree, but since the blog is public, it must serve a different kind of catharsis than would a journal written or kept in your home.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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