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November 13, 2004

Blogging as cutting-edge communication: has the shark been jumped?

I'm starting to feel that the cutting edge of blogging is as over as the terms "jumped the shark" and "blogosphere."

Really, blogs erupted as the elections came closer. We all had something we cared about to discuss, and even the cultural blogs, like this one, were merely diversions from our favorite biased political web logs.

So now the election is over and "DailyKos" is no longer a place to rally the troops no matter what the cost, it's a place to hang around for three and a half years until the next election and just post anything negative about Bush that we can think of.

Same on both sides of the aisle. What, really, is there to do at a political blog that anyone really ultimately cares about? Sure, blogs retain their "public diary" quality, but you can find that in the real world, too, just by meeting real live people.

I took a tour of the political blogs I used to frequent in the months leading up to the election this morning. BOORRRIIINNNGGG!!!

The general theme is "Hey, we found this thing that indicates Bush and company did something we can spin into a good/bad political tool for our side."

I just don't care about political blogs anymore. Period. Now that the elections are over, I can more meaningfully participate in the system on a local level. I can work for real change in the real world, not just gain minor "victories" in the tide of public opinion among the same closed-minded blogger community.

Yes, blogs forced the press to deal with certain rumors and items that turned out to be true, but really, that's over now. There is a President in place, like it or not, who pretty much has free reign. We can continue to support or attack him, but I just don't have the emotional strength or even the interest to keep it up for three years.

I didn't even make it three weeks.

What use is blogging then, other than as self-expression? What relevance can a blog, even a huge one, that has dedicated itself to the election (conciously or not) have any more?

On some level, I think bloggers are drawn to the anonymity. I can call people all manner of names that I would never do in real life, face to face. I can demonize anyone who disagrees with me. I can pretend my side is all good and the other side is all evil. I can have a voice that is equal to everyone else's in this little blogsphere world just by typing. Blogging puffs up egos and gives a sense of importance, even if it is imagined importance and only relevant in the "blogosphere."

As I said, the tour of political blogs these days is only meaningful to those already consumed and obsessed. Try to find anything real or relevant to your life anymore. Political blogging is the new video game - fun in its own little world, but ultimately a time-waster.

And so I turn to Popping Culture, which served excellently as a diversion from the hate wars leading up to the election. But frankly, I need more than that now that the election is over.

Sure in another year of blogging I might educate a few more about impressionist paintings or the poetry of Lord Byron. You might hear about a new movie a month or so earlier because Popping Culture is here. You might hear a funny Britney Spears joke or two.

Ultimately, though, the real world is a stronger call right now. There is a stack of books I haven't read, in part because of the hours I've invested here.

So now we discuss:

-Is blogging, for the most part, losing its meaning and energy? Can blogging sustain itself at the current huge level with no election to discuss?
-Why do YOU blog these days, aside from promoting a political agenda years in advance of the next real elections? (Don't tell me it's to get folks on board and ready for when the elections get here: you can do more on a grassroots level in the real world than you can here)
-Why, importantly, am I here?

Posted by Dan at November 13, 2004 08:52 AM

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Good morning Dan - In some ways I understand your feelings about blogs as they are right now. While I am active locally in our small town affairs with all the personalities and the baggage they bring, I never indulged in politics beyond that. I am interested in my immediate neighbors putting my shoulder to the wheel that makes our town go around. Some of the people I get along with well, and others are so frustrating I wish they would go to Hell. Or so I think sometimes. I have to remind myself they keep our familiar soup from getting bland and that I probably cause them no end of consternation as well. In the end I know I love being here because of everyone else.

Similarly I restricted my personal internet usage to a single gardening site. I cherish growing some of my own food and composting my garbage into new earth. This one place is so much like a small town, so comfortable, I rarely wandered beyond it. The people there became familiar with some comments more welcome than others. Together we refined the art of dirt and extended our child rearing nature to living things that show their appreciation differently than we do.

Then I realized I needed to know more about the larger scheme than I was getting from the news. And I needed it from people in discussion, not a one way op-ed or a broadcast. I sought out the poli-blogs and was pleased with what I found. Not so much with the schoolyard rhetoric and the crude invective, but with the tiny kernals of thought and the meems that emerged within the conversations. I was fascinated by the wave of ideas that swept through, the tangental conversations, and the free form writing that revealed the people behind them. It was beautiful.

But now that the climax has occured, now that the coalesence is done, the fascinating glow is gone. If it were a bean that I harvested the last pod, I'd cut it back and plant new seed hoping for a second season. The conversations have taken on either tones of gloating or mourning. The victors have assumed the condescension of prison guards and the vanquished reconcile themselves by reviewing mathematics of the tally over and over again. It's horrid. It's like having sex with someone you really don't want to know. It happened, and now get out.

So, I think I shall retreat to my previous cloister, mulch the beds, and help figure out which road needs to be paved next.

Posted by: 403 at November 13, 2004 11:55 AM

Oh, now that just pisses me off. I write at least 500 words (probably more around 700) in response and when I post, my connection is down and I lose it all. Since I'm not starting over, I'll give you the short short version:

  1. Blogging pervades every industry and has as little to do with politics as politics has to do with blogging. They just happen to overlap. It's just a form of Web site that delivers content in a specific way and is by no means dependent on any one subject to keep it going. Who care if it stays as the new, cool form of delivering Web content? Nothing's more fickle than the Web.

  • I read blogs for the same reason I read other Web sites. I like the content of the specific blog. I (quasi-)maintain my own blog for the same reason I (quasi-)maintain my Web site. I know no one is reading it, but it's still fun.
  • I don't know. Why are you here? I enjoy reading your site, but if your heart isn't in it, I can find somewhere else to go if necessary. Web users are fickle like that. We'd miss you, but we'd get over it. I certainly can't fault a man for improving his mind and reading.

  • Stupid Comcast.

    Posted by: Nathan at November 13, 2004 08:30 PM

    I said ordered list! I think the internet is trying to piss me off specifically today.

    Posted by: Nathan at November 13, 2004 08:31 PM


    Could you have offended the Internet Gods?

    Posted by: Big Dan at November 13, 2004 09:02 PM

    I think Nathan's offended just about every God there is.

    Posted by: Joel Caris at November 13, 2004 09:32 PM

    Oh yes Joel, this from the guy who in my mind is forever associated with a certain "Chuck" from high school. :-P

    Posted by: Nathan at November 14, 2004 05:32 AM

    Everyone: insert a paragraph tag before each list-item tag in order to preserve ordered lists.

    I'm just saying.

    Posted by: Ara at November 14, 2004 08:22 AM

    Well, blogging hasn't lost its luster for me. We are still self-governed. There are still issues we need to bring to the attention of our politicians now that they've been elected, ideologies that need to be challenged and repaired...or maybe I'm just a natural at the subject.

    Anyway, after Rathergate, I'm convinced that it's not just about politics anymore. It's about alternative media that, unlike Indymedia, doesn't commit crimes to get the point across. Do you really think corporate media is doing a decent enough job at reporting, trying to boost ratings and get things first (not always right)? Without webloggers, I'd never have any clue what's going on in Iraq, since major media outlets are trying to get attention and attach a good/bad connotation to the war. It also gives me insight into politics beyond the news. As a 19-year-old who hopes to actually be involved in politics someday, I'd like to hear what voters like me are thinking in addition to the bigwigs.

    And how many people make you laugh but don't end up on TV?

    That's the appeal of weblogging for me. The thinkers and the comedians who don't get enough attention to break into television.

    Posted by: Alex D. at November 14, 2004 02:09 PM

    I agree with Alex. Yes, the election's over. But the fight isn't. There are still fools doing foolish things who need to be called out for it.

    As for "jumping the shark," read my LSF column tomorrow.

    Posted by: folkbum at November 15, 2004 12:06 AM

    I personally agree that the shark has been jumped. That said, there's an infinite supply of new blood coming into the system. It's not just elections, there is plenty of fodder day to day. Arafat, Peterson and Fallujah all in one day. What blogger wouldn't have a woody about that? I'm about exchanged out in terms of ideas. Two things interest me these days politically: secession and debt forgiveness. Since I don't see either happening, I'll just keep on paying my credit card bills and keep on trucking. hehe

    Posted by: Ralph at November 15, 2004 07:28 PM

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