PJs VI: Whither the Blogosphere?

[This is the conclusion of my long multi-part post on the “Open Source/PJ” media launch at Solomonia last November. I have divided them up differently this time and made slight changes. The full new version is here.]

NB: This was written the day after the launch. Notes added today in [].

Working hypotheses: Whither the Blogosphere and OSM?

So what’s the bottom line? What’s happening in the blogosphere and its first “portal” OSM?

How about some working hypotheses? (Feel free to offer others.)

Working hypothesis 1: The launch was a goof easily forgivable since it brought so many great minds together and the planners deserve the benefit of the doubt. Getting MSMers to show their colors was not really a high priority: it’s not like the blogosphere needed further demonstrations of their “lack of curiosity,” and was only embarrassing to the MSMers invited (if they noticed). The choices made for panels represent a dangerous tendency to “cash in” the power acquired from slaying the Rather dragon, and an over-eagerness to get a place at the MSM table. To raise the money, the organizers had to compromise, shed their maverick appearance, put on suits and ties – not Charles! – and get with the program. This long-term trend is towards OSM as a gatekeeper of bloggers wanting to go mainstream, rather than a portal.

Working hypothesis 2: The blogosphere will not let them get away with it, and the OSM organizers will, like the bloggers they are, and not the MSMers they are flirting with, admit the mistake, hopefully with humor [and grace], and pull back. [I am delighted to report that this is already the case.] The blogosphere is only in its infancy. (Before coming, I asked my students how many read blogs. Only two out of forty. It was like my asking who had emails in 1995. Within a couple of years I imagine they all will.) OSM will become the first, but only one of several portals that link the two dramatically different worlds of the blogosphere and the MSM. Neither, eventually, will be able to do without the other. But neither should they merge.

I came to the launch partly as an historian of communications revolutions, one who over a decade ago, accepted the analogy that cyberspace will be to the 21st century what printing was to the 16th. That meant several expectations:

  • The emergence of “new religious movements” (in the 16th century, Protestant sects ranging from the initially revolutionary but eventually conservative Lutherans to the radical egalitarian Anabaptists).
  • The emergence of a new generation of self-taught intellectuals whose conversation, through the new medium of print, circumvented the monopoly on intellectual discourse that the medieval university clerics maintained (“city of letters”).
  • An ever evolving set of technological improvements that would change the very nature of discourse in the “public sphere,” including radical changes in the nature of news collection and dissemination (broadsheets, newspapers)

Now all of these changes five centuries ago took place over the course of decades and centuries, but with the dramatic transformations of the social and cultural dynamics at work at the time, we could expect cyberspace to evolve at a much faster pace.

I have not been disappointed with the developments such a perspective has led me to notice, with the appearance of global Jihad as the most worrisome “new religious movement” to use the internet as a major venue, and the appearance of the blogosphere as the most delightful of such developments, the equivalent of the pamphlet culture of early printing (Protestant Reformation). For me, this McLuhanesque creation was not just historical, it was epochal. And I came to witness and participate. Not entirely to my surprise, but much to my disappointment, the planners seem to have focused on a set of concerns that don’t even make it to historical, much less epochal concerns, and definitely did not make it out of the conventional thinking of the 20th century. Let’s hope they tune back in. This is, after all, not just the 21st century, it’s the third millennium.

Hopefully, the forces that created this opportunity will continue to shape the dynamics, and this launch will remain an embarrassing misjudgment and no more. Many of us are aware of how perilous our current global path, of how blind our MSM have rendered us, and how important it is that the blogosphere save the MSM from its own idiotarian stupidity, not join it. I don’t know about fashion, but I’m pretty sure that the kind of blogging that should go on at OSM [now OSM PJMedia], is not about rich people with too much time on their hands, but clear thinkers aware of our present peril and not weighed down by the (perhaps unavoidable) political correctness that so constrains their abilities.

Blake informs us that one of the proverbs of hell reads: “Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.” It seems to us that the MSM needs to cook a bit more before they can go from complacency to curiosity. And we’d hate to see the blogosphere invaded by people who are not ready to speak their minds. As another proverb of hell has it: “Opposition is true friendship” – and that seems to be a good motto for the relationship of the blogosphere to the MSM, at least for a good long while — however long that is, in the quickening of time in our day. Vive la difference!

One Response to PJs VI: Whither the Blogosphere?

  1. […] intentioned LCE; and we don’t help them with our eagerness for their brand of news. The blogosphere is the growing corner of the information superhighway […]

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