Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Blogging for the ages

Susan M. Schultz, a poet , small press publisher and author of the excellent Tinfish Editor's Blog, has an interesting post where she speculates about the objective criteria that might eventually form when we discuss evaluate blog writing. She considers the misgivings critics and readers with a strong prejudice for print have over the alacrity of opinion that speed our way in the wake of a book publication, a political event, a contention over public policy; the writing is called "too bloggy", changing the term into a negative, with the implication being that blog writing will the death of English prose with it's surfeit of drifting diction, under-researched opinions, breezy informality and, worst of all, the erasure of the reflective pause between what's been witnessed and one's response to it.

The "considered opinion " is near extinct the conservative scribes among us insist. "Response", an analysis of a subject's contents, assertions and a presentation of counter assertions, is replaced with "reaction", too often the knee jerk variety, with an in-extractable reliance on hearsay, received opinions, gossip, fear monger, walled off world views. Not a pretty sight. Schultz thankfully does not let the matter rest on a casual bemoaning on the lack of standards for bloggers; we will and are creating the standards that will have standards the lot of us will be expected to aspire to, regardless of a blog's focus, political, literary, popular culture. The standards will be in place because, I suspect, the lot of us want to be read again and again , certainly more than the once-over.

The forlorn yearning for immortality remains strong even with the whiplash pace of internet news cycles. She list 8 salient points she suggests for what a readable, well considered blog should have. I think it's a good place to start as bloggers start turn professional.The blunt fact awaiting those who actively demean blogging is that at the end of the day blogging is writing above all else. One needn't wax too generally about the history of how new technologies changed the character of writing--the invention of the printing press made the book a public commonplace and made for writing that was for the general reader, not the entombed specialist, priest or benign dictator. The emphasis of writing had changed, of course, but it was writing all the same, professional writing this time, in popular genres, for a growing audience, and there was the inevitable turn in the elitist thinking that there was simply nothing they could do to put the genie back in the bottle and instead accepted the inevitability of movable type, books and a growing literate population.
Blogs, whether we like it or not, mean more writers, and as with all else that has come before, critical terms and criteria are still being formed--the best will remain , the rest will fade, simply vanish. We all know that not everything published in print form initially are sentences without peer; most books chew the root, to be honest. The same for blog writing, I think, and we're already seeing standards form bloggers will be held accountable to.


  1. It seems to me that blogging is more akin to broadcasting than publishing. Putting your words out over the web is necessarily more transitory than getting them into print – the means to do it are easier, the filters are fewer and the market more casual. The need for permanence is not the main concern; immediate effect is. In this respect, writing a blog entry is very similar to broadcasting news or opinion via radio or TV. A news blogger is more like Paul Harvey than, say, Gore Vidal. And – just as the words that fly by the ear when they are heard on radio or TV – the need for precision of language or conciseness of thought on a blog is just not that big a deal. This may or may not be important, depending upon your values. But print values and web values are not the same, because the web is a broadcast medium. I realize I am emphasizing the medium over the message here – I guess I’m an old-line McLuhanite. What may be more important, I think, is that the reader of a blog does not ingest the words in front of him with the same expectations or biasas that a reader of a three-dimensional publication or book does. There is a formality, a sculpted quality to the printed word – it is like a statement in court, not to be taken back. Most blogs seem filled with fluid thoughts and torrents of words that can be retracted, modified or vanish altogether, like what is said in a live conversation. Expecting blog entries to meet the same standards as published works seems wrong. I would hate for one to supplant the other, though I will add that would especially hate to see blogs supplant print media.

  2. Impact over legacy has been with us since print media brought literacy and books into the publsic sphere. The original class of professional writers , like Addison and Steele, Oliver Goldsmith, and others rather enjoyed the relative speed they could bring their views on issues and manners to the literate population; what would last among those pages seems an afterthought, as few of these writers seemed determined to write for the ages. That is likely what saved their pages from being consigned to a dustbin or a pile of dry, burning leaves, that they wrote well of their time rather than attempt future generations.

    Print and web values are not so opposed--clean copy, correct spelling, correct useage, a style one is in control of used to highlight sound insight and convey new information are what readers of either print or blogs prefer. What is developing, I suspect, is that bloggers , at least those disposed to insist on standards for their preferred soapbox, are still translating those old concerns into their own jargon. One's own tongue is needed to make the fussy notion of "rules" a good fit. Also, the sheer surfeit of bloggers makes the situation for decent writing seem hopeless and makes one dread the suitable saw "quantity drives out quality". I think the situation is less dire than that, concerning the state of English prose; it's been a fact that most of us inclined to write are not masters of the language we speak when it comes to writing it, and that the best of us, the most persistent word drunks in our midsts, soon enough become the ones who are the most read. Add to that these same folks are the ones likely to continue writing their blogs while most others will be abandoned and eventually deleted from their servers.

    Of course, we should remember that the technology is fluid and that blogging itself may soon join chat rooms as a quaint thing that is no longer a draw for most.

  3. Barry--What I was asking, I think, was why NOT think of a literature that comes out of blogging? There's a lot of wonderful poetry that is more process than product oriented. I'm not sure I buy the bit about blogging being necessarily less "permanent" than writing. My post was not so much about blogging per se, as about "blog lit," or a kind of literature that comes out of the blog form, mechanical and arbitrary as it is. Thanks, Ted, for continuing this conversation.


Comments are moderated due to spam. But commentaries, opinions and other remarks about the posts are always welcome! I apologize for the inconvenience.