Tuesday, 6 January 2009

On Blogging 2: The social aspect

The web, as has often been said, is an entirely new social space. I don’t accept the criticism that it is purely virtual, any more than a letter is. The first novels, Pamela, and Clarissa by Samuel Richardson were epistolary, comprised of letters between people who were not in a position to speak directly to each other. It is the written lives of people that engage, but those written lives are lives all the same, real, tragic lives.

The virtual aspect of the web – the lives of the Sims, for example – might be interesting if only it wasn't such bad writing in terms of plot, character, option, dimension and everything else. Good writing is never virtual in that sense. There is always a mind and body and heart in it. That gives it plot, character, option, dimension and everything else. Good writing is being really there.

The social space formed by blogs is a real space with real people in it. And it is a remarkably wide, almost limitless space. It is, in many respects, a revolutionary space, similar to the one created by the technology of mass printing, or what McLuhan called ‘the Gutenberg Galaxy’. It is, of course, one of a clutch of revolutionary spaces such as data storage and retrieval, close circuit TV, live broadcast, computer graphics, digital photography and a few more the reader here will no doubt think of. Most of these others, however, are generally more problematic than blogging if only because blogging is not, as they are, one core addressing a mass, but a series of one plus one plus one thinking, really being there.

And they can, really, be anywhere. Some tell you more than others about their physical location. The physical location can be the point. Others are geographically more elusive. It is possible to locate them too, but unless they say where they are, I think it is presumptuous of me to enquire. I know that I am in touch with people in all corners of the earth.

By being in touch I mean two ways, First, simply by reading them; second, by engaging them in conversation through their Comments section. One discovers differences and affinities. One discovers tempers, habits, interests, obsessions, voices. One may agree or disagree with them, but if one keeps returning to them it is because they are interesting and substantial. One guesses at their dimensions as one would with real people, really there in front of one.

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