To be is to blog. Blogging is CB radio on steroids. It's all the rage. I first addressed the subject several years ago in Jeremiad Jottings: 'These days Hyde Park is only a few HTML tags away. The Web has become the universal soapbox. No voice need be unheard; no whine denied oxygen. It's the fusion of vanity publishing and the bully pulpit. Every idea, no matter how trite or crazy can see the light of digital day.'
However, in my gleeful disparaging of this Web epiphenomenon, I seriously underestimated its significance for investigative journalism. Trent Lott and Dan Rather did as well; and lost their jobs as a result. At least that is what the blogging community would have us believe.
Blogs can keep stories alive, bring them to the surface and propel them into the media mainstream. Take note: a new communicative dynamic is at work in the public sphere. Just ask Arianna Huffington who is about to launch a group celebrity blog.
Some blogs are akin to pamphlets or broadsheets, others more like diaries or journals, while yet others function as a kind a community alerting or information sharing mechanism. Many genres and sub-genres can be identified. Admittedly, some blogs are highly professional, reliable and informative, but most are not.
Lately, I've been wandering around Blogland, and I'm struck by the narcissism and banality of so many personal blogs, of which, if the statistics are to believed, there are millions. Here, private lives tumble into public view, with no respect for seemliness or established social norms. Here, as the philosopher Roger Scruton said of Reality TV, '[a]ll fig leaves, whether of language, thought or behavior, have now been removed.' What desperate craving for attention is indicated by this kind of mundane, online journaling? Surely, one writes a diary for one's personal satisfaction; journaling is, after all, a deeply private act.
One wonders for whom these hapless souls blog. Why do they choose to expose their unremarkable opinions, sententious drivel and unedifying private lives to the potential gaze of total strangers? What prompts this particular kind of digital exhibitionism? The present generation of bloggers seems to imagine that such crassly egotistical behavior is socially acceptable and that time-honored editorial and filtering functions have no place in cyberspace. Undoubtedly, these are the same individuals who believe that the free-for-all, communitarian approach of Wikipedia is the way forward. Librarians, of course, know better.
--SLIS Dean and Rudy Professor of Information Science Blaise Cronin, reprinted from SLIS Network spring 2005.
Posted April 27, 2005