Angry Robot

Flight Risk, Word of Hand

Seems that this is the hot weblog right now, as it has its own Wired News article. Curious that the identity of the blogger is a subject of furious debate, once again, as with the now returned Salam Pax. At the conference the other day, someone asked about blogs and authenticity, leading me to relate the entire Kaycee Nicole story (hello, TV movie), and the more thought I give it the more important a sense of identity appears to be to weblogging. People read a given weblog because they like the personality behind it. Is it not true that the sites that stir up the most fuss are diary- rather than link-oriented?

More tomorrow: this is what I said yesterday, as if I’d come crashing through with brilliant insights that needed a day to germinate. The point is banal, more or less – that people want a sense of identity behind the weblogs they read – and the last thing I want to do is to add to the mounds of palaver masquerading as deep weblog thought, but it’s a point to keep in mind when comparing weblogs to journalism.

Yes, bloggers are more like columnists than just-the-facts-ma’am journos. But there’s something about weblogs, typically situated on one’s own independent and personalized site, that pushes the personality button a little harder, and we rush to find photos and ‘about’ pages and saucy autobiographical tidbits, moreso than when we read our favourite pundits from the legit press. There are the comments, too, which reveal a need for banter with the people we read: this again closes the distance. But it also means that every author’s authority is easier to challenge. And of course weblogs make authors of anyone. Author and audience lose meaning, so if I may dip into the Benjamin, whose prescience always astounds:

For centuries a small number of writers were confronted by

many thousands of readers. This changed toward the end of

the last century. With the increasing extension of the

press, which kept placing new political, religious,

scientific, professional, and local organs before the

readers, an increasing number of readers became writers—at

first, occasional ones. It began with the daily press

opening to its readers space for “letters to the editor.”

And today there is hardly a gainfully employed European who

could not, in principle, find an opportunity to publish

somewhere or other comments on his work, grievances,

documentary reports, or that sort of thing. Thus, the

distinction between author and public is about to lose its

basic character. The difference becomes merely functional;

it may vary from case to case. At any moment the reader is

ready to turn into a writer. As expert, which he had to

become willy-nilly in an extremely specialized work process,

even if only in some minor respect, the reader gains access

to authorship. In the Soviet Union work itself is given a

voice. To present it verbally is part of a man’s ability to

perform the work. Literary license is now founded on

polytechnic rather than specialized training and thus becomes

common property.

And later:

Mechanical reproduction of art changes the reaction of the masses toward art… The progressive reaction is characterized by the direct, intimate fusion of visual and emotional enjoyment with the orientation of the expert. Such fusion is of great social significance. The greater the decrease in the social significance of an art form, the sharper the distinction between criticism and enjoyment by the public. The conventional is uncritically enjoyed, and the truly new is criticized with aversion. With regard to the screen the critical and the receptive attitudes of the public coincide.

It’s a casualization of expertise. It’s as if we want our news through word of mouth. We want everything filtered through friends. Rather than lose our experts, we make them into friends. When we get information from friends, we get a lot of other details, such as what they’re wearing, what they thought about the movie they watched last night, what they think about whatever it is. And that’s what we get from blogs.

To sum up: speaking about blogs has gone to my head, so I feel the need to hold forth on some new pet theory. It’s mundane, so I add some Walter Benjamin to make it look more complicated. It’s also so long that I’m painfully bored of writing it by the time it’s near-complete, so I go off on a self-critical tangent – to appear less of a pompous wannabe-expert, since the age of the expert blah blah yawn enough of this palaver. Back to reading about porn.


7 comments on "Flight Risk, Word of Hand"

  1. jay says:

    here’s a more recent contraversy with an actual in the flesh person from a fellow blogger.

  2. D says:

    Yeah, that was insane… lucky he got wise in time, huh?

    Hey was it you that mentioned Jen Hollett has a blog? Obviously I found her site, but did she take the blog part down?

  3. D says:

    On a more careful read of that page, I discover: yes, she did.

  4. jay says:

    it was JP that mentioned it but i knew about her. i think once jen got the much gig she stopped blogging. she came out to one of our gtab get-togethers once. she’s a sweet-heart.

  5. adampsyche says:

    This somewhat reminds me of the book Pattern Recognition, if anyone’s read it. A little too trendy for its own good at times, but a good read as it relates to online identity and communities.

  6. marijke says:

    So D, are you going to tell us what you’re wearing?

    (that’s a reference to the friends/experts comment, not the reading about porn comment….)

  7. NAif says:


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