The process of blogging has been such a rich learning experience. It reminds me of wandering through a forest. At first, it is strange; we notice more over time, like the leaves turning when rain is coming. Ever so subtly we leave behind feeling intimidated by it all. And finally we are comfortable with it.
A friend asked me about blogs, what is a blog, how is blogging different from email, and so on. And I’m sure millions are going through this in a similar way, because it’s a new experience and in the last few years the activity has exploded. There are currently over 65 million WordPress sites alone** and still growing.
It’s a little like the beginning of TV. When I was a little girl, the people across the street got the first TV in the neighbourhood. Suddenly we were all visiting them. I can remember sitting on their floor amidst a cluster of kids, staring at the small screen of black and white – or more like shades of gray. As often as not, we’d be watching two men talking. We stared and stared – as if to make sense of it. And aren’t most significant new life experiences like that? All about making sense of them….
So what is blogging, to me? It’s not like writing a book, or an article, having it published, then perhaps a response of some kind appearing months later. And it’s not like emails. Those are essentially just a faster, much easier, way of letter-writing. It’s more than that – more like a new kind of conversation. And it’s new in more than just a ‘technological’ way, like when the telephone became commonplace.
When we ‘blog’, while we are starting a conversation of sorts, we don’t really know with whom we’re communicating. Anyone in the world with an internet connection might read what we just said. They may or may not respond. They may “pass it on” – changing our message or misinterpreting it, like the old ‘telephone’ game, or they may just pass on our internet address.
Until recently there were many social rules governing conversations. For example, we didn’t talk about certain things. (Some things we weren’t even supposed to think about!). Fewer and fewer people live by these rules with each passing year.
Whatever the idea, if you can think it, you’ll find someone else out there in the blogosphere – perhaps even a whole group – who’ve thought about it too. Well, there goes that rule, about topics out of bounds. You may even find a whole worldwide movement around what you just thought about for the first time. Or perhaps you’ve been thinking it for decades and just now stopped feeling alone for the first time.
There’s an entirely new dimension happening to our communications and changing us, the human race; changing how we see, hear, read, even reflect. Even how we see each other. It’s something about the peculiar combination of the speed and the numbers of communicators involved. Vast numbers of people around the globe, communicating at faster-than-light speed. Like ‘the universe’ somehow. It is a universe. It is humanity getting to know itself face to face.
As with other areas of human interaction, we are all learning a new ‘etiquette’ of blogging. It has more to do with ‘structure’ than content. And we are learning –how to live with it, how to relate to it, how to fit it into our lives, like electricity, or sidewalks.
Some people are feeling this new territory is ‘unnatural’, and somehow harmful to us or to civilization. Some see it as a barrier between or among people, rather than a connector. Some ‘unhook’ themselves from it, issuing dire warnings to the rest of mankind. Others welcome it, the way no doubt many welcomed books into their lives centuries ago.
Come to think of it, the Catholic Church tried to control what was read by followers until “The Index”* was abolished on June 14, 1966, by Pope Paul VI. In a similar way, it appears that governments of the world, corporations and other bodies would like to control what we access online and how we use the internet. On the internet as in other media, the ongoing virtually hidden war between transparency and “security” (secrecy) continues.
In blogging, self-expression and ideas are transmitted faster and further than ever before in the history of the human race – sometimes even translated on the way. In the sixties, a relatively small counter-culture revolution took place, led by “baby boomers”, that created change in the world. I have high hopes for those same boomers as they retire: there is something of a new revolution taking place, in a much broader context.
For awhile, we in the blogosphere were still learning how to blog. But now, blogging has become an enormous world-wide forum, which people are beginning to use for social change. The other day I read a blog about some Americans experimenting with conversations in their living rooms, trying to find common ground with former political enemies. Enough polarization.
I myself have begun small ‘living room’ discussions related to affordable housing and urban planning. Every day I read about more such efforts at social change. Who knows – we may yet put an end to war! Just wait til the ‘military-industrial complex’ hears about this!
*the R.C. church list of banned books, movies, etc.)