Are blogs really a place where "everyone has to have their say while no one really listens"? James Harkin thinks so. I don't understand why people feel the need to indulge in such sweeping statements. Then again, maybe it's no surprise, as Harkin was the associate producer on the much-hyped Adam Curtis series, The Trap, (Jonathan Derbyshire has more on that particular subject.)
Amidst all the arguing about whether blogs help or hinder the democratic debate, I've just re-read a very useful essay about the architecture of the on-line world, written by Alan Jacobs a professor of English at Wheaton College. I linked to it a long time ago, but it's definitely worth a second look. What's interesting is that Jacobs started out as a convert to blogging:
As a member of the professoriate, I had long since gotten frustrated with the game-playing and slavishly imitative scholarship of the official academic world—all choreographed in advance by the ruthless demands of the tenure system— and I thought that the blogs could provide an alternative venue where more risky ideas could be offered and debated, where real intellectual progress might take place outside the System.
He soon grew disillusioned. I think he's too hard on blogging as a medium ("the friend of information but the enemy of thought"). Still, his observations on the shortcomings of comments sections - the densely populated ones anyway - made a certain amount of sense to me. Too much red ink washing round:
Many's the time I have found myself hunched over my keyboard, my hands frozen above it, trying to decide which of two replies to make: the one assuming that my interlocutor is morally compromised, or the one assuming that he is invincibly ignorant. In such circumstances it's always best just to get up and walk away.
Sound advice. PooterGeek has another remedy for blog rage. He spiked his post and ran the test card instead.