Monday, May 02, 2005

With all the hype about the upcoming TPMCafe and Huffington Post, there's been a fair amount of debate about both what blogging is and what it can do. To that end, I've spent the last week contemplating a kind of schematic theory of blogging.

The catch: this post isn't actually it. Initially I'd planned on composing the theory privately, but it occurred to me it would probably be a more worthwhile endeavor if I opened up the process instead.

Here's how I hope to do that. Below is an outline of three general sections: content, organization, and publishing. Each day I hope to go through any comments or suggestions I've received and incorporate them into a revised draft, which I'll then post anew each night.

In other words: you comment, I revise. It's that simple.

The ultimate goal? To come up with a working conception of blogging that can continue to evolve even as it serves as a reference point for any debates on the subject.

Before that can happen though, I need to develop an outline that's solid enough to put up on the Huffington Post, hopefully by the time it debuts next Monday.

Whether it's a long critique or a brief "that sounds about right", please take the time to let me know what you think. Obviously, I'll really appreciate it. -Chris

(N.B.: Obviously, this outline is just a bare skeleton at present. I hope to fill it in completely over the next day or two.)

I. Content

Abstract. Most public blogging falls into one of three main categories:

--Commentary that analyzes, opines, or rants
--News filtering that re-directs or alerts readers to stories and quotes
--Fact-checking that verifies or discredits the veracity of MSM reporting

A) Commentary

Function. In a constitutional democracy the seminal political act is not to vote but to persuade. The principle means of persuasion are the various media platforms meant to generate and distribute commentary. Blogs are uniquely valuable insofar as they offer unprecedented individual access to a means of mass persuasion.

Form 1: Formal. Formal blogging immediately derives from the op-ed format, but its broader form can be traced back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Formal commentary appeals exlusively to reason and empirical fact in order to convince the reader that its argument is the most legitimate. Formal blog commentary is typically less structured than traditional literary commentary, but is still formal insofar as its argument is both self-contained and logically consistent.

Form 2: Conversational. Conversational commentary was first disseminated to a mass audience following the advent of the radio in the early 1900s, but it didn't acquire its current anarchic form until the profileration of cable television. Whether broadcast or published, conversational commentary is innately unstructured, appeals to emotion as readily as reason, and lacks any deliberate illocutionary axis. Significantly, the emergence of blogs marks the first time that conversational commentary is viable as a literary form.

B) News Filter

C) Fact-Checking

II. Organization

Abstract: greater stylistic diversity, greater elasticity in its visual presentation

A) Individual Blogs - linear

B) Collective Blogs - linear/elastic

C) Super Blogs - elastic

III. Publishing


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