What is blogging for?

One of the key questions here (“loose concept/sliding metaphor” alert) is whether the blog is actually ventilating. Anyone can build a little world sui generis. Just bang away at our favorite topics often and at length, and Bob’s your uncle. But good blogs inhale data before they exhale comment. And we expect them to address the big issues in a timely fashion (the presidential elections, say) even as they show a certain imagination and versatility in finding issues not now on readers’ radar.

A friend at Cambridge did his thesis on the epic poem and he was particularly interested in the notion of the “sustain.” Could the poet sustain themes in large and small over the vast architecture of a poem? And this is an issue for blogging. Some people are entirely without themes and pretty completely episodic. Others are the captives of a few mighty themes and their slavish repetition. All of us hope for a sweet spot: a body of smart and various themes that organize without compressing discourse, that give us analytic range without costing us focus, that give the blog an exoskeleton without specifying what it must look like day to day.

To put the matter more honestly: every little blog is buffeted by the high winds of a dynamic culture even as it has its favorite “go to” ideas with which it is most comfortable making sense of the world. This is, I think, pragmatic sweet spot of the blogging world. The real challenges here I guess, is constantly to cultivate and enlarge the “go to” ideas without taking on or foreswearing too much of the world in the process. Our sweet spot should be the smallest, most powerful ideas that illuminate the largest, most various parts of the world most cleanly. I do realize there is a notion of parsimony here that the po mo party no longer cares about or thinks possible. But it is worth pointing out that it is precisely this parsimony that gives a blog its claim to something like an identity and a readership.

Finally, blogs are tests. Can the blogger sustain a discourse that is recognizable but cannot be anticipated, in which utterances play back constantly in the reformation of the code from which they come, over a set of applications that is neither too small or too large, out of which emerges a way of thinking that draws from, touches on, but does not duplicate other players in the field, in the creation of an “idea space” that is disciplined and reckless, venturing and themed, marshaled and fecund, and finally getting some where? This is hard and this is the test of blogging.

That is the ever-stimulating Grant McCracken (there is more at the link), here is his blog.


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