"The new phone book is here! The new phone book is here!"
[If you're confused, please rent The Jerk starring Steve Martin, watch it, and then come back. We'll wait.]
When I came in last night, there was a stack of phone books at the front desk. I scooped up the yellow AND white pages and went upstairs. Halfway down the hallway, I thought to myself, "Self, why are you lugging these things back to your condo?" These days when I need an address or phone number, I just look it up on-line. Of course the phone books are useful for other things, like propping up a shelf or flattening a set of blueprints.
It made me think about the way that the Internet is changing our world. [Forgive the pat, obvious, grandiose statement.] E-mail aside, the availability and scope of information open to anyone with a modem and a phone line is absolutely amazing. Opinions are free to flow in all directions - we're no longer confined to merely reading the hardcopy articles and editorials of "professional" writers. We can participate in communication - expressing opinions, disagreeing with a position, supporting and distributing ideas proposed by someone else - instead of blindly accepting the viewpoints of the established media.
There is an excellent article by Andrew Sullivan in The Sunday Times of London that discusses the changing and increasing influence of "weblogs" and "bloggers" as a media force. He writes:
"As the Far Eastern Economic Review noted recently, 'Weblogs are where the real action is. They are the creation of individuals, usually musings on national, local or personal events, links to interesting articles, a few lines of comment or discussion collected and presented by one person.' The vast majority of them are quirky, small, often solipsistic enterprises, and reading them is like reading someone else's diary over their shoulder."
This would be me - it's a diary, full of things that used to be content to just stay in my head, but which now seem to prefer an exhibitionist lifestyle. I have no idea who reads this [other than a few friends and family who tell me they do] but looking at my own website stats, the number of visitors to Diddakoi.com is increasing every month. And while I pick a topic every so often about which to rant, I am not nor do I wish to be a socioeconomic or political commentator. But there are several big name "bloggers" who have developed followings whose numbers rival traditional magazine subscriptions. Like Andrew Sullivan, whose site was visited by 220,000 people in January 2002. He writes:
"Suddenly, old-style opinion columns also faced competition from round-the-clock rivals. More and more readers were reading the papers online, and using their favorite bloggers as guides to what was interesting or what they might otherwise miss. Bloggers became Internet sherpas - experienced guides to all the information and wackiness out there. Even more threatening to the old media was the fact that bloggers could read the next day's op-ed columns online the night before and get in pre-emptive rhetorical strikes before readers had even tackled the next day's papers."
I have a handful of bloggers whose sites I visit every day, just to see what they've found. I like Sullivan's term, "sherpa" to describe the role of the leading bloggers. In a way, they are becoming clearing houses, providing central locations where topics are raised and opinions offered.
"And the more you think about this development, the more potentially significant it is. What it basically means is that a writer no longer needs a wealthy proprietor to get his message across to readers. He no longer needs an editor, either. Psychologically, this is a big deal."
"It means that the universe of permissible opinions will expand, unconstrained by the prejudices, tastes or interests of the old media elite. It's no accident that a good plurality of American bloggers, for example, are libertarian or right of center. With a couple of exceptions, the established newspaper market in America is dominated by left-liberal editors and reporters. What the web has done is allow younger or more talented writers to by-pass this coterie and write directly to an audience."
It also reminds me of one of my Top Ten favorite books: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. It is science fiction . . .
[No, no, don't run away. Trust me on this.]
. . .but more importantly, it's a wonderful story told by a great writer. I shall not bore you with the entire storyline, but in 1977 when it was written there was no World Wide Web, yet Card foresaw it, and its place as a forum for communicating ideas and dissenting opinions. His characters, Peter and Valentine, adopt Net persona that they use to post their arguments to a wide audience, crafting public opinion to their viewpoints. They become celebrities, their ideas respected and courted, even though they are in fact only children.
You know, I really intended to write a nice light entry, tell you about my breakfast at the Snow White Diner, my visit to see THE HOUSE, maybe venture into a mini-rant about Jesse Jackson's fund-raising organization not filing a tax return for 2000 and his allegations that the right-wing media, the FBI and the IRS are all big, mean bullies. But no, I have to go and get all serious on you.
[I'll try to control that in the future.]
~ ~ ~
Quote du jour:
"The telephone book is full of facts,
but it doesn't contain a single idea."
-- Mortimer Adler (1902 - ____)
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