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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Conversation vs Voice

Dean Landesman left some comments on my recent Pleasures of Blogging entry.  I had lamented the replacement of constructive conversation across blogs with the all pervasive op-ed format. Dean wrote:

It seems, Mike, that you are making a point that often comes as growth occurs in any medium. Narrowcast (or small distribution, membership, available receivers, whatever) enables discourse on one level, widecast tends to dilute the specificity and water down the general product.
The percentage of blogs offering this sort of content and interactive communication may have decreased. But it is not gone. This is merely the "mass media-ization" of blogging.

Doc Searls, the always astute observer of blogging offered this:

And it's not like Milton Berle (I think it was) said about comedians a couple decades back... that "Twenty years ago there were 200 comedians and 5 of them were good. Now there are 5000 comedians and 5 of them are good." Or words to that effect.

The number of good bloggers -- bloggers interested in dialog and not just monolog -- is going up. We need to get past the usual suspects. We need to discover more voices, more points of view, more portfolios of personal experience, more soap boxes that aren't.

Clearly the "mass media-ization" of blogging has had an effect, but I think there may be a deeper reason. In "Cluetrain", the authors identified two forces that gave rise to the popularity of the internet (and subsequently blogging) -  the human desire to converse and to have our voices heard. Often times these needs conflict in that meaningful conversation requires extensive listening and the temporary suppression of voice. Our trouble suppressing our own opinions leads to dueling monologues - lots of talking, but little listening.

I think the current blogosphere tune of  - "Let a Million Voices Proclaim" has become the accepted norm and format for blogging. Voice has prevailed over conversation and we are all worse off because of it. Of course it would be ludicrous to say that there is no conversation, it has just become the exception instead of the norm.  And the conversations that do occur, are to a great extent watered down.  When paticipating in the conversation we often forget to de-ramp our own amp.

What is the upside of all this.  I think that we will eventually realize that we are important and valuable, even when we are quiet and unheard.  We all have a unique contribution to make to the glorious whole of the world. Sometimes it is a quiet contribution, sometimes it is loud, but it is always valuable.  When we finally turn down our op-eding, ranting and raging we will be able to hear the true symphony of the blogosphere and maybe have a meaningful conversation or two.