Keep Trying

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Examining More Half-Truths of the Blogosphere

Before reading this post please go to the mirror and repeat the following 7 times:
"Bloggin's gonna save the world"
"Bloggin's gonna save the world"
"Bloggin's gonna save the world"
Are you back? Did it feel silly? Good - then you're ready to read this post.

The reason I like to follow Cluetrain and Blogosphere "wisdom" is that there are a lot of half-truths out there. I find it helpful to try to discover what part, if any, is true.

What is also interesting, but unfortunately not instructive, is how many smart people(note: no scare quotes there) buy the whole thing hook, line and sinker.

In a recent rebuttal to Kevin Marks of Technorati, Dave Rogers does a fantastic job of exploring many half-truths including "Markets are Conversations" and bloggers are "Writing Themselves into Existence". Here's Dave:

He (Kevin Marks) continues, "Of course conversations are meant to shape perception; if they didn't there would be no point."

I don't agree. The "point" of a conversation is the experience of exchanged and shared attention. It is not to have a "point." As Phil would say in Groundhog Day, "Did you want to talk about the weather, or were you just making chit-chat?" This is an example of how marketing corrupts language in the service of mercantilism. Conversations are pleasant, social interactions. They aren't used to "shape perception," except by calculating, manipulative people seeking some advantage. We're not having a conversation here. We're not having much of a "considered discussion" either, since half the discussion isn't considering what the other half is discussing. We might be having a debate, or a dialog, or a vigorous exchange of opposing points of view. We are most assuredly not having a conversation.

(Kevin Marks again) "Doc Searls and David Weinberger express this well, and differently. Doc explains that the root of information is that we are trying to form one another. David points out that without each other we are not human - look at children raised by wolves, and says we are writing ourselves into existence online."

Again, I don't agree with either Doc or Dave. I especially don't agree with Dave. Existence precedes narrative. If anything, we're writing ourselves out of existence and painting ourselves into corners instead.

So a problem with Doc's "Markets are Conversations" is that the conversation referred to are themselves a stretch of the word conversation. As for David's, "Writing Ourselves into Existence Online" - blogging or any writing captures a very small portion of the thoughts, depth and richness of any human being and proposing otherwise seems in some ways to be - dehumanizing.

Just a note that needs to be reiterated time and time again. I think that Doc and David and Kevin (who I haven't actually interacted with that much) are fine, sincere individuals who truly believe much of what they expound. Of course that doesn't mean that it's true.