Departments

(Journal of Bloglandia)

[One of my essays—On Essays—leads in the first issue of the new Journal of Bloglandia. I wrote up the following to explain why I think that something like this is to be encouraged, and to take the opportunity to treat of blogs in general.]

Some blogs are more bloglike than others. At one extreme, the most bloglike of blogs are the original kind, web logs or linklogs. At the other extreme, the least bloglike of blogs are those which comprise newspaper or magazine copy reset in blog form. But these should not be thought of as interlopers. What else were web loggers linking to all along?

A little farther from each extreme we find the second kind of blog to arise, the public journal—and blogs written for pay, whether for ventures of print entities, or for natives entities of the net.

Between these, in the middle, is what may be called Bloglandia.

The more bloglike are public journals where the fitful deposition of notices of deeds, travels, and emotional precessions are replaced with longer posts exhibiting some internal narrative development and organizations—and weblogs, where the link's function is not to lead visitors out, but to set off a chain of explosive associations.

The less bloglike are blogs which have traditional literary forms, but which are unsuited—sometimes wholly, sometimes only in the first instance—to appear in print. The least bloglike of these are reviews, or political commentaries, from the unknown or uncredentialed. These shade into those which are, whatever their author's prominence, simply too strongly pointed, or too personal, for print. A little farther fall those bloggers, like myself—who employ traditional forms which are out of favor, or have distinct styles that are hard to harness to house-style teams, or spread our interests too broadly to suit any particular print audience. A little more bloglike than these are the semi-professional blogs, which at once serve as professional grapevines, water coolers, and napkin-backs, and undertake popularization and political apologetics.

The Journal of Bloglandia is not a representative sampling of this country. It offers a wide view, but it misses much: the conservative blogs, the lit-blogs, the science blogs, &c.

But in the analogy of its title is the defense of its method. The task of someone who selects blog posts to put in print is not like that of an anthologist from print to print. It is much more like the task of introducing a foreign literature, where the object cannot to compass diversity, but only to demonstrate vitality.

What we should see from an expedition into a wilderness such as this are not labeled artifacts, but question-raising curiosities. What we should hear guiding us is not the voice of the docent, but the shouts of the barker. The Journal of Bloglandia should be read; but it should be read, not like a guidebook, but like some old pamphlet passed out among weary and hopeless European villagers to say to them: "There is a new world, free, spacious. The fare is cheap, the land is yours if you can work it. See what strange things live and grow there! Will you come and see? You have a place there. Will you not take it?"