Pull the Plug?

A couple of months ago, D., Is., and I were out strolling around the streets of Syracuse, along Colvin Ave., in fact, huffing up the big hill.

“I think it’s time to cut the blog loose and set it out to sea, put an end to it,” I said.

I went on to explain why I was thinking this way, although today I can’t recall what were the reasons so clear to me at the time (realizing recently that “chicken” won as the Big Word of the Month at EWM in September was a sobering reminder of the conversation). This is just to say that merciful blogicide has crossed my mind. It’s not like the blogosphere of 2008 has half the pulse it did for me 2005 or 2006.

Wired’s Paul Boutin pressed a similar point today, suggesting in an article titled “Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004” that blogs are out of fashion, succumbing to some of the latest online developments:

Writing a weblog today isn’t the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge. Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It’s almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.

There’s some obvious polemic framing at play here, some baiting, some stick-poking, as if to imply, “Yo, bloggers, still at it?” To which I say, “Maybe.” And, “For now.”

Broutin concludes with an emphasis on “brevity.” Brevity wins the current web moment: one-liners in Twitter and Facebook have doomed blogging. Thoughtful, focused, carefully developed entries no more. Maybe brevity does reign. I’d have to ask my Facebook chums to find out since readership here has…helloo? helloo?…see?, it doesn’t matter what I write in this space.

Even if some kind of brevity-drive is to blame (credit?) for the uneven tanking of the blogosphere, that can’t be the solitary cause. Broutin’s analysis tries to diagnose the problem in one fell swoop at the scale of the whole thing: the global. And it’s limited for that very reason. I’d much prefer to think of it in terms of “scalable circulations,” the shifting rhythms that intensify and weaken, fluctuating on- and off-line for anyone for whom writing is a regular thing. Those are where the causes lie, idiosyncratic though they must be, no? At the very least, much of the theorizing about ecologies and networks has taught us by now that the large scale diagnosis is too reckless to square with that peculiar set of conditions bearing on any one of our heres and nows.