What Blogging Has Lost

Last week, when I wrote a post about ScienceBlogs, how blogging has become professionalized was something I neglected to put in that post. Thankfully, Chad Orzel says it better anyway (boldface mine):

It’s a sign that blogging is respectable, an accepted path of entry to a career in the glamorous world of science writing. That’s a big step up from the disreputable image of bloggers as unwashed slobs typing in their parents’ basements.

But in another sense, it’s an indicator of how thoroughly we’ve squandered the original potential of the medium, or at least what seemed like the potential of the medium back in 2001-2 when I was starting out.

The whole point of blogging was supposed to be that it’s decentralized, and bypasses the gatekeepers. Anybody who can use a web browser can start a blog, and put their thoughts out there for the world to see. Anybody who’s got something interesting to say can find an audience for it on the Internet. Blogs were supposed to be a way to cut out the middleperson, and put professionals who were doing stuff directly in contact with the people who want to know about that stuff, without needing to pass through the intermediary layer of journalists and editors and media people….

Instead of bypassing the traditional media apparatus, we’ve chosen to replicate it. And unfortunately, that brings with it the whole problematic structure of editors and gatekeepers, and institutional power imbalances that can be abused. As we saw this past week….

But still, one of the many, many unpleasant things about the events of the past week has been the vivid reminder that in the transition from blogging-as-medium to blogging-as-institution, we’ve become everything we weren’t supposed to be.

I’ll just add on other thing: a lot of the ‘blogging-as-institution’ writing is boring, not because of the subject, but due to the dull op-ed page style (for those who can, you should check out Leigh Cowart’s science pieces at NSFWcorp.com; she will knock you flat on your ass). We’re also seeing this in the political sphere, especially on the left-leaning side, where the bloggysphere is also becoming professionalized–and becoming far less exploratory, expressive, or radical. And boring too.

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