Friday, July 21, 2006

prehistory of blogging

Picking up a thread from here (and comments there especially from K!):


To situate blogging, try beginning before it existed. Maybe in the arrival of television:
Two grids remained. The grid of two hundred million and the grid of intimacy. Everything else fell into disuse. There was a national life -- a shimmer of a national life -- and intimate life. The distance between these two grids was very great. The distance was very frightening. People did not want to measure it. People began to lose a sense of what distance was and of what the usefulness of distance might be.

Because the distance between the grids was so great, there was less in the way of comfort. The middle distance had been a comfort. But the middle distance had fallen away. The grid of national life was very large now, but the space in which one man felt at home shrank. It shrank to intimacy.
From George W.S. Trow's marvel of a book, Within the context of no context. Trow, writing in the early 80s, put his finger on the vacuum that opened between his two grids. This vacuum, this middle distance that once was there but got obliterated, is reopened in blogging and other Net activities. By writing the pre-history of media dominance, Trow offers the best clue I've seen as to the passion, the thirst, the irrational exuberance of blogging. We, as Trow sees, are media creatures. Not "people who like media" (this makes even less sense than "people who like technology"), but creatures that are part of the structure of media. We're fabric.

But that's all just preliminary. Trow was interested in how TV and magazines replaced history with demographics. TV soon had no other place to go than to itself become the context:
The lie of television has been that there are contexts to which television will grant an access. Since lies last, usually, no more than one generation, television will re-form around the idea that television itself is a context to which television will grant an access. ibid.
As soon as this happened, TV was able to create "Reality TV."

Apply this to blogging, which now prefers itself to other possible contexts.

There's a difference, however. Television, to be produced, needed to make a market in itself. By removing history and replacing it with limitless consumer desire, it transformed itself into a happy land in which anything serious, anything that has to do with history or actual art, say, or scholarship, or unlovely truth, is out of its element. A small unthreatening sampler.

You think news organizations care to convey the news to you? Reconsider. They hold up a mirror to the requisite demographic demanded by its advertisers. Feckless Timesreader, know thyself.


Advertising, that creates the hole in you that it talks you into filling, first must take away history. Your youness. Your context. Your day. Your life. Replacing them with commodified substitutions of same. Cigarette girl.

If television is the holocaust of your life, advertising is its penitential prayer.

Blogging has an idea it is about something real, and is less dependent so far upon the market (Murdoch has yet to figure out what to do with mySpace). Conveniently, reality has been sidling into position: much of what was once just stuff is now represented via blogs. Legions of them. That's part of the seductive turn by which blogging re-centers itself upon itself.

Television and news organs made themselves into Pee-Wee's Playhouse to abort any friction with the poetics of advertising. Blogs expend a great deal of wit, intelligence, style. And, despite technological and other conjiggerations, live or die thereby. So far.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jon Husband said...

You think news organizations care to convey the news to you? Reconsider. They hold up a mirror to the requisite demographic demanded by its advertisers. Feckless Timesreader, know thyself.

I'm about half-way through de Zengotita's recent Mediated: How The Media Shapes Your World and The Way You Live In It. I am also realizing I am going to have to, and do want to, re-read it to make sure I understand better, but I think the above is similar to or the same as his concept of the "flattered self", which is a core premise of the book.

7/22/2006 10:25 PM  
Anonymous tom said...

I'll take a look at it - thanks Jon. Well, let me add without having looked into Z's sense of "flattered," that what's involved in this mirroring could be a bit different from cosseting a cohort, if that's what he intends.

7/22/2006 11:39 PM  

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