Wednesday, August 16, 2006

minding, its business

Jeff Jarvis at Buzzmachine picked up on a recent post here in which I somewhat peckishly suggested that Nick Lemann's moribund New Yorker article - (not to be confused with Mr. Lemann) appeared to be playing the part of Plato's Theuth, while the blogospheric continuation and development of conversation issuing from his argument seemed more in line with how living speech is portrayed in Plato's playful exposition. I must have been doing a fine imitation of the wooden Theuth himself to have missed Jarvis's post until now.

Actually, that's part of the interesting point - or points - taken up in the lively thread spawned by Jarvis's post.

When dealing with the voice/writing thing (viz), it's important to not take either voice or writing in too literal a manner, as I fear some of Jarvis's commenters might have.

E.g., true, Plato did "write" Socrates, who wrote nothing, and who therefore is the exemplary speaking voice, the logos, forever encased in the lexis of Plato's art. Fair enough. A complex play of values and their reversals enters in.

To be true to the "liveliness" of the blogospheric voice, it's probably important to see the various ways in which the technology of the medium is attempting to replicate the attentiveness which the speaking mind brings to "live" conversation. I for example wrote something, which Jarvis took further, and his commenters further, and others likewise, with technorati and other blogospheric link tracers added another reverb of reference and resonance.

I.e.: a vector, a ripple, by definition a motion. What Plato has in mind by having Socrates oppose living speech to dead writing may in part be merely that like speaking, the act of attention is animate, moving. Inattention has a baleful tendency to assume a position and to ignore, kill, all efforts to modify it, react to it, undo it. It is the conservation of itself, the very thing upon which attention, mind -- in order to be attentive and mindful -- sets itself to work on, to modify, to extend, to make itself free from, as Jarvis extended my post with his, etc.

The important opposition, then, in these ongoing exchanges might not be so much the matter of hasty opinion vs. polished prose, as some have suggested, or the importance of medium (speech vs. writing), but, rather, something like a kind of duel between the finality of some investment in truth, and the stubborn contingency of thought taking aim, seeking to hit that place where the truth slipped (or at least it gives itself reason to think so), and error entered, requiring further give and take.

Pursuant to that sort of reading, it's pretty easy to see how, for example, in debates about blogging and journalism, or mainstream liberalism and anything to its left, or democracy and oligarchy, one term is always going to have the air of eternality, of marmoreal grandness, while the other will be the slippery trickster, the impish and unballasted sprite, the pesty insect. Flighty bloggers, Diogenic tutors, triangulatarian dissenters and anarchic unsettlers, your lineage is long.


Blogger Jon Husband said...

Is rthat a fancy way of sating that if tiy go to the trouble of responding to a blog post you've probably actually read it (even if you misread or misinterpret it) whilst in a voice conversation you don't even have to be listening to the other and yet can still appear to be in the sation.

The blogospheric thread is physical evidence, if you will, of the reading, thought and extension, whereas in voice one has to rely on someone saying "Oh, I remember that Tom said this, "xxxxxxx" .. what do you think ?"

Interrupting and the granting and sustaining of attention are different, I think, between blogging at each other and speaking with each other. I like that we don't interrupt and/or shut each other out in the same ways via linked text online.

8/17/2006 9:18 AM  
Anonymous tom said...

Interrupting and the granting and sustaining of attention are different, I think, between blogging at each other and speaking with each other. I like that we don't interrupt and/or shut each other out in the same ways via linked text online.

Yep - new ways, it seems, of torqueing attention in the accelerating written exchanges of blogs - there are those who don't so much interrupt as introduce non-sequiturs - often the forte of the troll. Someone will eventually produce a Ph.D. thesis (if it's not already been done) on the various literary features and communicative dynamics of threaded comments. It's a rich field of exploration, as some threads truly extend and amplify a post, while others betray multiple strategies to reduce, divert, fade, evacuate, colorize, along with a struggle for control of the vector.

It's kind of becoming an art all its own, blog commentary. I don't know if it's all that important whether one is speaking or writing. In the presence of the writing of some blog writers, one feels quite as much overborne as one would if the actual human orator were standing over one with a megaphone.

8/17/2006 8:31 PM  

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