Pastor Mark over at Runalong with Pastor Mark has a hangover from the GodBlogCon. He's asking some hard questions about the GodBlogCon which are very good. If this little God blogging movement we are participating in is to have anything more than temporary influence we need some good hearted cynics and skeptics from within to sharpen us. Not that Pastor Mark is a cynic or a skeptic, but I'm glad he is one person thinking critically about all of this. I thought I'd take a stab at a few of his questions so I'll start with his first:
1. Is blogging really going to be "the next big thing"? Are comparisons to Guttenberg or television valid? Or is it a temporary blip that will be surpassed by new technologies before it ever really takes off? You can guess what the party line at GBC was, and they may well be right. But someone needs to at least ask these questions.
Blogging is already the "big thing," at least in this particular moment, which may soon be past. Just look at all of the examples that Hugh gives of blogging's influence in the political realm over the last several years.
But blogging is just one piece of a much larger pie involving new technologies. John Mark Reynolds hinted at this in his opening address when he said that, in speaking of blogging, he was speaking of a whole range of new technologies. In that respect, blogging is already being augmented and/or replaced with new technologies.
I haven't seen it written out this way, but I see many of the new technologies as counterparts to older technologies. For instance, many of the old standard web pages mimicked the traditional paper marketing materials of brochures and catalogs and the like. Blogs mimick newspapers and letters of yesteryear. Podcasts mimick radio. And video blogging mimicks film. Of course there are subtle contours in all of this and the categories aren't hard and fast, but I don't think I'm too far off in this.
In that respect we are already seeing podcasting becoming easier to do and more accessible and this will most likely continue to a point where it overtakes blogging in notoriety. In fact, it may already have.
Similarly, as video recording equipment becomes cheaper and more accessible we'll see video blogging become the next big thing.
And while these things are different, they all share something in common in that they are a part of the new media, which is more interactive and more personal. Blogging, podcasting and video blogging allow for feedback in ways that newspapers, radio and tv didn't. But more importantly, what is new about the new media is that it is more personal, allowing the user to choose his or her outlets of information. The new media means that we can choose what we read, hear and watch and are not dependent on a few major players to be our sources.
This what I mean by blogging being a piece of a much larger pie. To continue the pie analogy it may be that blogging may have been the first ingredient added to the pie, but new audio and video ingredients are being added and the pie is being filled out and is beginning to take on more of the shape it will have in the future.
So in that respect, blogging is one ingredient in this interactive and personalized pie of the new media and we should expect it to lose some of the pre-eminence it now holds.
At the same time I don't think this necessarily means that blogging will go away. People didn't quit reading newspapers when the radio and tv were invented. I loved Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves To Death, but I am not sure he got everything right. He suggested that our graphic driven world would render books and reading obsolete. Yet to my untrained mind it has seemed curious that over the last two decades, as we have become more and more graphic driven, booksellers are selling more and more books. When I was a kid watching three network channels and playing cutting edge video games like pong, bookstores were tucked away in tiny little parcels at the far end of the mall. Today, with thousands of channels and bazillions of video games, every major city is littered with Barnes and Noble's, Borders' and Books-A-Million's.
It is also curious to me that one of the icons of our graphically driven culture, the internet, has the world's biggest bookstore as one of it's greatest success stories.
This is my way of saying that, though I think we are seeing and will continue to see sexier technologies than blogging, the sexier technologies will not necessarily quash the desire to read. Postman was afraid that, in a graphically driven age, people would lose their ability to think. In some ways this is true, I am quite certain that thousands, maybe millions of minds have been turned to mush by technologies like film and the internet. Yet, the same technologies that have turned many minds to mush have revealed brilliance in the minds of others.
This is what we are currently seeing in blogging. Yes, there is enough drivel in the blogosphere to fill an ocean, but blogs have revealed many great minds that most of us would never have known had it not been for blogging.
And just as there is still a place for newspapers and books in the age of the television, I think there will still be a place for blogs. It won't be the same place of pre-eminence it enjoys now, but it will still have a place and an important one at that. Blogging is a technology of the written word and the written word can convey things that spoken words and graphics can't.
So, I expect blogging to have a different place in the world in the future, but it will probably still have a place.
Update - so as soon as I finished posting this I cruised over to In the Agora where I found that Josh Claybourn and David Darlington are having a little debate involving Neil Postman and the book Amusing Ourselves to Death. Josh had suggested that television may actually have some redeeming features, and David countered with a review and summary of Postman's book. So, if you want some background on my references to Postman that little exchange may be helpful.