Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Limitations of Blogging

by Skald

Blogging, Im afraid, has made my writing worse. As I review the writing Ive done during the last year, I see a steady decline in quality. After much reflection, I attribute much of the decline to increased blogging. The more I blog, the worse I seem to write.

Its not a conclusion I wanted to make... I enjoy blogging. Blogging has many benefits. I like its interactivity... the quick feedback. I like the exchange of ideas. I like the immediacy. Blogging is a great way to develop and refine IDEAS.

But thats the problem. Increasingly, I write about ideas. Ideas divorced from immediate experience. Im commenting on comments. Im blogging about a comment about a post on another blog. Blogging has increased the mediation of my writing experience. As a result, the PROCESS of writing, for me, has lost much of its magic.

I used to sit in cafes with a pen and notebook, just watching. I watched people going by. I watched the trees sway. Mind quieted. Often, I sank into a meditative reverie..... lost in immediate perceptions.

Nowadays, I sit in coffee shops with a laptop... connected through wireless. My eyes are stuck to the screen. No observation. No reverie. Just agitated excitement...

Not unlike watching TV, in fact.

Im beginning to realize that for all its power of connectivity, the internet, and blogging... is still a very powerful form of mediation. A machine that cuts us off from immediate experience. Its easy to get lost in the internet's virtual world of abstract ideas. Its easy to believe the debates and abstractions are "real". Much like TV, the internet/blogging experience can become an addictive escape.

And so Im changing my writing routine. While Ill continue blogging, I plan to do so much less.... and (hopefully) more thoughtfully.

Beware ALL forms of mediation,... including (especially) this one.


Plark said...

Hmm, yeah.

Anonymous said...

this is one of the blogs I truly, deeply look forward to reading. If you do stop "blogging" please do keep posting your writings to the net, or let us know where to send cash n stamps for your newsletters or whatever format you decide on.

So, it is with some sadness, but complete understanding, that I see you bring this up. I have stopped blogging myself, and deleted most of my RSS feeds. This one made the shortlist.

Skald said...


At least for now, I plan to continue blogging... but probably a bit less frequently. The issue really goes beyond writing the blog... its the amount of time I spend on the internet.

What Im thinking of doing is doing most of my writing by hand... even for the blog. Then Ill get on blogger, type in a post, read comments, and sign off.

The problem Ive had recently is that I get on the interent to blog... then end up surfing around for hours... lost in a mediated haze. Not good!

Communication yes. Distraction, no.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you. I have a job which requires me to use a computer on a daily basis: sending and receiving emails, submitting online information, etc. It's no mistake that it's called the "web", and you can sure get stuck in it. Like you, I go to do something that should be fairly short, and then an hour or more has gone by. Too easy to get into "surfing" and wasting time doing nothing but jumping from website to website. This can happen 2 or 3 times a day; for someone who doesn't own a TV, this is a bad thing---as you said, it's easy to become an addiction. I think my head is clogged with countless bits of information, and yet I feel less able to assimilate or actually do anything with most of it.

There was a recent article in a major magazine (Time?) that talked about people using a vast array of tecnologies from cell phones, computers, ipods, handheld gameboys, and so on---often doing several of these things at once. It seems that the brain starts getting more and more fragmented as it "multitasks", and the level of effectiveness in any one area rapidly declines. It's the opposite of "be here now"--instead, it's "be everywhere and yet nowhere".

Here's something I came across in an interview with Kurt Vonnegut, talking about his lastest book. It's a bit long, but worth reading. One may disagree with him, but what he says is worth thinking about.

In his chapter, "I have been called a Luddite," Vonnegut says he prefers to leave his home office to buy a single envelope to mail his typewritten pages to his typist in upstate New York, instead of buying a computer and printer himself. His wife would prefer he buy a thousand envelopes and have them delivered. Vonnegut is a true writer; he would rather go out in the world and fart around.
"Electronic communities build nothing. You wind up with nothing. We are dancing animals. How beautiful it is to get up and go out and do something. We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."

Skald said...

Like the Vonnegut quote. I agree. When I write with a pen and notebook, Im more in tune with my surroundings. Often I sit with eyes open... just watching the world. Or I stroll around till something strikes me and I scribble it down. My mind clears.

But with a computer, I plug in and then lock onto it. The world disappears. My mind becomes cluttered with random bits of useless information. I become agitated and distracted.

Computers... and especially the internet... is as dangerous (more dangerous) than TV. We should heed Hakim Bey's words, "We live in a civilization of safety, in which we are eventually cocooned from all danger, that is to say, from all experience. What we are left with is a vegetable plugged into a computer, who never leaves the room, like a hideous vision of a William Gibson novel."

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