ME and Ophelia

Sunday, March 28, 2004


That cannot be ordered, controlled, owned or told what to do -
Collectively, it sure is a power

Happily, Phil Wolff is well after his month's blogging break. Good luck with your new plans Phil. A few days ago, I left this comment at his post on Shirking the Power Law:

Phil, I followed your link to Bloggercon's Session on Shirky's Power Law - and read the comments. Could hardly believe I was seeing people being denigrated and the ugly and divisive language used, ie: "the have-nots - the lower ranks of the power distribution, the one's who feel unheard - the royalty and peasants". It made my stomach churn to see people describing others as "a lower order", thus making themselves feel superior by implying others, inferior to themselves, are "little people" - lowly second class citizens.

Anyone who speaks that language really does not *get* blogging and are just in it for money. Glad most will be disappointed. No doubt to them, time is money. Conversations take time. Blogosphere is zillions of conversations that cannot be ordered, controlled, owned or told what to do. Bloggers can do whatever they want with their blogs. No bosses. No schedules, timetables, no real costs... Collectively it sure is a power, so it's not a surprise to see many out there wringing their hands and scratching their heads, trying to find ways of getting a piece of the action. However, it is amusing to watch them clamouring for fools gold and the top 100 list - where there is only room for 100.
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We've barely made it past the first 5 seconds

After posting the above comment at Phil's, I found Philippe Lourier had added to the comments at BloggerCon's Session on Shirky's law. No doubt the great physicist, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who gave up a fortune so that the world wide web could belong to the people, would love Philippe's comment. Here is a copy:

Perhaps we need to look at this in historical terms. Here's a theory, based on an admittedly bad physics metaphor: We've barely emerged from the big bang. A new universe -the blogosphere- is born. It's expanding rapidly but its still dominated by a dense mass concentrated at its center. But matter is being dispersed at high speed away from this core and is starting to coalesce into independent gravitational centers, galaxies. As it coagulates communities emerge. So Shirky's law applies, but it applies equally to all these centers. So when we talk of the top blogs today maybe we should keep in mind that the blogosphere has not evolved yet -we've barely made it past the first 5 seconds- and this is why it looks like there's only one power center. But as we move forward each power center will have its own way of measuring and recognizing authority. Some centers will reward knowledge and analysis. Some will reward raw information. Others will reward partisanship. Instapundit will have little sway in a community concerned with hardcore, informed movie criticism. In each of these communities, the cream will rise to the top but the measure of what exactly is the cream will differ.
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It is a conversation that has elements of a world

Yesterday, David Weinberger blogged the internet is not a medium. It's a classic. Incase the link ever breaks, here is a copy:

You know how Doc corrects people who talk about "consumers"? "As Jerry Michalski says," Doc objects, "consumers are gullets who live only to gulp products and crap cash."

I feel the same way about the word "medium" when applied to the Net.

A medium's job is to deliver a message. It does its job well if that message is delivered intact. But that's not how media actually work because we are not passive containers. Rather, in the process of understanding something, we let it affect us. It shapes us, and we shape it. We absorb it into the context of our lives. The more completely we absorb it, the "wronger" we get it from the point of view of, say, the marketer who wants us to take it exactly as he put it.

This is never so true as with works of art and creativity, which is why it's in the artist's interest to lose creative (but not necessarily economic) control of her work quickly and thoroughly. Unfortunately, the idea that works are content moving through a medium has led us to think that appropriation and reuse is an insult to the artist, and possibly a violation of copyright, when it is in fact a sign that the work is working on us. We honor it by making it our own.

The Internet is a medium only at the bit level. At the human level, it is a conversation that, because of the persistence and linkedness of pages, has elements of a world. It could only be a medium if we absolutely didn't care about it.
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Wherein there are no hierarchical pyramids

In response to the above post by David Weinberger, Terry Heaton left this gem of a comment:

This is excellent thinking, David. I support your thesis entirely, and I want to encourage you. You're way over into cultural postmodernism, wherein there are no hierarchical pyramids. That's why I'm confused by those within the blogosphere (can we please have a different word?) who wish to use the conversations to climb their way to some non-existent top. A conversation isn't a conversation, when one (or more) party is lording over the other. Sooner or later, in that scenario, the "medium" meme must rear its ugly head.

If we are, in fact, in the throes of a massive cultural shift, I think we should just let it happen, rather than trying to manipulate it in any fashion. Chaos theory makes no sense at all to old world logical minds, but it's the hottest thing going in science. Discussions like the ones you have with your friends and readers, David, are more important than you realize, for -- like it or not -- you've been gifted with a vision into the new world. Keep asking your questions.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 3/28/2004
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