Shelley, somehow anticipating the finale of my three-part essay, has made a pre-emptive strike on it. Entitled "Community Member or Writer" she wonders whether being a "community member" compromises a writer. Of course, she does qualify this by saying at the end of her blog entry that being cut free from a community may free the writer to become a better writer and to join a better community. Still, the essay seems to counter what was to be the main thesis of my own entry.
Personally, I've never bought all the hype on how blogging will change society and bring "democracy" to politics. I long ago offered my opinion that blogs could no more replace traditional media than television could replace the print media. Those who rely on nightly television, or, worse yet, talk shows, for their news instead of in-depth analysis in magazines or newspapers find themselves lacking the kind of analysis necessary to make sound decisions. Judging from most of what I've read, God help those who rely on bloggers to make their poltical decisions.
Those who happened to read my articles at Open Source Politics have noted that I relied almost exclusively on traditional media, not fellow bloggers, to support my argument. While I may comment over at CalPundit, I still turn to the traditional media for evidence to support my opinion. While the good-old-days of objective news have obviously disappeared, it seems to me that if you're willing to do some research magazines and newspapers, particularly if you're willing to look at publications from other parts of the world, still offer the best hope of correctly analyzing any particular situation.
What, then, is the real potential of blogging? What can it offer, that other mediums can't offer? Well, one thing it did for me was help to quickly find a small group of "poets" in Tacoma when I moved here from Vancouver. My occasional Sunday breakfast or walk with Mike or Rick, not to mention numerous emails back or forth, have made my move to Tacoma much more bearable than it would otherwise have been. Without my web page, this would have never been possible. I would never have met these people on my own, even if we had accidentally sat down next to each other at a restaurant.
More amazingly, it's brought me into contact with bloggers from Canada, England, Austalia, France, Spain, and even, recently, Brazil. That's amazing, especially for someone like myself who would be perfectly content to physically never travel further away from home than the Cascade Mountains. On a personal level, it makes me regret that I didn't spend more time learning a foreign language. Suddenly there is a "real" reason to learn a foreign language other than to meet some arbitrary school requirement.
It seems to me that blogs offer us a real chance to become members of an "informed community," the kind of "community" that has never been possible before because blogs transcend our traditional sense of community. For centuries, mankind was limited to "tribes," "churches," or "villages." For many, that's all the community they need. For others, though, those kinds of communities have lost their appeal because they are too confining, too limiting. Blogging gives us the chance to create communties based on ideas rather than merely on location.
Of course, some would argue that newsgroups or mailing lists do precisely this, and I've gone those routes only to have them dissolve into flame wars. The shortness of the messages and the immediate response often seems to preclude reasoned arguments. And, yes, at their worst, blog comments often seem to lead down the exact same path. On balance, though, blog entries, if not always the comments, seem to engender reasonable arguments. There's something about being forced to present a reasonable statement of your opinion to the world that seems to call forth the best in all of us.
In its better days this blogger felt like he was joining a conversation with Jonathon, Jeff, Shelley, Dave and others who joined in spontaneously. The discussion not only made me consider other's opinions, but made me rethink my own position so that I could share it with others. A similar phenomena took place when I reviewed Elaine Pagels Beyond Belief. Actually, a similar phenomena is still ongoing as people come to comment on an Elizabeth Pierson Friend poem originally posted by Bruce of Birchlane.
I've thought about switching gears and making this a blog "of place" and joining the "ecotone" phenomena, and I still might, but I've done my place thing in a previous incarnation (it's the high Cascades) and would like to try the same idea with other ideas.
In a sense, I guess recent comments on my last two posts at least reassure me that not all of the 20,000 visitors per month are angst-ridden teenagers looking for a last-minute comment on a poem they do not understand and sure-as-hell don't care about (Though as a high school teacher I always thought that there should be more sites online that offer some reasonable commentary on poems). What I'd like to see, though, is an occasional "theme," for the lack of a better word, that some bloggers could consider and contribute to in a way they felt comfortable with. Although I wouldn't swear to it, for instance, I think wood s lot has occasionally followed up one of my entries with references to sensational resources that I hadn't found in my original look at a poet. Perhaps wood s lot would be the perfect place to start spreading such a meme. It could run anything from an idea like "child abuse" to a more "literary" or "spiritual" idea that various individuals could comment on from various perspectives. The topic could be posted far in advance so that bloggers would have a chance to think about it and comment on it as time allowed.