On blogging and evolutionary theories

I’ve always thought of myself as a bad little blogger. Not because I update less and less frequently these days (though that does make me a bad blogger too) but because I’ve never really bought into the whole Internet Revolution(TM) Bloggers of the World Unite! thesis.

Can blogs be a powerful tool? Sure, of course they can. Just like conventional websites could be back before the days of WordPress and Blogspot. But I’ve never fully believed that blogs, in and of themselves, would start a media revolution.

Why? Because blogs are written by people. People are inherently flawed. Sure, the idea of taking back our voice and empowering the little guy against the corporate media machine is a romantic notion but really, who are the best read political-type bloggers in Canada?

Azerb. Kinsella. Coyne. Wells.

You know, the people who had a high media profile long before the Big Bang o’ the Blogoshpere.

Two studies came out last week, one by the respected Pew Institute and one by the less-respected MSN Spaces folks (the Beeb has a good wrap up here). They were both surveys of bloggers and the results sort of support my thesis. Most bloggers aren’t out to change the world.

Now, two items of full disclosure. 1) I haven’t read either study in their entirety, I’m mostly counting on the media coverage I’ve seen. Ironic, I know, given the general tone of this site, but there ya go. 2) I haven’t really even thought this rant out fully yet, it came to me in the shower, but I have an urge to type and, well, deal with it.

I’m not trying to disparage the good work that bloggers can do. I just think people are too eager to discover the Next Big Thing (TM) sometimes and rational thought about the effectiveness of various media goes out the window.

Do blogs make it easier to communicate? Do they simplify the publishing process so any Joe with an iBook and a basic knowledge of WordPress can become an eExpert on a topic of their choice?


Does that in and of itself lay the groundwork for revolution?


And here’s where today’s rant takes a Grade-11-Biology-Class turn.

There’s a lesser-known evolutionary theory that was brought into the mainstream by Stephen J. Gould and Niles Elderidge in the 1970s called Puncuated Equlibrium. Wikipedia can tell you more than I will, but the theory essentially argues that evolution is not a constant and gradual process, as Darwin posited.

Instead, species go through long periods of relative stability, followed by rapid periods of change (rapid being a subjective concept when talking about the million/billion-year lifespan of a species). Think of a staircase instead of a slide.

On a micro-scale, that’s kind of how I view the technological revolution. The development of the Internet marked the beginning of one of the periods of rapid change. HTML, graphic interfaces, message boards, pay-per-view porn. . . these are all important developments – just as blogs are – but to declare any of these as the byproduct of an evolutionary change seems a bit premature to me.

I know this is getting long and ranty but I’m wrapping up, so bear with me.

Throughout the history of the news media, there have been many inventions or developments that have made it simpler for the “average” person to have a soapbox. The Internet certainly did that and blogs are doing it now. But there is still an expectation of professionalism; credibility is based on reputation. As years go on, I’m sure certain blogs will rise above the fray and become trusted sources of news just as certain newspapers rose above the fray after the printing press was first developed.

But to view the “blogosphere” as some monolithic, homogeneous entity that is going to change the way news is delivered is a bit. . . optimistic, let’s say.

There are a tonne of shitty blogs out there. There are a few good ones too. It just so happens that a lot of the good ones are the ones that respect and embrace the conventions that once made newspapers the medium of choice.

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