Saturday, November 26, 2005

Patroclus Gets All Pretentious On Your Sorry Asses, Starts Referring To Self In The Third Person

Quite a lot has been written already about the social significance of blogging; how it's a threat to the established media, how it can be used to bypass state control of the media in oppressive régimes; how it's got corporate PR and HR departments in a spin over how to deal with blogging employees whose writing they can't control (except apparently by sacking them), and so on.

The internet self-publishing revolution is definitely a revolution; everyone's voice can theoretically now be heard, and actually *will* be heard if it's good enough, interesting enough and written in a language that the intended audience can understand.

This is a big revolution, with big global significances. It's not the one that interests me. What interests me about our rapidly expanding, out-of-control blogosphere is the subtle but profound socio-psychological shift* that's being enacted through the ability to leave comments on blogs.

Conversations that previously would be spoken and/or private are now out there for everyone to see. Jokes, observations and comments that in verbal conversation would be there one second and gone the next now hang around forever. Women, in particular, are predisposed to start talking about insanely intimate things with other women almost as soon as they've met. It's basically what we do. In the old days, these conversations would take place in private, out of the way of men. Now they're up there in cyberspace for everyone to read.

Does this stop us? No, it doesn't. Should it? I don't know. But I reckon all these public private conversations are on the verge of inducing a new kind of mass paranoia. So far this week I've read comments made by an ex about our relationship; I've read more than I would ever otherwise have known about certain of my colleagues' private lives; I've emailed someone to ask them to remove comments that were left ages ago and which now embarrass me; and I've frequently wondered whether my unwillingness to get really stuck in with the no-holds-barred sex conversations that take place on other people's blogs means that I'm hopelessly uptight.

Frankly, it's doing my head in. And once there's a reliable means of searching for all the comments that someone else has left, anywhere in the blogosphere, it's all going to get much worse. The private made completely public. But on the other hand, I'm an optimist, and I do love a good techno-social paradigm shift**. And it strikes me that we're in the midst of a new shift, and no one knows what the rules are***. And that's kind of fun, albeit in a wobbly, paranoia-inducing kind of way. As you were, then.

* Yup, I know. Sorry.

** See above.

*** UPDATE: As Ben Hammersley appears to have said aeons (well, months) before I just did. But then he's Ben Hammersley, and I'm not.

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LC said...

My ass ain't sorry. Although my mule says he apologises profusely. I'm not sure what for, I presume that's a private matter between you and the mule.

wv: hyhww - what my mule sounds like when he's trying to apologise to P.

Juggling Mother said...

One of the reasons for the popularity of aliases? alias'? aliasi?

Even if you know your ex is talking about you, the rest of the world needn't.

cello said...

Yes, I think the anonymity bit is maybe where it goes wrong. Great in theory but very hard to keep up if you have an even slightly curious mind.

GreatSheElephant said...

I was about to complain about you not using 'paradigm', but you did, right at the end.

By and large I agree about feeling slightly uncomfortable about exposing anything too personal, although I'm more likely to do that in comments than anywhere else. But then I go and get all vindictive about an ex who has annoyed me, in the full knowledge that people who know who he is, but didn't know we were together due to his insistence on not being associated with me in public (arse), will be reading. So that makes me a hypocrite I guess.

Doesn't it all come down to why we blog? I know why I started blogging - to show potential clients that I can write about stuff other than payment systems and digital identity management. But it seems to have turned into a forum for getting stuff off my chest without having to watch people's eyes glaze over. Ultimately I'm sure it will come back to bite me.

charl said...

i think this is still inherently linked to the artificial closeness it's possible to feel after e-'knowing' someone through their blogging. as you point out: at this point in the proceedings, comments 'don't count' and yet are so often much more insightful than a considered post.
i don't really know how blogger works (apart from the word verification - oh the word verification!) but on lj you can lock down posts from creation, meaning that they should be unspidered along with their comments. if i am going to open up in a comment, it'll be on one of these posts. (i mainly blog about jelly beans ;)

patroclus said...

Ahh, I have to admit to a sneaky fondness for the phrase "paradigm shift". I quite like "state-of-the-art" as well (yes, you can shoot me now).

It's not particularly what we say in comments that interests me, it's just the fact that they stay there for everyone to see.

And you may be anonymous today (well, not you, you aren't anonymous at all, I mean "one"), but how do you know you'll be anonymous forever? And when you *stop* being anonymous, all the stuff you wrote safe in the knowledge that you *were* anonymous will still be there.

wokip Ken Hom's internet address.

patroclus said...

Sorry charl, that last comment was to GSE. Jelly beans far safer. Stick with the jelly beans :-)

GreatSheElephant said...

I'm definitely not anonymous. My earlier intentions mean that although you can't email me direct from the blog, it is entirely possible to find out who I am, where I live and then come and visit me with a big stick.


My favourite word is disintermediation

patroclus said...

Never mind all that, how did the speed dating go?

GreatSheElephant said...

I will have to pimp my blog to answer that

gse said...

possibly the answer to keeping comments more anonymous is to use the other button and hence avoid incriminating links?

GreatSheElephant said...

ah, but then the dustbin disappears so one can't delete them. rats

GreatSheElephant said...

oops, just realised that my original point completely failed to come across due to my never ending desire to talk about ME.

What I meant is that I suspect that many bloggers blog not to say stuff in an anonymous forum but as a means to gain recognition, validation etc and as such possibly aren't that bothered about anonymity of comments or posts. Indeed I am positing that this is just an extension of the cultural shift that has led to something like 75% of grubby kids wanting to grow up to be on TV or a popstar rather than something worthwhile.

hen said...

I think it is doing everyone's head in. But like you say it is not going away so you might as well get used to it. Ego-sphere is probably a better word for it.

sayrhm: things you talk about when drunk on holiday.