A little over 10 years after its birth, the blog has ceased to be a distinct media form. It still functions, however, as a powerful collective notion in which our dreams about fully democratic, egalitarian communication are focused.
The blog is hard to define – it has long ceased to be just an “online diary”, something it was originally intended to be, anyway. In 1992, the pioneer of the internet and creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, began posting a list of links to sites he found interesting on his blog. In the common perception, though, the blog remains an exhibitionist diary for teenage girls, connected by a network of links to similar productions by her friends. This is only part of the truth, because today everyone writes blogs – from politicians through journalists, and businessmen to scientists. It’s estimated that there are about 3 million blogs in Poland! The only thing they all share is the technology behind them – relatively simple scripts allowing the user to create web pages without knowing any programming language – and a simple publishing convention in the form of chronologically arranged entries. But blogs can be written using many different technologies (hackers often whip up their own blogging engines) and the conventional blog format has thousands of variations.
It’s usually assumed that, as a whole, blogs form what is known as the blogosphere – William Quick, who coined the term, regarded blogs as “intellectual cyberspace”. The neologism meant that the blogging space and its participants created a new, online home for Reason. The “blogosphere” fits well with messianic hopes inspired by the arrival of the digital media, large-scale bi-directional information exchange, and an improvement of the public sphere that they are supposed to bring about. Rational individuals have finally received a tool for exchanging views and negotiating consensus, without the pressure of audience ratings present in the commercial media.
That’s it as far as theory goes.
In practice, however, instead of turning the media world upside down, blogs have adapted to it, adopting most of its governing principles and to a large extent becoming professionalized, if we look at the visibility and significance of the publications rather than their number. And the blogosphere hasn’t shaken up the media market as hard as it was expected – bloggers usually either describe private stories or comment on mainstream media reports, contributing their own perspective to the public debate rather than reporting on new facts.
Another key to understanding blogs, an alternative to reason, are individuality and uniqueness. In this case, the term “blog” in its strict sense should be reserved for forms that are genuine and individualistic, extremely subjective, and often eccentric. The rest – the number of authors, subject matter, frequency of entries, institutional ties – aren’t really important. In other words, a good blogger writes primarily for himself, while internet users read over his shoulder, in a sense (leaving the occasional comment, on their own blogs as well). Such blogs follow the convention of a list of dated entries, one that favors forms that are short, closely related to the given moment, ephemeral, and non-definitive. Blogs are thus a reincarnation of silvae rerum, the multi-generational chronicles kept by many Polish noble families between the 16th and 18th centuries. Just like with blogs, the sole unifying principle of the inherently eclectic silva rerum was the person of its author.
translated by Marcin Wawrzyńczak