Listing entries tagged with Blogosphere
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guardian launches huffingtonesque group blog 03.15.2006, 7:57 PM
Living up to its reputation as the most innovative newspaper on the web, the Guardian yesterday launched an ambitious group blogging experiment - comment is free - that brings together a broad range of public intellectual types in a daily deluge of commentary and debate. Better designed than its acknowledged model, The Huffington Post, "comment is free" consists of three columns: new posts on the left, editors' picks in the center, and links to the Guardian's formal opinion pages on the right.
There are a few other tidbits: a political cartoon at the bottom of the page and a photo blog. Also this small nod toward the paper's heritage, tucked beneath the cartoon, reminding us that comment may be free...
That's CP Scott, The Guardian's founder and editor for its first 57 years (it should read 1821) editor of The Guardian for 57 years beginning in 1872. This ties again to Jay Rosen's post on newspapers as "seeders of clouds."
without gods: born again! 03.08.2006, 7:54 PM
Unrest in the Middle East. Cartoons circulated and Danish flags set ablaze (who knew there were so many Danish flags?) A high-profile debate in the pages of the New York Times between a prominent atheist and a Judeo-Christian humanist. Another setback for the "intelligent design" folks, this time in Utah. Things have been busy of late. The world rife with conflict: belief and disbelief, secular pluralism and religious extremism, faith and reason, and all the hazy territory in between.
Mitchell Stephens, too, has been busy, grappling with all the above on Without Gods while trying to muster the opening chapters of his book -- the blog serving as both helper and hindrance to his process (a fascinating paradox that haunts the book in the network). To reflect these busy times -- and Mitch's busy mind -- the blog has undergone slight renovation, reflecting the busier layout of a newspaper while hopefully remaining accessible and easy to read.
There's a tag cloud near the top serving as a sort of snapshot of Mitch's themes and characters, while four topic areas to the side give the reader more options for navigating the site. In some ways the new design also reminds me of the clutter of a writer's desk -- a method-infused madness.
As templates were updated and wrinkles ironed out in the code, Mitch posted a few reflections on the pluses and pitfalls of this infant form, the blog:
Newspapers, too, began, in the 17th century, by simply placing short items in columns (in this case from top down). So it was possible to read on page four of a newspaper in England in 1655 that Cardinal Carassa is one of six men with a chance to become the next pope and then read on page nine of the same paper that Carassa "is newly dead." Won't we soon be getting similar chuckles out of these early blogs -- where leads are routinely buried under supporting paragraphs; where whim is privileged, coherence discouraged; where the newly dead may be resurrected as one scrolls down.
Early newspapers eventually discovered the joys of what journalism's first editor called a "continued relation." Later they discovered layout.
Blogs have a lot of discovering ahead of them.
thinking about blogging 2: democracy 03.01.2006, 11:13 AM
Banning books may be easy, but banning blogs is an exhausting game of Whack-a-Mole for politically repressive regimes like China and Iran.
Farid Pouya, recapping recent noteworthy posts from the Iranian blogosphere last week on Global Voices, refers to one blogger's observations on the chilled information climate under president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:
Andishe No (means New Thought) fears that country was pushed back to pre Khatami's period concerning censorship. He believes that even if many books get banned in twenty first century, government can not stop people getting information. Government wants to control weblogs in Iran and put them in a guideline.
Unlike the fleas that swarm American media and politics, Iran's cyber-dissidents frequently are the sole conduit for uncensored information -- an underground army of chiseler's, typing away at the barricades. Here we see the blog as a building block for civil society. Electronic samizdat. Basic life forms in a free media ecology, instilling new habits in both writers and readers: habits of questioning, of digging deeper. Individual sites may get shut down, individual bloggers may be jailed but the information finds a way.
Though the situation in Iran is far from enviable, there is something attractive about the moral clarity of its dissident blogging. If one wants the truth, one must find alternatives -- it's that simple. But with alternative media in the United States -- where the media ecology is highly developed and corruption more subtle -- it's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Political blogs in America may resound with outrage and indignation, but it's the kind that comes from a life of abundance. All too often, political discourse is not something that points toward action, but an idle picking at the carcass of liberty.
Sure, we've seen blogs make a difference in politics (Swift Boats, Rathergate, Trent Lott -- 2004 was the "year of the blog"), but generally as a furtherance of partisan aims -- a way of mobilizing the groundtroops within a core constituency that has already decided what it believes.
When one looks at this map (admittedly a year old) of the American political blogosphere, one notes with dismay that there are in fact two spheres, mapping out all too cleanly to the polarized reality on the ground. One begins to suspect that America's political blogs are merely a pressure valve for a population that, though ill at ease, is still ultimately paralyzed.
Posted by ben vershbow at 11:13 AM
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tags: Ahmadinejad , Blogosphere , Transliteracies , blogging , blogs , democracy , enlightenment , iran , journalism , media , media_ecology , opposition , politics , samizdat
thinking about blogging 1: process versus product 02.28.2006, 7:53 AM
Thinking about blogging: where's it's been and where it's going. Recently I found food for thought in a smart but ultimately misguided essay by Trevor Butterworth in the Financial Times. In it, he decries blogging as a parasitic binge:
...blogging in the US is not reflective of the kind of deep social and political change that lay behind the alternative press in the 1960s. Instead, its dependency on old media for its material brings to mind Swift's fleas sucking upon other fleas "ad infinitum": somewhere there has to be a host for feeding to begin. That blogs will one day rule the media world is a triumph of optimism over parasitism.
While his critique is not without merit, Butterworth ultimately misses the forest for the fleas, fixating on the extremes of the phenomenon -- the tiny tier of popular "establishment" bloggers and the millions of obscure hacks endlessly recycling news and gossip -- while overlooking the thousands of mid-level blogs devoted to specialized or esoteric subjects not adequately covered -- or not covered at all -- by the press. Technorati founder David Sifry recently dubbed this the "magic middle" of the blogosphere -- that group of roughly 150,000 sites falling somewhere between the short head and the long tail of the popularity graph. Notable as the establishment bloggers are, I would argue that it's the middle stratum that has done the most in advancing serious discourse online. Here we are not talking about antagonism between big and small media, but rather a filling out of the media ecosystem -- where a proliferation of niches, like pixels on a screen, improves the resolution of our image of the world.
At their worst, bloggers -- like Swift's reiterative fleas -- bounce ineffectually off the press's opacities. But sometimes the collective feeding frenzy can expose flaws in the system. Moreover, there are some out there that have the knowledge and insight to decode what the press reports yet fails to adequately analyze. And there others still who are not tied so inexorably to the news cycle but follow their own daemon.
To me, Swift's satire, while humorously portraying the endless cycle of literary derivation, also suggests a healthier notion of process -- less parasitic and more cumulative. At best transformative. The natural accretion over time of ideas and tradition. It's only natural that poets build -- or feed -- on the past. They feel the nip at their behinds. They channel and reinvent. As do scholars and philosophers.
But having some expertise and knowing how to craft a sentence does not necessarily mean one is meant to blog. In an amusing passage, Butterfield speculates on how things might how gone horribly awry had George Orwell (oft hailed as a proto-blogger) been given the opportunity to maintain a daily journal online (think tedious rambling on the virtues of English cuisine). Good blogging requires not only a voice, but a special commitment -- a compulsion even -- to air one's thinking in real time. A relish for working through ideas in the open, often before they're fully baked.
But evidently Butterfield hasn't considered the merits of blogging as a process. He remains terminally hung up on the product, concluding that blogging "renders the word even more evanescent than journalism" and is "the closest literary culture has come to instant obsolescence." Fine. Blogging is in many ways a vaporous pursuit, but then so is conversation -- so is theatre. Blogging, in its essence, is about discussion and about working through ideas. And, I would argue, it is as much about reading as it is about writing.
Back in August, I wrote about this notion of the blog as a record of reading -- an idea to which I still hold fast. The blog is a tool (for writers and readers alike) for dealing with information overload -- for processing an unmanageable abundance of reading material. Most bloggers, the good ones anyway, not only point to links (though the good pointer sites like Arts & Letters Daily are invaluable), they comment upon them (as I am doing here), glossing them for their readers, often quoting at length. The blog captures that wave of energy emitted by the reader's mind upon contact with an idea or story.
I do think blogging goes a significant ways toward the Enlightenment ideal of a reading public, even if only one percent of that public is worth reading. Hemingway famously said that he wrote 99 pages of crap for every one page of masterpiece. We should apply a similar math to blogs, and hope the tools for filtering out that 99 percent improve over time. After all, one percent of 28 million is no small number (about the population of Buffalo, NY). I'm confident that, in aggregate, this small democratic layer illumines more than it obscures, blazing trails of readings and fostering conversation. And this, I would venture -- when combined and balanced with more traditional media sources -- offers a more balanced reading diet.
Posted by ben vershbow at 7:53 AM
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tags: Blogosphere , Online , blogging , blogs , hemingway , jonathan_swift , journalism , media , orwell , parasite , publishing , reading , technorati
sonogram of networked book in embryo (GAM3R 7H30RY part 3) 02.24.2006, 4:42 PM
It probably won't be until mid to late March that we finally roll out McKenzie Wark's GAM3R 7H30RY Version 10.1, but substantial progress is being made. Here's a snapshot:
After debating (part 1) our way to a final design concept (part 2), we're now focused (well, mainly Jesse at this point) on hammering the thing together. We're using all open source software and placing the book under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license. Half the site will consist of a digital edition of the book in Word Press with a custom-built card shuffling interface. As mentioned earlier, Ken has given us an incredibly modular structure to work with (a designer's dream): nine chapters (so far), each consisting of 25 paragraphs. Each chapter will contain five five-paragraph stacks with comments popping up to the side for whichever card is on top. No scrolling is involved except in the comment field, and only then if there is a substantial number of replies.
The graphic above shows the color scale we're thinking of for the different chapters. As they progress, each five-card stack will move from light to dark within the color of its parent chapter. Floating below the color spectrum is the proud parent of the born-digital book: McKenzie Wark, Space Invader (an image that will appear in some fashion throughout the site). Right now he's a fairly mean-looking space invader -- on a bombing run or something. But we're thinking of shuffling a few pixels to give him a friendlier appearance.
You are also welcome to view an interactive mock-up of the card view (click on the image below):
The other half of the site will be a discussion forum set up in PHP Bulletin Board. Actually, it'll be a collection of nine discussion forums: one for each chapter of the book, each focusing (except for the first, which is more of an introduction) on a specific video game. Here's how it breaks down:
* Allegory (on The Sims)
* America (on Civilization III)
* Analog (on Katamari Damarcy)
* Atopia (on Vice City)
* Battle (on Rez)
* Boredom (on State of Emergency)
* Complex (on Deus Ex)
* Conclusions (on SimEarth)
The gateway to each forum will be a two-dimensional topic graph where forum threads float in an x-y matrix. Their position in the graph will be determined by the time they were posted and the number of comments they've accumulated so far. Thus, hot topics will rise toward the top while simultaneously being dragged to the left (and eventually off the chart) by the progression of time. Something like this:
At this point there's no way of knowing for sure which part of the site will be more successful. The book view is designed to gather commentary, and Ken is sincerely interested in reader feedback as he writes and rewrites. There will also be the option of syndicating the book to be digested serially in an RSS reader. We're very curious to see how readers interact with the text and hope we've designed a compelling environment in which to do so.
Excited as we are about the book interface, our hunch is that the discussion forum component has the potential to become the more vital half of the endeavor. The forum will be quite different from the thousands of gaming sites already active on the web in that it will be less utilitarian and more meditative in its focus. This won't be a place for posting cheats and walk-throughs but rather a reflective space for talking about the experience of gaming and what players take games to mean. Our hope is that people will have quite a bit to say about this -- some of which may end up finding its way into the book.
Although there's still a ways to go, the process of developing this site has been incredibly illuminating in our thinking about the role of the book in the network. We're coming to understand how the book might be reinvented as social software while still retaining its cohesion and authorial vision. Stay tuned for further developments.
Posted by ben vershbow at 4:42 PM
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tags: Blogosphere , GAM3R_7H30RY , blogging , book-blog_experiments , creative_commons , design , ebook , gaming , phpbb , video_games , word_press
artist as blogger 01.31.2006, 11:50 AM
last spring we invited Alex Itin to be our first artist-in-residence at the institute. i first met Alex in the fall of 2000, during an art festival in Dumbo. he was set-up in a gallery painting portraits on pages of used books. i quite liked the paintings and got the perverse idea that it would be interesting to encourage someone who was using books in this way to work on an electronic book. i was working at Night Kitchen at the time. we had just released the beta version of TK3, the software we made for authoring and reading media rich electronic books. we lent Alex a Mac and he made his first electronic piece, Zoodoo - a series of paintings done on paperback pages which accompanied a beautiful Amiri Baraka poem. (if you first install the free TK3 Reader you can download Zoodoo from this page.) Alex kept experimenting and over time began animating the surface of his scanned-in paintings. while there has been a long history of filmmakers who painted on the surface of film, Alex was perhaps one of the first painters to integrate video into his paintings.
|From "Self Portait" by Alex Itin|
as a condition of his artist-in-residency we asked Alex to keep a blog in which we hoped he would write about his work as he did it. we were amazed after a few days to realize that alex was beginning to use the blog not as a way to talk about his work, but rather it was just another venue for his work. at first Alex posted paintings, drawings and photos sometimes with a text commentary. after a while he started to include animated gifs and sound. although the artist-in-residency ended almost a year ago, alex has been keeping up the blog. in fact, he's been on a creative tear the past few weeks. check out the last two entries -- the "thousand year crane" (be sure to start the music track) and the Chinese new year tree.
(disclaimer: i've been collecting Alex's work for six years now, so my interest in his success is not purely altruistic)
exploring the book-blog nexus 01.07.2006, 8:36 AM
It appears that Amazon is going to start hosting blogs for authors. Sort of. Amazon Connect, a new free service designed to boost sales and readership, will host what are essentially stripped-down blogs where registered authors can post announcements, news and general musings. Eventually, customers can keep track of individual writers by subscribing to bulletins that collect in an aggregated "plog" stream on their Amazon home page. But comments and RSS feeds -- two of the most popular features of blogs -- will not be supported. Engagement with readers will be strictly one-way, and connection to the larger blogosphere basically nil. A missed opportunity if you ask me.
Then again, Amazon probably figured it would be a misapplication of resources to establish a whole new province of blogland. This is more like the special events department of a book store -- arranging readings, book singings and the like. There has on occasion, however, been some entertaining author-public interaction in Amazon's reader reviews, most famously Anne Rice's lashing out at readers for their chilly reception of her novel Blood Canticle (link - scroll down to first review). But evidently Connect blogs are not aimed at sparking this sort of exchange. Genuine literary commotion will have to occur in the nooks and crannies of Amazon's architecture.
It's interesting, though, to see this happening just as our own book-blog experiment, Without Gods, is getting underway. Over the past few weeks, Mitchell Stephens has been writing a blog (hosted by the institute) as a way of publicly stoking the fire of his latest book project, a narrative history of atheism to be published next year by Carroll and Graf. While Amazon's blogs are mainly for PR purposes, our project seeks to foster a more substantive relationship between Mitch and his readers (though, naturally, Mitch and his publisher hope it will have a favorable effect on sales as well). We announced Without Gods a little over two weeks ago and already it has collected well over 100 comments, a high percentage of which are thoughtful and useful.
We are curious to learn how blogging will impact the process of writing the book. By working partially in the open, Mitch in effect raises the stakes of his research -- assumptions will be challenged and theses tested. Our hunch isn't so much that this procedure would be ideal for all books or authors, but that for certain ones it might yield some tangible benefit, whether due to the nature or breadth of their subject, the stage they're at in their thinking, or simply a desire to try something new.
An example. This past week, Mitch posted a very thinking-out-loud sort of entry on "a positive idea of atheism" in which he wrestles with Nietzsche and the concepts of void and nothingness. This led to a brief exchange in the comment stream where a reader recommended that Mitch investigate the writings of Gora, a self-avowed atheist and figure in the Indian independence movement in the 30s. Apparently, Gora wrote what sounds like a very intriguing memoir of his meeting with Gandhi (whom he greatly admired) and his various struggles with the religious component of the great leader's philosophy. Mitch had not previously been acquainted with Gora or his writings, but thanks to the blog and the community that has begun to form around it, he now knows to take a look.
What's more, Mitch is currently traveling in India, so this could not have come at a more appropriate time. It's possible that the commenter had noted this from a previous post, which may have helped trigger the Gora association in his mind. Regardless, these are the sorts of the serendipitous discoveries one craves while writing book. I'm thrilled to see the blog making connections where none previously existed.
Posted by ben vershbow at 8:36 AM
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tags: Blogosphere , Publishing, Broadcast, and the Press , amazon , amazon_connect , atheism , blogging , blogs , book-blog_experiments , books , god , publishing , religion , writing
questions about blog search and time 01.06.2006, 8:17 AM
Does anyone know of a good way to search for old blog entries on the web? I've just been looking at some of the available blog search resources and few of them appear to provide any serious advanced search options. The couple of major ones I've found that do (after an admittedly cursory look) are Google and Ice Rocket. Both, however, appear to be broken, at least when it comes to dates. I've tried them on three different browsers, on Mac and PC, and in each case the date menus seem to be frozen. It's very weird. They give you the option of entering a specific time range but won't accept the actual dates. Maybe I'm just having a bad tech day, but it's as if there's some conceptual glitch across the web vis a vis blogs and time.
Most blog search engines are geared toward searching the current blogosphere, but there should be a way to research older content. My first thought was that blog search engines crawl RSS feeds, most of which do not transmit the entirety of a blog's content, just the more recent. That would pose a problem for archival search.
Does anyone know what would be the best way to go about finding, say, old blog entries containing the keywords "new orleans superdome" from late August to late September 2005? Is it best to just stick with general web search and painstakingly comb through for blogs? If we agree that blogs have become an important kind of cultural document, than surely there should be a way to find them more than a month after they've been written.