Monday, January 15, 2007

Dolly Want a Cookie?

David Carr of the New York Times wrote about his blog today -- in the paper; his day job feeding on one of the day job's subsidiary requirements -- and he had a quote in there that I like well enough to liberate it from the confines of a mass circulation newspaper with worldwide penetration.

Come inside little quote, here where it's quiet.

“We are living through the largest expansion of expressive capability in the history of the human race,” said Clay Shirky, an adjunct professor in the graduate interactive telecommunications program at New York University. “And it wouldn’t be a revolution if there were no losers. The speed of conversation is a part of what is good about it, but then some of the reflectiveness, the ability for careful summation and expression, is lost.”

Even as Mr. Shirky is saying this, I peek at the comments section of my blog, and he goes on, “There is an obsessive, dollhouse pleasure in configuring and looking at it, a constant measure of social capital.”

It's not the comment on how blogs are sometimes more frantic than substantive that struck me. Nothing new there. But I was struck by Shirky's analogy for the care and feeding of a blog, with its implication of how tenuous the blog's connection with the outside world may be. (I don't mean pathologically tenuous, as in mental illness. I just mean most blogs are, uh, somewhat lightly read other than by their perpetrator.)

Hence, the dollhouse.

It is like having a dollhouse or like a HO-gauge railroad set up on a piece of plywood and a couple of saw horses in the garage. Mountains, trees, tiny people, little road signs. Sometimes you hardly have time to run the train around the track. So in the case of the blog, you play with it, adding Flickr and Sitemeter and Technorati search and of course every digital photograph you can lay your hands on, checking for links, entry points, referrals, trolling for comments.

It's like owning your own little publishing empire, only you get to play all the parts. All it really boils down to is building a miniature space -- just a screen's worth; much smaller than a respectable aquarium -- a microcosm that stimulates your own imagination and your quest for knowledge (so that you will have something to write) and helps put your thoughts in order.

That's at best. At its worst it's a kind of delusion of connection and purpose and accomplishment. As the cynics will say: Masturbating. And some days you do *Thank God* no one is watching.

(Obviously I do not speak of the purposeful blogs to which I link, smart blogs saying interesting things about matters of social importance. I speak only of what we might call the *expressive* blog, blog as narcissism and solipsism, blog as ingrown as a festered toenail.)

As we so often do here at Darwin's Cat (and the cat will soon be back; be patient) Shakespeare is our go-to guy, as in the opening lines of Henry V when he says (I'm paraphrasing here) work with me, people.

But pardon, gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that hath dar'd
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object. Can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? Or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confin'd two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder;
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts:
Into a thousand parts divide one man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth.
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there, jumping o'er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history;
Who, prologue-like, your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.

Play as in presentation or as in play of ideas. And in a personal blog like this the solitary fun of living in one's own imagination, supplying both sides of the conversation.

Rupert Murdoch could be coming to tea any minute.

Ah Gogo, don't go on like that. Tomorrow everything will be better.
How do you make that out?
Did you not hear what the child said?
He said that Godot was sure to come tomorrow. (Pause.) What do you say to that?
Then all we have to do is to wait on here.

Shakespeare AND Beckett!


1 comment:

david silver said...

So in the case of the blog, you play with it, adding Flickr and Sitemeter and Technorati search

yes, and i like your 3 examples because they suggest 3 different kinds of blog-related action: 1. creating content (flickr), 2. observing our visitors (sitemeter), and 3. better understand the ways in which the networks are linked (technorati).

also, on another point, we need clay shirky to visit USF.