The Henry

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An Inquiry Into the WebLog

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Want to publish anything you think today? It is a one button, zero-cost operation which can be done anywhere and reach anyone on the globe. As a noun, this compelling forum of digital expression is known as the weblog. Contracted in its present participle, “blogging” shortened to “blog” is in convenient omission of the prefix “we”. This is a journey into that unspoken and implicit prefix. In this blog entry, I examine the subject of “we” and how this collective action approach to journalism has helped restructure social, economic and institutional methods of information distribution.

When mass amaturization consumes an industry of professionals, social clusters emerge without organizational imperatives. While the professional class still remains, you have a new division of contributors who add not just content, but measured economic impact. Here, “we” working together is both easier and financially feasible. Indignantly, journalists claim that the weblog has deprofessionalized their industry. Can the weblog be considered a valid form of journalism? In my opinion, it doesn’t matter because the structures holding these two definitions in place have become increasingly incoherent.

Journalism came about as an answer to the question of: how will citizens be informed? How will they share common beliefs and opinions? The printing press gave rise to 200 years of chaos moving from the Catholic Church as the primary politic to the treaty of Westphalia and the formation of Nation States. From this emerged institutions and media organizations fueled by the economy of information.

The presence of my words in your head at this very moment marks a pronounced shift in the way information is exchanged, capitalized and distributed. Each spectator to this weblog is a player in a relatively new and swiftly advanced economy of information. Had anyone ever stopped to think that the computation from everyday household computers is responsible for a revolutionary shift in the way information, knowledge and culture is arranged and shared among the 800M to 1B connected Internet users across the globe?

Second to content is relevance. The Alta Vista search of the early 1990s yielded a motley assortment of loosely linked, incoherent, and sometimes altogether useless results. Then came the algorithmic search- work outsourced directly to “we”. It’s neither Yahoo nor Google who determine search relevancy, but the user themselves in traffic metrics of page rank and unique IP impressions.

This is how the new generation of players in the information economy answers the question of: how will citizens be informed? Citizens inform themselves: “we” inform each other. This is done not just with content, but relevancy. We decide in the same way the printing press enabled free speech, free thought, and free expression. Humanity shifted, from religious dictation to collective technological curiosity. The “we” in web and later weblog is a testament to the roots and indelible value of collective framework systems, of which we have in open source software, peer-to-peer file sharing, the wikipedia, among others.

I decline to accept the notion that web logging is in opposition to journalism and the greater good of publishing. You would be wise to know that it has been a critical component. We in weblog was born in the printing press and echoed in the rhetoric of the first Amendment and Freedom of Press. At its center is the marriage of collective organization with information technology. As this interplay becomes universal, so does content and relevancy, knitting “me” into a collective “we”.

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Written by michaelhenryhersh

June 14, 2009 at 11:17 PM

Posted in Daily, Linkedin

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