Post-Modern or Neo-Romanticism blogging?

(Cross posted at Greater Democracy)

Last night, I attended Colin McEnroe’s Class on Blogging. It was partly a debrief for people after the Lamont campaign, yet it was also another chance to talk about the wild wild west of the internet and whether or not bloggers are journalists or not. While this is the sort of discussion I’ve listened to too many times over the past few years, Colin and his class always manage to make it vibrant, interesting, and to bring out a new twist.

Last night slothsinabox floated the idea of bloggers as being some sort of Neo-Romanticism movement. Spazeboy joked about this by putting a picture of Fabio on his blog, which prompted slothsinabox to write up a blog post expounding on what she meant.

It is a very good blog post. I agree with some of what she is saying but I think it needs to be pushed further. Slothsinabox spoke about the movement away from “carefully vetted ideas constructed with a keen eye toward objectivity, attention to societal expectations and norms, and the practice of approaching all literary production, acts of authorship and thought with a critical lens.” She expressed concern that “Ultimately, it becomes a question of whether, … we as untrained individuals really have a grasp of how to read with a critical lens and how to write with a nod toward social responsibility.”

She ties it together with this: “This brings us to a basic Lockean and Hobbesian debate--is man basically good, or basically bad? Can we trust individual bloggers' ethics”.

This then, ties into a meta discussion I tried to get going in the class. There was a bit of a discussion about how to handle trolls on blogs. Do you not allow comments at all? Do you only allow comments from authenticated users? Do you block certain IP addresses? Do you moderate comments, either before or after the fact? I suggested that an important part of this is the process of establishing societal expectations in an online environment.

Perhaps some of the neo-romanticism is that we are interacting in new media where the societal expectations haven’t been clearly defined. We are in the process of defining those expectations, and there are not the clear sources of authority that exist in other social settings. After all, how many people do you know that have taken graduate level courses in blogging? I guess this takes me back to some sort of post-modern perspective. Societal expectations, ethics, critical lens, and even the way we chose to organize information are social constructs.

As an aside, I would encourage people, especially those involved in library sciences, to check out David Weinberger’s blog post, Why Dewey's Decimal System is prejudiced. We also talked a lot about blogging from a U.S. perspective. I tried to tie in a global perspective, pointing to Global Voices.

So, I do believe that the advent of the internet has given us a wonderful opportunity to look at the social constructs around us, to question them, and to perhaps build new constructs. I recognize the dangers in this that slothsinabox fears. Yet to me, that argument sounds too close to why we shouldn’t have a democracy. Is man basically good or bad? Can we trust untrained individuals to elect leaders that will find the common good? Or should we have some sort of oligarchy or benevolent dictator to make sure that are social constructs are properly defended.

Me? I believe in democracy, both politically and in our communications online. So, I embrace a mix of neo-romanticism and post-modernism, which I recognize is likely to lead to yet another new orthodoxy. Yet, I will fight for democracy and encourage people to question norms as long as I can.

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