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Blogging, the nihilist impulse
January 10, 2007 10:43 AM   Subscribe


 
According to the latest rough estimates of the Blog Herald, there are 100 million blogs worldwide, and it is nearly impossible to make general statements about their "nature" and divide them into proper genres. I will nonetheless attempt to do this. (Emphasis mine)

Yeah... that's where I stopped reading.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:45 AM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


His conclusion: "Doesn't the truthness lie in the unlinkable?"


Deep.
posted by matthewr at 10:48 AM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Jeez, that essay was hard to follow.
posted by jonmc at 10:49 AM on January 10, 2007


Okay, I lied, I didn't really stop reading. Later on, I found this gem:

What ordinary blogs create is a dense cloud of "impressions" around a topic. Blogs will tell you if your audience is still awake and receptive. Blogs test. They allow you to see whether your audience is still awake and receptive.

Is the author still awake and receptive?

Seriously, I'm not seeing anything besides the same old get-off-my-lawn. We've trod this ground before.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:51 AM on January 10, 2007


I agree.

About what I have no idea.
posted by NationalKato at 10:51 AM on January 10, 2007


I'm still awake and receptive. I liked how he sort of used the word "truthiness", but he dropped a letter to make it his own. I'm still awake and receptive.
posted by The God Complex at 10:56 AM on January 10, 2007


Didn't that guy used to teach class in those Peanuts cartoons?
posted by The Straightener at 10:58 AM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Looks like he's doing the same thing in a more traditional medium. Oh well, each to their own.
posted by IronLizard at 11:04 AM on January 10, 2007


What a crank.

*obligatory comment about academics being anti-democratic, pseudo-intellectual blowhards inserted here*
posted by geekhorde at 11:04 AM on January 10, 2007


Get the hell off my lawn, indeed.
posted by geekhorde at 11:07 AM on January 10, 2007


According to the latest rough estimates of the Blog Herald, there are 100 million blogs worldwide, and it is nearly impossible to make general statements about their "nature" and divide them into proper genres. I will nonetheless attempt to do this.

Gee Willikers Mr. Reporter! Why don't you just dive headfirst into a one-man-attack on a complete and wholistic taxonomy of every interest of any human at any time, everywhere! That sure oughta be swell! Think of the valuable service to humanity you'd provide! Less confusion and ambiguity, yessir! That's the American Way!

I bet people would hold still for you for to finish and not change one bit until you were done!


Meeanwhile, bring me a hardcopy printout of the internet.

SO I CAN HIT YOU WITH IT, YOU DAMN IDIOT.
posted by loquacious at 11:09 AM on January 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


Wow, some of you guys are Kevin Trudeau-level Mega Speed Readers!

Thanks, the_bone!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:10 AM on January 10, 2007


I'm still awake and perceptive.
posted by The God Complex at 11:12 AM on January 10, 2007


*puts etherized rag over The God Complex's face*

Now you're not.
posted by jonmc at 11:15 AM on January 10, 2007


anti-democratic, pseudo-intellectual blowhards

Clearly they're pissed off at bloggers copying their act.
posted by Artw at 11:17 AM on January 10, 2007


I FUCK YOU! YOU CANNOT HURT ME! I BLOG IN NUSSING!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:19 AM on January 10, 2007


create a mix of the private (online dairy) and the public

Online dairy? Is that why so many blogs are so cheesy?
posted by orange swan at 11:20 AM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I blog, therefore I am
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 11:23 AM on January 10, 2007


Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos!
posted by Freon at 11:24 AM on January 10, 2007


Blogito ergo sum, Bighappyfunhouse?
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:24 AM on January 10, 2007


Oh shit, we're blogging right now! Everybody run! Aaaaauugghh! AAAAUUGGHHH
posted by tehloki at 11:39 AM on January 10, 2007


Does anyone else find his lego-brick syntax eerily like that of the Postmodern Essay Generator / Dada engine?
posted by kid ichorous at 11:54 AM on January 10, 2007


That is, I don't think this author passes the Turing test.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:56 AM on January 10, 2007


What a crock of shit. He looks at 100 MILLION blogs, which cover topics as wide as the range of human experience, and decides that they're pointless because they aren't written in his gibberish.

This is just more of the Theory Criticism crap. Criticism (or whatever the fuck they're calling it these days) has proven a navel gazing dead end, starting with Derrida, Foucault and all the rest.

And this guy is pissed off because when the revolution came, it was ignoring his masterbatory games, and instead stuck to what actual human beings are interested in, not "Criticism" whatever that means.

Meh.
posted by MythMaker at 11:57 AM on January 10, 2007


These are fellow mefites, after all--if you prick them (or peel off their toe caluses, as the case may be) do they not bleed?

That was some Hardy Boys type shit right there, jonmc.

posted by The God Complex at 11:58 AM on January 10, 2007


This is just more of the Theory Criticism crap. Criticism (or whatever the fuck they're calling it these days) has proven a navel gazing dead end, starting with Derrida, Foucault and all the rest.

I disagree. In a more finite literary context, it's an interesting and often valid way to read a text, as long as you're not one of those people that believes. Marxist and Feminist criticism, for example, have both historically had a lot to offerin the development of a social consciousness in literature.

I do think, though, that concentrating too strongly on an independent theory and trying to fit it onto something else can be terribly misleading. In literature, it forces you away from the text itself.

In this case it's absurd not because of the methods he employs, but because he employs them at all. Matt was on to something when he tagged Metafilter "weblog as conversation". Weblogs themselves are akin to conversation. People write about what interests them: the material and audience are so wide-ranging that attempting to draw any but the broadest of conclusions strikes me as futile.
posted by The God Complex at 12:04 PM on January 10, 2007


Whoops, part of my second sentence was accidentally deleted. I was going to say "as long as you're not one of those people that believes you can use a fictional text as a way to extrapolate a writer's psychological make-up".

On the other hand, if it wasn't for said theorists (Freud et al), we wouldn't have the delightful reactions of master stylists like Nabokov. His baiting of psychoanlytical criticism in Lolita is incredibly fun.
posted by The God Complex at 12:09 PM on January 10, 2007


Psychoanalytical.
posted by The God Complex at 12:10 PM on January 10, 2007


Posting pictures of cats to the internet is NOT nihilism!
posted by jefbla at 12:16 PM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


"It is of strategic importance to develop critical categories of a theory of blogging that takes the specific mixture of technology, interface design, software architecture, and social networking into account."

It is? Important for whom – the bloggers or somebody else? Strategic importance? What strategy is he talking about here? And what happens if we don't develop a "theory of blogging"?
posted by Termite at 12:17 PM on January 10, 2007


MetaFilter: Awake and Receptive

I have several questions, but I'll ask one for now.
What are "the centralized meaning structures" and why are we "nothingists" celebrating their death?

Donny: Are these the Nazis, Walter?
Walter Sobchak: No, Donny, these men are nihilists, there's nothing to be afraid of.

posted by CitrusFreak12 at 12:26 PM on January 10, 2007


By taking into specific account the primary axioms of Baudrilliard and post-Foucalt "semi-reasoning" that inevitably arises from shared, or pseudo-shared communal experiences, even a tabula rasa child, fresh from the millennial womb can fail to advocate the imprinting of the Self, or lack thereof, on the critical matrix that arose previous to the formation (of that perceived self.) Incidentally, such nihilistic anti-tendencies coagulate to form an artificial sense of artificiality, which leads most authorities to deem them "genuine." This is clearly in error, and unquestionably derived from the Marxist, nay, pre-Marxist genes that have been invariably interwoven into the very social, or, more apt in this case, anti-social digital constructs that endlessly regurgitate approved content without the unnecessary "structuring" modalities of past systems....

(...seriously, shit like this makes me want to go outside and play Tackleball.)
posted by ELF Radio at 12:28 PM on January 10, 2007


That's it. Juding by the comments of Termite, ELF Radio, and myself, this article is just a bunch of vague, meaningless crap.

That is, unless someone here can put it into laymens terms. I'm not sure that's possible, because I don't think this man is talking about anything concrete. I think he is just making shit up.

That's my two cents. I could be completely wrong, though.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 12:31 PM on January 10, 2007


Um, wait just a moment, this feels like a blog to me!
posted by Holy foxy moxie batman! at 12:35 PM on January 10, 2007


One of the most impressively fustian essays about the net I've yet had the pleasure to skim-read. The first third is studded with gems of meaningless, unqualified, confused or self-contradictory sentences. And that pattern seems to repeat at larger scales. I'm tempted to suggest that the nonsensicality of this is almost perfectly fractal.

Some of my favorite nonsense:
The motor behind the expansion of the blogosphere is the move away from code towards content. There is no more need for empty demo design. Blogs are not a test or proposition. They actually exist.

There is a presumption that blogs have a symbiotic relationship with the news industry. This thesis is not uncontested. Hypertext scholars track blogs back to the hypercards of the 1980s and the online literature wave of the 1990s, in which clicking from one document to the next was the central activity of the reader. For some reason, the hypertext subcurrent lost out and what remains is an almost self-evident equation between blogs and the news industry.

What interested me in this case was the oft-heard remark that blogs were cynical and nihilist. Instead of brushing off this accusation, I did a trial and ran both keywords through the systems to test if they were hardwired virtues.

Net cynicism is a cultural spin-off from blogging software, hardwired in a specific era and resulting from procedures such as login, link, edit, create, browse, read, submit, tag, and reply.

Net cynicism is not a gateway to drugs or anything nasty. To talk about "evil" as an abstract category is irrelevant in this context. There is no immediate danger. It's all fine.

Blogging is neither a project nor a proposal but a condition whose existence one must recognize. "We blog," as Kline and Bernstein say. It's today's a priori.
Reading properly any further than this turns my brain into mush, so for my sanity I shall halt while I'm behind. The essay does appear to address some interesting topics later on, chiefly the role of cynicism, nihilism and the pursuit of truth in blogging (which does strike me as an interesting and worthy issue), but the appalling construction and apparent lack of coherence, or even sense, has unfortunately prevented me from deriving anything useful about those topics.

One of the oddest parts to me is the bizarre presumption that keeps popping up that blogs may
a) be treated as a unified homogenous hive-mind
b) that that mind is actually planning or directing its actions

And the conclusion: Doesn't the truthness lie in the unlinkable? Perfect.
posted by MetaMonkey at 12:43 PM on January 10, 2007


I agree that bloggers suck.

But scrapbookers, those cock-gobblers really have it coming.
posted by bardic at 1:11 PM on January 10, 2007


That is, unless someone here can put it into laymens terms.

It's a clever satire. His attack on the futile, furious masturbation of blogging is a self-conscious indictment of postmodern criticism.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:39 PM on January 10, 2007


Metafilter: They post into Nirvana and have turned their futility into a productive force.
posted by blucevalo at 1:39 PM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Juding by the comments of Termite, ELF Radio, and myself, this article is just a bunch of vague, meaningless crap.

You guys and that Sokal character.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:44 PM on January 10, 2007


He badly needs to write a blog on the art of SUMMARY , but it would probably become another 300 pages of contradictions.

Damn, what a wanker.
posted by elpapacito at 1:52 PM on January 10, 2007


I don't understand why he put so much emphasis on the dot-com bubble. Most people blogging now were about ten years old when that thing started to go sour.
posted by sindark at 1:54 PM on January 10, 2007


What come today in my spam folder

deters me from presuming to aspire to the liberty of addressing theword of, and so do I. In walking home, perhaps we buy a little bit soon; but Mr. Spenlow came to himself a little short of it, andTo think that it should come to this, when I might have known it being elsewhere and in a variety of scenes, it was always blowing exercise now, being so much in attendance on my dear Dora, I was Arrived at Mr. Wickfields house, I found, in the little lower room grisly hand to his chin betrayed some trepidation or surprise. this sort to perfection covered them with pepper, mustard, salt, loom in full action, for any sedative effect it has on me. I am grieved to hear it. I am grieved to hear it. I hope Time will be my child-wife. When I am very disappointing, say, I knew, a long most, was, that with the evidences of his native superiority still stealth in a back kitchen where there was a mangle, and implored and took them off, under Mr. Micawbers direction; and Mrs.wrote a good deal now, and was beginning in a small way to be known there; but, as Mr. Dick justly observed to me, sitting down on the Coffee-house, I had recovered my spirits. It recalled, at first, I was down at the Docks early this morning, sir, he returned, tomyself to utter any more conciliatory word, whether they you, Jip? And I couldnt bear to slight him, because he was a morning, consequently, we were on the Yarmouth coach, and again sweetness, and worked harder and better than any boat-builder inthe beginning of my sorrow. I determined to make no resolutions entrance that was never used; and there was one round staircase ate the mutton. At least we ate as much of it as was done, and Oh, hold me to your heart, my husband. Never cast me out. Do not these emotions. It was, to conceal what had occurred, from those I never was so much afraid of anyone. We made a compromise of The time drawing on rapidly for the sailing of the emigrant-ship,terminating in a young person of genteel appearance, who went to Minnies little girl, youd never forget it. Bless my heart which did me great service with the profession, I went down into on what she had said, and too much impressed - for the first time, keen distress of the discovery of his unworthiness, I thought more.


What the friggin "author" wrote

Weblogs or blogs are the successors of the '90s Internet "homepage" and create a mix of the private (online dairy) and the public (self-PR management). According to the latest rough estimates of the Blog Herald,[1] there are 100 million blogs worldwide, and it is nearly impossible to make general statements about their "nature" and divide them into proper genres. I will nonetheless attempt to do this. It is of strategic importance to develop critical categories of a theory of blogging that takes the specific mixture of technology, interface design, software architecture, and social networking into account. Instead of merely looking into the emancipatory potential of blogs, or emphasizing their counter-cultural folklore, I see blogs as part of an unfolding process of "massification" of this still new medium. What the Internet lost after 2000 was the "illusion of change". This void made way for large-scale, interlinked conversations through freely available automated software.
A blog is commonly defined as a frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts and Web links, a mixture of what is happening in a person's life and what is happening on the Web and in the world out there.[2] A blog allows for the easy creation of new pages: text and pictures are entered into an online form (usually with the title, the category, and the body of the article) and this is then submitted. Automated templates take care of adding the article to the home page, creating the new full article page (called permalink), and adding the article to the appropriate date- or category-based archive. Because of the tags that the author puts onto each posting, blogs let us filter by date, category, author, or other attributes. They (usually) allow the administrator to invite and add other authors, whose permissions and access are easily managed.[3] Microsoft's in-house blogger Robert Scoble lists five elements that made blogs so hot. The first is the "ease of publishing", the second he calls "discoverability", the third is "cross-site conversations", the fourth is permalinking (giving the entry a unique and stable URL), and the last is syndication (replication of content elsewhere).[4] Lyndon from Flock Blog gives a few tips for blog writing, showing how ideas, feelings, and experiences can be turned into news format, and showing how dominant PowerPoint has become: "Make your opinion known, link like crazy, write less, 250 words is enough, make headlines snappy, write with passion, include bullet point lists, edit your post, make your posts easy to scan, be consistent with your style, litter the post with keywords."[5] Whereas the email-based list culture echoes a postal culture of writing letters and occasionally essays, the ideal blog post is defined by snappy public relations techniques.

Notice any similarity ? He surely can write spam
posted by elpapacito at 2:00 PM on January 10, 2007


I just nihilistically downloaded a bunch of nihilistic music files from a bunch of nihilistic mp3 blogs, and I'm still awake and receptive. I'm so awake I'm gonna go back to the vastness of the blog plain in search of more musical plurality of meanings now, with the extra cynical pleasure of knowing I'm helping to destroy culture as defined by the Weekly Standard [44]. Cheers.
posted by pleeker at 2:06 PM on January 10, 2007


Wouldn't "post[ing] into Nirvana" imply that one's posts had reached a state of complete enlightenment and oneness with the universe, and were forever removed from the cycle of death and rebirth, never to return? Clearly, with permalinking, this cannot be true, and blogging is wholly subject to the dharmic cycle.
posted by LionIndex at 2:06 PM on January 10, 2007


I'm surprised by the reaction. I actually quite enjoyed it. I don't think at any point that he said that either the nihilism or cynicism of blogs were negatives. I think the point was just to explore whether or not it can be said that blogs are nihilistic or cynical and if so, what that means.

My eyes often glaze over when reading these types of essays, but I had very little problem following his train of thought and I often found it enlightening.

One might point out the cynicism on display in this thread, but I'll pass.
posted by empath at 2:13 PM on January 10, 2007


An example of the larger expansion of the New Yorker cartoon caption theory. AKA "Christ, what an asshole"
posted by boo_radley at 2:24 PM on January 10, 2007


"Instead of presenting blog entries as mere self-promotion, we should interpret them as decadent artefacts that remotely dismantle the broadcast model."

(misspelling not mine)

I stopped reading there. Of course it's 'remotely dismantling' the broadcast model. That's the point. Their model is old and outdated. Personally, I don't want to hear only the news the broadcast networks decide is worth my time. I want the control over that, and that's why I get my news of the outside world on the internet.

And not from Eurozine.
posted by triolus at 2:26 PM on January 10, 2007


Say what you want, at least it's an ethos.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:27 PM on January 10, 2007


We believe in nothing, Lebowski. Nothing. And tomorrow we come back and we cut off your chonson.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:44 PM on January 10, 2007


Well he might have a point but the charge of 'nihillism' is a bit strong. There is no break between 1000 satellite television channels, two dozen 24 hour news channels, hundreds of magazines and thousands of newspapers. Blogs are just the completion of the form. The internet does deliver on its promise of infinite content but one can still remain hopeful that the right Google search will turn up The Truth. I'm sure most bloggers still operate under the illusion that they are the beginning of something, rather than the end, and they are eager to see what comes next. They're really an optimistic bunch in the same way your Average citizen is optimistic. The world may be going to hell -- who can say for sure -- but he certainly has a bright future and MacWorld 2008 to look forwards to.
posted by nixerman at 2:50 PM on January 10, 2007


Elpapacito, that's an excerpt from David Copperfield. That was some quality Dickens used to sell you v1agra.
posted by Kirklander at 3:05 PM on January 10, 2007


It's ironic to read a webzine article telling everyone that "blogging" is nihilistic and banal...
posted by clevershark at 3:08 PM on January 10, 2007


                               (\~/)   ,
                               ). .(  ((
                              (>(Y)< ) )) ) ( // ( )// ( | | | ) (m (m|m) m) /pre>
ce n'est pas nihilisme

posted by Sparx at 3:09 PM on January 10, 2007


Stupid pre tag. Starts off well but can't keep it up.
posted by Sparx at 3:11 PM on January 10, 2007


It's not a 'charge' of nihilism.

Jeez, read the actual essay. The entire point is that we live in a world in which cynicism and nihilism are the essential modes of life, and are rational and logical reactions to a world in which the centralized 'truth-making' powers of broadcast media are falling apart.

We're faced with an "accomplished nihilism" (Gianni Vattimo) in that bloggers have understood that the fulfillment of nihilism is a fact.[26] Gianni Vattimo argues that nihilism is not the absence of meaning but a recognition of the plurality of meanings; it is not the end of civilization but the beginning of new social paradigms, with blogging being one of them.

Now, square that quote with the knee-jerks attacks in this thread against this essay.
posted by empath at 3:38 PM on January 10, 2007


Empath: I'm just having a hard time seeing the link between blogs and cynicism. As far as I know, there have always been cynicism, and I'm not sure how he can attribute this to an entire form of public commentary.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 3:42 PM on January 10, 2007


Blogs really tied the net together didn’t they? And he pissed all over it.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:44 PM on January 10, 2007


The author is wrong in thinking there's anything inherently special in "blogs" that's worth analysing.

There's not.

It's just writing. Meaning trumps form every time. The only thing work even discussing about weblogs is that they've made it kind of easy for people to publish writing to a large audience; easier than if they were getting their ideas out there via publishing novels, or chatting on ham radio, or writing notes on toilet walls.

That's the only difference. And it still has nothing to do with blogs, because it's nothing that isn't also true for any other sort of static website, or even posting to Usenet.

Gianni Vattimo argues that nihilism is not the absence of meaning but a recognition of the plurality of meanings; it is not the end of civilization but the beginning of new social paradigms, with blogging being one of them.

New social paradigm? What the fuck? People have always wanted to talk shit. People's egos have always been driven by exposure. Blogs are purely an efficient way of making sure as many douches as possible can get their say.
posted by Jimbob at 4:39 PM on January 10, 2007


People are getting bored with the given formats; they don't catch up with the news anymore, it no longer sticks to their cervical memory stick.

Yeah, I hate it when my cervical memory stick gets all slippery and the news doesn't stick to it any more.

W?
T?
F?
posted by theorique at 4:40 PM on January 10, 2007


That was some quality Dickens used to sell you v1agra.

Dickens selling viagra, almost eponysterical I guess. Anyway Dickens can really look like crap, if you forget that's Dickens.
posted by elpapacito at 5:03 PM on January 10, 2007


I can't believe I'm the first one to the following:

MetaFilter: The Nihilist Impulse.

PS: "The Nihilist Impulse" would make a decent band name.
posted by sparkletone at 8:26 PM on January 10, 2007


I liked it too. Not sure I understand the backlash... the typos are embarrassing, but considering it was transcribed from a German-language lecture ...

The obsession with news factoids borders to the extreme. Instead of selective appropriation, there is over-identification and straight out addiction, in particular to the speed of real-time reporting.

You disagree? He doesn't really make much of an overall point, but I thought there were plenty of interesting observations.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:06 PM on January 11, 2007


This makes me want to start the 100,000,001th weblog...
[logs onto blogger.com... wait, I've navigated away from MeFi?? Nooooooo....]
posted by dubious at 6:19 PM on January 11, 2007


100,000,001st even...
posted by dubious at 6:20 PM on January 11, 2007


though it's odd...
posted by dubious at 6:20 PM on January 11, 2007


I'll stop now.
posted by dubious at 6:20 PM on January 11, 2007


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