ONLINE PENNY DROPS
One of my concerns about the internet and blogosphere is the absence of peer review. It seems I'm shamefully out of date. There's an article on Slate about the way American academics view blogging, along with some examples of online peer review in action. The FAQ on Slashdot is particularly informative and encouraging, although the writing seems a little sloppy in places.
It's tempting to believe that online publication is merely an extension of print publication - just faster, cheaper, more widely available and easier to edit and reference, all of which are significant steps forward. Sure, you can choose to limit it to that, but after reading the Slate and Slashdot articles, I wonder if it goes beyond that. It seems to me that with these big sites, with their thousands of contributors, it's as close as you're going to get to collective text-based experience. It's a medium which facilitates, for the first time, mass involvement in a way that a rally or an election or a print publication doesn't, because everyone has a voice. No wonder the corporations are nervous.
The amount of information out there is simply staggering, and it's difficult trying to find a conceptual architecture which will order and contain it. At the moment I feel like one of the people one sees in bookshops at Christmas, making their annual visit and wandering about in a state of culture shock and disorientation. I had to wiki troll, flame-war and lamer, which probably makes me one of the last-mentioned.
I'm not too concerned that online content will make books redundant, though, any more than I am that virtual experience outdoes actual experience. We are physical creatures, and we need substance and place.
As to exorcising the "why do I blog?" meme, well, for the same reasons one writes in any medium - to unload the head, to find out what one thinks, to share what one knows or feels or imagines. Writing, as Gore Vidal said, is an extension of thinking, and that's something to which we're doomed.