Understanding the Blog

My recent post on speaking the truth has led to some conversation with D J regarding the nature of blog communication. He comments on that post:

at this point, my thinking (and preference) is that blogs are for the unedited thoughts of the writer, and implicit in the genre and form, is that thoughts and words expressed are written from a first-person, I-own-those-words perspective.. the readers of blogs need to know how to read the genre, and not react or be hurt by comments written.. and, even with blogging, there is a way to write to offend and to hurt, if so intended, that differs from a raw expression of angst, rant, and/or disappointment

I think DJ is right that blogs represent a form of communication that is more immediate and personal than other forms of published works. The problem lies in the fact that 1) they are still public forms of communication, and 2) it is difficult for the average person to discern the difference between a blog and “regular” web site communications.

The blurring of lines between journaling and journalism with blogging continues. While the original medium was designed for personal reflection and revelation, these inexpensive and easy to create web pages soon became equated with journalism. Thus, someone like Instapundit is suddenly seen as not only a source of opinion, but a source of news. When these posted opinions and thoughts are first draft, unedited thoughts (like I’m writing right now, in fact) without concern for things like investigation or research, it contributes to a mass cultural confusion.

Here is my problem, I think. Several years ago, a liberal organization here in Nashville posted an “expose” in their newsletter regarding the religious right wing conspiracy to overtake the Tennessee government. In this expose, which had no attributions nor footnotes, they specifically attacked a man who was heading up the coalition opposed to the proposed TN state lottery. In this document, they attempted to portray this person as a radical wacko in cahoots with the most rabid of the religious right. Soon after the document was floated, e-mails were sent to progressives throughout the state talking about how this information had been documented in the press. Sceptical of the claims, I called the Jackson, TN paper where the story had been run only to find out that they had run a story based on the original newsletter article without checking the facts. As it turned out, the guy that they were attacking was actually Roman Catholic, opposed to the death penalty, and much more progressive than folks realized. He ended up attacked by the religious right later on because of his opposition to the war out of the belief that it didn’t rise to the criteria needed for just war.

“Okay, that was propoganda,” you say, “but blogging is different.” I DO think it’s different, that it should be seen in a different way. But if that’s the case then we need to admit in our posts that blog entries are raw data that has rarely been evaluated or thought out. More often than not I see my fellow bloggers “reporting” things from other blogs as if they are fact.

Should we evaluate this data in a different way. Of course. But I have been in communications for a lot of years now. As things move from the margins of early adoption into the mainstream, these purposes and means of using the technology get quickly lost.

All of this is to lift up DJ’s point. As we wander through the blog world let’s take care to understand that some of these posts are raw data, pure emotions translated into words which may sound harsh. These often focus on deconstructing an event rather than offering constructive criticism. Yet, if we are desiring to truly be a community of friends, then may we also be ready to have our thoughts held accountable, allowing others to comment and offer their suggestions without fear of attack.

It is easy to sit at home in my living room writing and thinking that no one reads this. But when I think about DJ, or Jen, or Kenny, or Sue, or the folks at my church, I find myself remembering that my words have implications far beyond what I think they may. This is why I call on those of use in the Christian blogging world to “speak the truth in love,” knowing that all of this is leading to our becoming both an individual and a community that reflects the values of God’s kingdom.


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