Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 23:21 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 23:22 | SYDNEY

Towards a definition of blogging


Sam Roggeveen


25 February 2008 15:06

The New York Review of Books has a very entertaining essay about blogging on its website. I read it in much the same spirit as I read foreign accounts of Australia (like this recent NY Times piece on Sydney's rock pools) — with a buzz that a world which is familiar and normal to me is being made to sound exotic to a new audience. As a confirmed blog addict for at least six years now, it tickled me to see everyday terms like 'troll' and 'WTF?' explained (although I hadn't previously heard of 'pajamahadeen'. Lol) . If you want a short-cut way to get inside the blogging world, this essay is the way to do it.

But slang is a tool of exclusion, and it's no different in the blogosphere. Because political blogging is so much less mature in Australia than in the US, I have steered away from blog jargon on The Interpreter, in an attempt to draw a new audience into this unfamiliar journalistic form. But the trick for The Interpreter — and we have yet to master it completely — is to stay clear of this insiderishness while not rejecting the great strength of blogging as a medium for political commentary. For me, that strength can be summed up in the word 'conversation'.

As someone who studied the work of the English political philosopher Michael Oakeshott, I have always been drawn to his idea of conversation. For Oakeshott, conversation is a practice marked by its inconclusiveness. It is potentially endless and has no specific purpose other than to be enjoyed for its own sake. Good conversation requires compromise, mutual generosity and a spirit of liberty that allows discussion to go where it may. 'Debate' or 'inquiry', by contrast, is goal-oriented, or aiming toward a final resolution or conclusion.

Readers familiar with the political blogosphere will not readily agree that its conversations are marked by great generosity or compromise. As the NYRB piece describes, the tone is often angry and intolerant. But as someone once said, 95 per cent of everything is crap. And even the angriest sections of the blogosphere do adhere to one aspect of the conversational style.

That is, they do not employ the tone of authority used in debate, and which also pervades traditional journalism. When bloggers write, they do so in the full expectation of being contradicted or engaged by readers and other bloggers. There is no pretense of Olympian objectivity and no veneer of authority conferred by the reputation of what might be a venerable news institution. Each post is just another conversational gambit to be weighed on its merits.

Blogging is contingent and inconclusive. There is no last word.