Over at his blog Old Life, church historian Daryl G. Hart shares his thoughts on the role of blogs and bloggers. Here’s a taste.
A blog – at least as I read them and participate in several – is somewhere between a Facebook page and an editorial in a magazine. Blogging is almost entirely personal since the author is his own editor in most cases; no editorial staff or marketing department oversees the writing. A blog is also a forum for thinking out loud – “here is something I read or observed, and I thought I’d write about it and see what readers think.” . . .
A blog is like Facebook (such as I imagine since I am not networked) in that it invites comments and an informal exchange of views. For this blogger, the responses are an important facet of the medium because it functions as a built-in letters to the editor. And just as a post can go up immediately in response to a recent event or development, so readers may respond immediately. The immediacy and the responsiveness of blogging is what makes it valuable in my judgment, and unlike most other forms of publication. It is also what makes it ephemeral. Who will read a post about the Phillies’ 2008 championship three years from now and think it poignant. Of course, some blogs do not allow comments, and I do not understand the point since part of the nature of thinking out loud is to start a conversation and see what others think as well.
At the same time, a blog is not like a magazine in that it does not reproduce well articles or material requiring hard or sustained thought. Some magazines, of course, have on-line content. But this is simply a way of reading a magazine article on-line. But a blog is more like the op-ed portion of a magazine – actually more like a newspaper because a magazine takes at least a week to be published; the newspaper comes out daily (most often) and the blog may occur semi-daily. But when bloggers are tempted to post papers or talks given at conferences, they become almost unreadable. Such material needs to be printed out, read with pen or pencil in hand, and given sustained attention – not read for three minutes before checking email or stock quotes.
Read Hart’s entire post here.
All in all, I’m in agreement with Hart, at least on a few points:
First and foremost, I affirm Hart’s assertion that “a blog is . . . a forum for thinking out loud.” When I launched the search for piety and obedience over a year ago, I set out mostly to create a centralized, public location where I could share my thoughts and impressions of Brethren in Christ history. Since I spend a lot of time pouring through primary and secondary sources on Brethren in Christ history, I thought it might be profitable to share my findings and opinions with other interested web surfers. Though the purpose of the site has evolved somewhat since then, my primary goal is still well summed up by Hart: “‘Here is something I read or observed, and I thought I’d write about it and see what readers think.'”
I appreciate his emphasis on the role of the reader in the life of the blog — I know from my experience here that, without an engaged readership, I would quickly lose my blogging momentum. Put another way, comments keep a blogger blogging. Thanks, readers, for your free exchange of opinions and stories!
I also share Hart’s incredulity at blogs that do not allow commenting. Why even put your thoughts out into the public sphere if you don’t want feedback?
But I disagree with Hart that a blog is “more like the op-ed portion of a magazine” or newspaper. What we do here at the search for piety and obedience might be a little different from the work of a “typical” blog, but I don’t just use this site as a forum from which to voice my every thought on denominational history. While I agree that essay-length articles and academic papers have no place on a blog, I believe strongly that blogs are more than just soapboxes.