Friday, April 13, 2018

Samuel D. James has a new platform, and there he writes about Why Blogging Still Matters. I never thought it didn't matter, myself, but it may be James' view on blogging is evolving

Despite the earlier noted semi-incubation period the little project in question was completed much, much faster than I thought it would.  That's all to be said on that matter for now.

So, now ...

Since I do read stuff in the Mere O orbit I came across this, Samuel D. James case on behalf of blogging.

Not only that, but blogging matters because it is an intellectual exercise in a passive, “content”-absorbed internet culture. On social media, even writing itself tends to be transformed into an unthinking spectacle rather than a careful expression of ideas. Twitter is notorious for this. The  most effective Tweeters—and by effective I mean the people who seem most able to take advantage of Twitter’s algorithms to get their tweets in front of people who do not ask for them and would not know they exist any other way—are people who are good at snark, GIFs, and gainsaying. Even worse, the unmitigated immediacy of Twitter’s ecosystem encourages a hive mentality. I’ve watched as people I respect have shifted in their beliefs for no better reason than the punishing experiences they’ve had after saying something that offended the wrong people online. Trolling has authentic power, and Twitter makes it a point of business to put trolls and their targets as closely together as possible.
Blogging, on the other hand, allows writers to think. Good bloggers use their spaces to both publish and practice. Thinking and writing are not purely sequential events. Writing is thinking, and thinking shapes itself through writing. Blogging is still, by far, the best option for non-professional writers to expand their gifts and sharpen their habits. Blogging is also a slice of personalism in a fragmented online age. Because social media and the online content industry demand maximum mobility and applicability over as many platforms as possible,  much of what you see is thoroughly generic (and most of the generic-ness is either generically progressive and identity-obsessed or generically conservative and angrily conspiratorial). Blogging brings out a more holistic vision from the author for both form and function.
This is not even to mention the benefits of moving our information economy away from the emotionally toxic effects of social media. There is good reason to believe that apps like Facebook and Instagram make people feel lonelier and less satisfied with their life. An information economy that requires aspiring writers to heavily invest in technologies that promote FOMO and cultivate tribal resentments is probably not an information economy that is making a lot of honest writers. By slowing down the pace of online life, blogging enables a more genuine interaction between people. Good social media managers need to win the rat race; good bloggers want to connect with readers in a meaningful way beyond analytics.
Blogging still matters, because it’s still the medium that most ably combines the best aspects of online writing. If we want to escape the echo chambers that dominate our online lives; if we want something other than the hottest takes and the pithiest putdowns; if we have any aspiration for exchange and debate that goes beyond outrage or mindlessness, we should reinvest our time, resources, and attention in the humble blog.

Now I basically agree that what a blog can do is provide long-form presentation and analysis of events and information that isn't tethered to social media in the form of Twitter or Instagram or Facebook or other things more conventionally thought of as social media.

Yet ... this "is" the Samuel D. James who told Christian bloggers to not "follow Mark Driscoll around", right?  Was it not just four years ago Samuel D. James was imploring Christian bloggers about something?

and, of course, there was "For Whom the Blog Trolls: A Drama"
Thursday, Somewhere in CyberspaceScene 1: A humble, 20something blogger writes a short, probably simplistic post about how (not) to talk about the church.

Scene 2: Our youthful hero writes disparagingly about a certain genre of online blogging that he finds distasteful and generally unhelpful. He is careful, however, to mention no names and no real scenarios.

Scene 3: He publishes the post, expecting little feedback. After all, it is a brief post, and makes only one real point: That Christians should not be bitter towards the church.

and that, for those who didn't see any of the posts, came in the wake of this:

Now I've discussed what I thought at the time about James' blogging on bloggers in a few posts (here, here and here, for instance).  Given how "first-person industrial complex" blogging can be I don't want to imagine that blogging is an unqualified good, and arguably nobody does.

But a few years back James was advising

7) Don’t start a “watchdog blog.” Seriously, don’t ever.

Of course as I've written dozens of times this is not, in fact, a watchdog blog.  It's never been a watchdog blog.  All the stuff about chamber music and sonata forms for classical guitar and all the stuff about Batman cartoons or Pixar films or anime like Eureka Seven or rhapsodies on Scott Joplin and Stevie Wonder should clear up for anyone this isn't a "watchdog blog".

But here we are a few years later and I still contest the assumption that seems to lurk behind that Samuel D. James admonition to "Don't start a "watchdog blog." Seriously, don't ever.  Since this blog has provided years upon years of material about the history of Mars Hill and its leadership culture in a way that people would call ... you know ... I doubt anyone would be surprised that I think blogging can play a valuable role in contributing to the public knowledge and discourse of all sorts of topics.

What's a bit of a surprise is that Samuel D. James now seems to think blogging can be important.  Now maybe James thinks Christian bloggers shouldn't follow Mark Driscoll around or maybe he's had a change of heart there, too.  After all, that was written way back in 2014 when it was not yet clear to him or others that Mark Driscoll was going to keep doing the celebrity Christian thing.  Now ... somebody was relatively sure that the Christian celebrity thing, being a man's bread and butter, could not be given up.  But I was hoping Mark would step away from Christian ministry and preaching and the whole business side of professional Christianity for half a decade and be a run of the mill real nobody tithing and serving in some lay person's capacity in a Christian community.  But hope is not the same thing as expectation.

So, here we are in 2018 and if Samuel D. James wants to write about why blogging is important it might inspire a person to ask if watchdog blogging is still "not" part of the importance blogging still has.

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