April 19, 2007

Blogging Panel

I participated in this panel on blogging today. I was seated on the far left, a fact which I appreciated silently, and sat next to Joe Malchow. This is honestly not meant as an insult, but it occurred to me that, next to one another--he in a jacket and rather fine tie, I in some bland polo and jeans—we must have looked something like those "Apple v. PC" commercials.I'm kind of disturbed that I just compared myself to Justin Long, but I suppose I'll get over it.

The panel was quite interesting to me—it drove home the point that blogs truly do serve a variety of functions, even if certain motivations are common to all bloggers, and certain principles hold at all levels. I left not feeling particularly bullish about the blogosphere—Brendan Nyhan's point that the panel was pretty much made up of the same kind of people who have been providing opinions to the public for decades, if not centuries—lawyers, academics, writers—was well-taken and somewhat dispiriting.

I feel pretty much the same, though. I think bloggers are, for the most part, people who would have pursued some form of verbal self-expression and, in a different time, would have conformed and submitted themselves to editing in order to conduct that pursuit, but who now realize that they don't have to. I know Malchow used to work with The Beacon; I write for the DFP. On a national level, Andrew Sullivan has a journalistic background, as does Josh Marshall, and Arianna Huffington; Michelle Malkin pretends to write. The PowerLine trio (I can't say that without thinking of the supergroup Power Station, which comprised Robert Palmer and some of Duran Duran), Ann Althouse, Hugh Hewitt, John Aravosis, and Glenn Reynolds are all lawyers/law professors (and God knows lawyers are big on self-expression).

More: Professor Samwick made the best point of the whole event, but I wasn't sure how to express it succinctly, so I left it out of my recap. He posted over at his blog about it, however, and it's definitely well worth reading.


  1. Anonymous10:36 AM

    Your post on blogging was a self-expression, but on what point?

    If "the point [is] that blogs truly do serve a variety of functions", then what do you think these are? Since you "left not feeling particularly bullish about the blogosphere", why?

  2. I'm not sure I understand your first question.

    As for what blogs do, I think the selection of bloggers does a pretty good job of showing the range: Althouse is a personal blog that gets in nasty fights with people and has an amusing comments section (that's three different functions--all potentially interesting--right there); Nyhan has done media criticism and political fact-checking; Clawson talked about the way blogs are used in campaign fund-raising, community building, and activism; Hinderaker showed pretty well how blogs can catapult a group of lawyers in Minnesota into a relatively prominent position in the political discourse; Simon's Pajamas Media demonstrated the capacities of digital technology to give more white men the chance to have their opinions read by other white men; and Joe and I proved that blogging in/about a small community is overall pretty pointless, but occasionally diverting for those in that community.

    I think I explained why I don't feel particularly bullish about blogs—the dominant voices are coming from the same places that have always dominated the expression of public opinion. It's a different management strategy, sure, but the same personnel.