September 13, 2005

The newspaper is a lecture. The web is a conversation.
- James Lilek (original source)

Following up on this idea, John Hiler and Glenn Reynolds between them come up with the blogosphere analogy of the 18th C European coffeehouse, where many of the core ideas that maybe have become the foundation of our modern world -- and not a few re-inventings of nations (and for that matter the entire conception of the nation-state) -- were born. The image is certainly appealing ... and yet, while there are some elements in it that feel true to me, I cannot subscribe to it entirely.

Setting aside the question of relative emotional and personal investment -- for the new generations growing up within the Internet may yet learn to see these spaces and the personalities dwelling within them as being as real as the ones we can physically touch -- the essential aspect of conversation is real-time interaction-feedback / real-time reaction to feedback between individuals: a continuing give-and-take of mutually influenced interaction. Any of these elements are lacking, and what one ends up with is no conversation but right back to that lecture: albeit disguised as a formal debate, statement, rebuttal, counter-statement. I say "disguised", because debate also requires a balanced structure which requires each side to address all points made by the other, within a neutral environment: and the Internet generally (perhaps reflecting face-to-face life itself) seems to be sadly lacking both in neutral environments and in any requirement to meet and answer the other's points in any non ad hominem terms.

So what is left, then, but a collection of voices each crying out to its individual audience, a quick flurry of comments, reference/counter-reference/rapid-quote who said what around the blogosphere, speed of mention far more important than any long-term memory, let alone examination? ... and then the thrown pebble vanishes into the pond, and in time the ripples smooth out ...

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