The unbearable lightness of blogging

Online Communities map by XKCD - click for full-size versionMichael Spencer has posted a great essay on the spiritual and psychological dangers of taking blogging too seriously.

It’s easy for those of us who spend too much of our lives in the blogosphere to overestimate the scale and importance of blogging. A useful corrective can be found in the wonderful map of online communities drawn up by Randall Munroe at XKCD.

This depicts the various online communities – MySpace, YouTube, Xanga etc – as countries, with the size of each territory being roughly proportional to the size of the corresponding community. The different countries are then arranged on two axes: north-south represents the “practical-intellectual” axis, and west-east represents the primary focus of each community, from “focus on real-life” to “focus on web”.

And where is the much-vaunted blogosphere, champion of theological orthodoxy and terror of political vested interests? Erm, that would be it right there in the bottom-left corner, firmly in the “intellectual” zone: the collection of small islands dwarfed by the vast landmasses of MySpace and the Icy North (covering Yahoo, Windows Live and other such n00b-infested regions).

As I said in a comment on Michael’s post, the fact is we really don’t matter that much. The blogosphere is a great place for the Lisa Simpsons and Martin Princes of this world to hang out and enjoy the (virtual) company of like-minded people, without getting beaten to a pulp by the Nelson Muntzes who dominate real-life. That’s wonderful, but it ain’t anything more than that.

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6 Responses to The unbearable lightness of blogging

  1. Theresa K. says:

    I know blogs don’t matter much in the scheme of things, but we matter to each other. The joy of discovering like-minded souls, whether it is regarding a certain kind of music, some hobby or our faith, seems like a decent-sized country to me. Even in a solidly confessional Lutheran church, I rarely find someone in my own church (or rarely find the time) with which to discuss finer theological points. Our little Christian blogosphere does sometimes fill a void that would otherwise go unfilled. I can only imagine that such camaraderie would be found in a seminary.

  2. John H says:

    Theresa: I entirely agree. I wasn’t meaning to do down blogging in any way, just to say that we should value it for what it is – a delightful conversation with people we would never otherwise have encountered – rather than trying to pretend it is an alternative to the church’s ministry or the place where the intellectual paradigms of the future are being forged, or has some other grand purpose.

  3. JR Hermeneut says:

    The blogosphere … ain’t anything more than that.

    Well at least it appears to be much more than “Stallmann’s Airship” – adrift in the bottom-right sea. And apparently rising tides and global warming have turned Usenet into a veritable Atlantis – which makes me feel as old as Plato. Also, the Blogipelago’s proximity to the “Wet” sea points out the fact that blogging is at least in the neighbourhood of actual human reality (unlike most everything else).

  4. What happened to all the Citizens’ Band Radio ministry start-ups of the early eighties? Where are they now?

  5. John H says:

    Now I’ve got Joan Baez going round my head:

    Where have all the Citizens’ Band radio ministries gone?
    Long time passing.
    Where have all the Citizens’ Band radio ministries gone?
    Long time ago.
    Where have all the Citizens’ Band radio ministries gone?
    Blogs have replaced them, every one.
    When will they ever learn?
    When will they ever learn?

    OK, it’s been a long day.

  6. Theresa K. says:

    I didn’t mean to sound like I thought you were disagreeing…which brings to mind one big downside of carrying on discussions in written form; context and tone are usually lost. Oh well!

    Love the CB radio reference! I still remember listening to CW McCall’s Convoy in the parking lot of Ridgedale Mall as a teen and thinking the few teen boys who had the radios in their souped up Mustangs were so-o-o very fine. That song was cool for about one week. Don’t know how long the CB radio fad lasted.

    Good twist on the Joan Baez lyrics!

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