When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

July 25, 2005

Blogging and Knowledge

Bravo Romeo Delta

As my astute remaining reader my have noticed, I've not been at the top of my blogging game recently. Or at the middle of my game. Or really, when it comes down to it, even been demonstrating much a measurable pulse.

Now, I suppose I could just be honest with y'all (and myself) and just fess up about being burnt out. But, as you may all know, I am virtually incapable of recognizing when to fold them and when to hold them, vis a vis my undying interest in holding forth at great length and flapping my gums.

So, this got me all to thinking about the whole business of blogging. Why is it, exactly, do so many spend so much time writing so much for so little benefit? Undoubtedly some have a yen to express themselves. For others, it's a chance to talk seriously about things they are otherwise denied the chance to talk about in daily life. Still others are just absolute fools who don't have the good judgment to realize just how stupid they are, and instead, do their best to broadcast their sorely lacking grasp of the world.

Instead of marching off to the navel-gazing plantation to figure out why it is that I write (or wrote?), I opted for a different tack - why is it that I stopped?

What, exactly, was the big hold-up?

Well, I think that there might be a couple of causative mechanisms. In the interests of avoiding making myself look intelligence or diligent, let's start with the least flattering reasons and then deftly slip off into weightier realms.

For starters, writing is easy - well, writing garbage is easy, writing well is hard. More specifically, crafting ideas into a cogent, coherent, concise structure takes some time. How much do I want to spend my free time doing something that's actually difficult work?

Trick question. The amount of work becomes trivial if the amount of enjoyment is commensurate with the amount of effort expended.

So then, why the lack of enjoyment? Let us just start out by discarding the obvious (perhaps trivial items) - I've been busy, overstressed, under-relaxed, and wrestling with a plethora of regular life issues. No refuge here - that's just another set of terminology for me to procrastinate. No, let's look more seriously about the whys.

It seems that the first point is the prospect of valiantly pissing into the wind. For each and every ill-informed, poorly conceived point I run across, do I want to spend my time and effort correcting that, simply to have a feces-throwing monkey sort of response? Secondly, there is an open question of sweeping away the tide. Third, one begins to feel like a Sisyphus of the keyboard.

But doesn't all this simply go back to the core nature of blogging - one essentially writes for one's self? It provides far too little reward and recognition for it to be anything other than essentially self-reflection.

But what's the point of self-reflection? At a first guess, I might say knowledge. But how does the business of public self reflection for personal self-knowledge really work? And what does it all have to do with blogging?

Beats me.

After a fair bit of thinking about this, I can only guess that blogging really does reflect the miniscule creeping forward progress that occurs with the growth of human knowledge? Does this remind me of watching grass grow and pain dry because it really is a snapshot into the actual growth of the human body of knowledge?

I am beginning to think that it is. When people think about the business of expanding the frontiers of human knowledge, they tend to imagine scientific breakthroughs, and scientists in lab coats.

But one must remember that science isn't a thing, but a process. People synthesize theory and observation, using the combination for the empirical combination of both to verify and test theories, and discard those explanations which are unsatisfying. Moreover the vast majority of scientific research is done in painstaking data collection and experimentation. The archetypical scientist with the breakthroughs is simply one who is able to reliably and regularly combine this incoming data, and do so in such a way as to generate continuing support for research.

So, by way of analogy, the vast rank and file of bloggers are the unsung legions of experimenters and doodlers trying to understand their world. The Instapundits, den Bestes, Wretchards and so on (be they linkers or thinkers) occupy the role of the published PhDs or in some cases, the DaVincis, Euclids, Edisons, and Twains of this new era of collective dialog and discussion.

Now, before I sign off with this, the other thing I do think is worth mentioning, is the nature of the exchange of knowledge - first through asexual reproduction, then through the sexual exchange of genetic information, and so on, through the development of the written language and the development of mass media and rapid cultural cross-pollinating behavior. This has been better described here and here by the incomparable Steven den Beste. But the significant thing I've been driving at is that we may look at the internet as being an epochal change in the way that information is exchanged. With each new epoch we do end up with a few new brilliant developments catalyzed by this new mechanism for the exchange of knowledge.

To be fair, for every Plato writing the Republic, we have countless bits of graffiti, shopping lists, and other ephemera. But we also have the slips of data, observation and tidbits of information about the world around us. And much like the relationship between Edison and his lab assistants, the role of bloggers may simply to function as the supporting actors and extras without whom the epic stories resonant throughout time would be impossible to tell.

With one minor difference, with blogging we are no longer cooperating to tell a specific story, but rather the story of learning to tell stories. And that is where the unique, and often frustrating, nature of blogging resides. Once in a while, we have to be grunts in the field if the brilliant generals are to lead the way – even if we never get a medal, or have a chance to exhibit uncommon gallantry, we just have to soldier on through the muck. And in so doing our duty and carrying the banner forward, derive satisfaction from knowing that we’re doing our best to do what’s right.

(Cross-posted to Demosophia)

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at July 25, 2005 04:02 AM | Missile Tracks

Retaliatiory Launches

Great post.

Posted by: The Maximum Leader at July 26, 2005 03:00 AM

Interesting post. I think that, for some of us, the pleasure is in the telling of the story.

Posted by: T'am Gu Ja at July 26, 2005 05:29 PM

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