Blogging and the human mind

This one’s making the rounds (kottke and elsewhere):

“Blogging makes us more oriented toward …”

Claim-by-claim …

1. “more oriented toward an intellectual bottom line”

Is this a good thing? If it means bloggers have finely tuned bullshit detectors, that’s a good thing. But “bottom line” also means “cheap” or “nothing lower.”

2. “more interested in the directly empirical”

Maybe so, but again, not necessarily a good thing. A little abstraction here and there isn’t so bad.

I’ll need to warn you now …

… the next one …

… may make you …

… spit your drink …

… consider yourself warned …

3. “more tolerant of human differences”

I can only guess that the writer is from another country or reads only those blogs written within a commune.

Here’s something a little closer to the reality I’ve seen on blogs (after all, we want something empirical, right?): Brendan Nyhan, one of the three bright young guys who ran the bullshit-detecting blog Spinsanity, was hired to blog at The American Prospect. The left-leaning but scrupulously fair blogger dared to suggest that maybe the left wing shouldn’t join the right in resorting to “Nazi” accusations so easily.

Check the results.

Then check Nyhan’s explanation
of why he no longer writes for the Prospect.

(Yes, Lex, I did see your comment on Brendan’s post — you were one of the cooler heads by far.)

Now he’s telling people not to follow Ann Coulter in reaching for the “treason” tag. Can I use the word “quixotic” here? Bless his heart, trying to get pundits to behave. He should just follow my lead — don’t read political blogs or books.

I find that’s the only way I can “tolerate” them.

4. “more analytical in the course of daily life”

Another one of those things that’s good in some respects (“Hmmm, traffic would move more smoothly if each lane alternates in merging to get past this road hazard”) and not in others (“I don’t see why anyone should listen to Guster when Yngwie Malmsteen plays more notes per second than all those guys” or perhaps “Happy Valentine’s Day. I have this spreadsheet of our personal qualities indicating that we would have successful offspring; therefore, we should mate.”).

5. “more interested in people who are interesting”

I’m tempted to make a snarky comment here asking when people were ever interested in boring people. But I have to confess — I’m boring. And that’s a severe handicap in this day and age. My strength is in logical evaluation, and who the hell wants to read that?

6. “less patient with Continental philosophy”

Yeah … take THAT, Foucault!!

I’m no Continental philosophy expert — I majored in philosophy, but (A) my grades stunk, (B) that was 15 years ago and (C) I read very little after Hume and Mill. Most philosophy after Hume and Mill stinks, anyway. (Follow this link for funny, semi-relevant link tied to the Zidane head-butt World Cup incident.)

But I know (or at least looked up) that Continental philosophy includes postmodernism. And the only thing you’ll see more postmodern than blogging is a bunch of English professors dressed as circus clowns while deconstructing a Family Guy episode. The whole point is to subvert the dominant paradigm of top-down elitist publishing. Sure, it was never that elitist, but that’s not relevant, is it?

Some great responses back at the original post:

“The IT industry has an unusually high proportion of emontionally immature libertarians, and blogging (as a recent fruit of IT) seems to provide a strong outlet for self-indulgent reveling in one’s own thoughts and self-congratulations on one’s rational approach to life. Plus there are plenty of other libertarian bloggers out there to make the libertarian feel a solidarity in his or her selfishness.”

“Blogging allows me to clarify my thoughts and put them into cogent arguments well before I am called on to use them in another context. It exercises analytical writing skills by putting you through the paces of analysis on a regular basis. As a law student, I have found that is a very valuable excercise. And, yes, it does provide for a better process of self-reflection than thought alone…. by putting my thoughts down and facing them over the passage of time, I am able to more correctly identify themes in my discourse.”

(Good for him, but it’s had the opposite effect on me. My writing has gone steadily downhill.)

I’ve found it makes me even more obnoxious and snarky.”

Add something about being unable to use apostrophes correctly, and that says it all, don’t it?

P.S. Friday Night Lights just keeps getting better. Great, great, great, great episode tonight. If I could still write worth crap, I’d come up with a better adjective.


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