Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Art of Blogging - The Great Ganesha' Version

(All credits of this article should be addressed to The Great Ganesha at Blogcritics)

For the last half-decade or so, a slow but steady transition has been taking place as web pages on the Internet move from the confines of the static page to a dynamic, interactive medium. Blogging has been at the forefront of these changes. Bloggers catalogue the changes and blogs showcase them as they venture into a heretofore unknown medium.

Blogging is in its embryonic stages and has not completely defined itself. It is also the case that it is several things all at once and so defies categorization. Its etymological roots are easy to explain — it is short for weblog. Some early bloggers split the word ‘weblog’ unconventionally into ‘we blog’, and a new word entered into the English language lexicon — a word, incidentally, that was Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2004. So by definition, a blog is an online log, a diary, a catalogue of one’s thoughts. Not unlike our thoughts, the types of blogs run the gamut from the political to the poetic; from the perverse to the picturesque.

Andrew Sullivan – a now-famous political blogger and journalist for Time magazine – describes a blog as “somewhere between writing a column and talk radio.” A blog could be as base as daytime television or as stimulating as an in-depth PBS documentary. A blog is a journalistic report of an event, a well-thought-out opinion piece, the errant ramblings of an old man, or the dull journaling of a teenager’s daily activities.
While it is easy to label blogs as extensions of newspaper or other journalistic media, this falls prey to shaping the unknown into what is familiar. Yes, there are several similarities, but there are more differences. This categorization also partly follows from the fact that it is mainly the political blogs which have ascended from the underground into the mainstream media. But it is the ones that go unnoticed by the mainstream that are the most intriguing.

There are photo blogs, on which amateur photographers post some of the most beautiful images; there are audio blogs where people post audio (also known as podcasts); there are blogs in which people who can barely speak English write the most lyrical prose, in English no less; and there are blogs focused on particular topics, usually started by people who are experts (sometimes real, at other times, self-imagined) in the field. The only universal statement that one can make about blogs is about their format: dated entries which are reverse-chronologically ordered and have a space for readers to comment on them.

At its best, blogging is an art. And just like any work of art, be it Nabokov’s Lolita or Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment, it can be subtle and expressive at once. A good blog post can stir up anger, elation, and grief. It appeals to everyone and can incite passionate discussion. Blogs can create trends or destroy them. Like art, a blog post has its roots in the banalities of everyday existence.

A good blogger can elevate the mundane, or debase the divine. A good blogger creates his own personal villains, orchestrates conflict, thus creating drama. A good blog post can be fiction, non-fiction, or somewhere in between, like a well-written op-ed piece, but written in less time and with less thought. No, that’s not a typo - less thinking is one of the things that sets blogging apart from any of the traditional media. The technology-enabled facility of quick publishing gives blog posts (and their responses) what can be loosely described as a stream of consciousness style. The immediacy creates a sense of intimacy with the audience, and motivates them to interact with the blogger.

This interactive aspect of a blog is what separates it from traditional writing. A blog post is incomplete without its comments - they are an integral part of it. Comments allow a blogger to clarify, argue, converse or just observe his audience. Unlike traditional works of art, comments enable a blogger to look inside his audience’s minds and digest and internalize what they are saying. This knowledge will, in turn, show up in the subsequent posts, where readers can comment again, and the cycle continues. This interaction makes blogging a largely synergistic activity and makes blogger and audience explicitly interdependent on one another. Of course, there is always interaction between artist and audience, but it is not nearly as intimate, and it is not incorporated into the artist’s work as quickly as with a blog.

By giving people the freedom to write about what they want, when they want, along with a more-or-less automatic readership, countless souls (including myself) have found their ‘inner writer’. Blogging is allowing people to create a new style of writing, with its own set of rules. As more and more people join the blogging bandwagon, it is increasingly difficult to ignore. As it gains more exposure, it is also difficult to ignore the fact that blogging, at its best, is indeed a unique art form.

(All credits of this article should be addressed to The Great Ganesha at Blogcritics)

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