Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Evolutionary Origins of the Weblog

The weblog -- far from being a mere fad -- is a technological expression of our evolutionary heritage.

“Blogs haven't displaced media, US study finds”, reads the latest Reuters headline about blogs. This headline is part of a sudden blog-bashing trend which I predicted would occur two weeks ago[1]. The article’s headline reeks of typical MSM anti-blog bias. Even the word, “displaced”, means literally: “to remove from the usual or proper place.” As expected, the actual truth is buried in the middle of the article:

“The study dispels the notion that blogs are replacing traditional media as the public's primary source of information, said Michael Cornfield, a senior research consultant at Pew.”

The refuted notion, of course, was not held by any credible observer of the media&blogosphere. Nevertheless, Reuters set the record straight: Anyone who claims, "blogs have replaced radio, TV, and print as the public’s primary source of information" is a liar. Personally, I don't really call that newsworthy -- that is unless you're a reporter for The Villiage of Idiots Dispatch.

Now, what is newsworthy is the recent decision of a few news organizations([cough]…the NYTimes) to voluntarily fade into irrelevence. Through out history, its always been like this: some adopt the new, others bury themselves with the old. Whether the established media likes it, or not, it’s a forgone conclusion that blogs are a highly disruptive development. However, lately some members of the press have showed a newfound love of writing them off both foolishly, and with ironic confidence. For example, the notion that blogs are a “fad”, the new “pet rock” as one dinosaur put it. I refuse to give their arguments (if that's what you call them) much attention. If they bothered to think, they might realize that the forces fueling the rise of the weblog are anything but fashion trends.

The nourishing roots of the blogosphere are older than the very cave paintings which signified the birth of media. Our expanding web of conversations, and connections is providing a large and constantly growing percentage of our population with something that humans have always sought: knowledge of our world and environment; to be heard; to converse… To say that the blog is a fad is to say that conversations and the formation of communities is a fad.

The blogosphere’s size and influence is expanding rapidly. The ever so self-centered MSM attributes the success of weblogs to Dean, Rathergate, and mob that lynched Eason Jordon. The shortsightedness of their explanation is consistent with their world view. MSM’s motivation is primarily economic and profit driven. It is difficult for them to move past questions such as, “how do bloggers make money”, or delusions such as “we still have most of the audience(read ad revenue), so blogs are dead; we survived”. This narrow view misses the true force that is driving the rise of the blogosphere.

The MSM is sustained through legal safeguards, readers and watchers who have no where else to turn, and revenue from ads. In contrast, the blogosphere’s growth is sustained by our natural desire for social belonging; to find meaning through cooperation towards common goals. Look at those two models again. Which is more likely to outlive the other?

Human beings emerged 150,000 years ago as a physically weak, and fragile species; just one of many bi-pedal monkeys with big heads. Yet we survived, and flourished by evolving a unique set of common social algorithms based on cooperation, community, and communication. As humanity begins the 21st century, it faces unprecedented peril. Overpopulation, global warming, disappearing resources, plagues, nuclear weapons, and natural disasters all threaten the foundations of our fragile, so-called “global civilization.” Our governments, religious institutions, and traditional sources of information are incapable of averting the impending nightmares of the late 21st century.

But there is hope for us, and perhaps it is hidden in this beautiful thought: The blog -- far from a technological fad -- is in fact a technological expression of our evolutionary heritage.

If that is too outlandish of a thought for your seasoned mind, than be my guest and accept MSM’s version: Blogs get you fired, they are not credible, and MSM is still in charge. Go back to bed little blogger, rest well baby audience member, we’ve got everything taken care of. The couch is your friend.