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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Faster, Faster, Faster Than The Speed Of Life

Here's a question I've been asking myself for quite some time:

Is personal blogging (like what you're reading right now) dead?

I've noticed a perceptible drop-off, not just in my own posting frequency, but in those of my compadres in the blog-o-sphere (e.g. those folks in the left-hand column) for quite some time.  I realize many have not been very frequent posters to begin with, but even among those who are, sites that used to update once every day or every couple of days are down to maybe once a week, if that.

Now granted, there's been a slow-yet-steady attrition rate (as the number of dead-links down towards the bottom attests), just about since Day One, as people become either bored by the "novelty" of online posting, or else gravitate to more immediately gratifying sites like Facebook, or it's several (now mostly defunct) predecessors.

But, I also think a lot of it has to do with the increasing ubiquity of what pundits are calling "the Twitter phenomenon", which is itself an extension of the Instant Messaging craze from a few years back (and which is still very much all the rage among the under-20 set, apparently).  Now, it's all about "micro-blogging": increasing compressing both the message format, as well as the medium through which it is transmitted and received.

Whereas blogging requires an honest-to-goodness full-sized keyboard (for those of us not particularly adept at thumb typing), a not entirely insignificant amount of time, and generally some thought or consideration in terms of preparing the content, Twitter, IM, M-B, et al, require almost none of this: they're fully portable, easily compactible, of nearly microscopically short duration, and yet in that time can convey almost instantaneous stream-of-consciousness iteration, and with very little in the way of actual cogitation involved.  You just blurt it out over your cell phone, or Blackberry, or via your laptop keyboard, in nouvelle cuisine appetizer-sized portions, and then move on to view the 37 other, equally miniscule updates from your "friends" that have landed in your feed list in the six or seven seconds it's taken you to do it.  It's sort of like we're all going through our daily business, but with the constant background buzz of other people's tiny, random thoughts popping up in front of our eyes in an unceasing, nearly continuous stream.

I'm not sure whether it has any appreciable effect on our already rapidly shrinking attention-spans, but considering just the number of people I personally know who seem, well, nearly addicted to "checking status" (and I admit to being somewhat amongst that number myself), there's clearly some sort of need being met by all of this.  Are we that starved for intimacy that constantly checking up on the minute-to-minute minutae of our friends, colleagues and co-workers (not to mention complete strangers whom we befriend merely because they ask us to do so) satisfies some otherwise unmet yearning for actual human contact?

Maybe I'm reading too much into it; maybe it really is just as simple as providing a fast, convenient, one-stop shopping method for keeping track of people in our busy, busy world.  But, there are times when it all feels a little TOO real to BE real, if that makes any sense.  After all, by the time you read someone's update/IM, they've probably already read a dozen others sent their way, and are 30 seconds or so into the next thought that will soon be transmitted for consumption.  It's like we're all just slightly out-of-sync with each other, and everyone is desperately trying to catch up to all be on the same page (or screen) at the same time, but we can never quite get there; Zeno's Paradox for the online set.

Then again, maybe all this is just another reason why the ephmeral nature of live theatre continues to appeal to me, where at least you're in a room with a bunch of other people sharing the same experience, live and in real-time, without all the pale little screens and twitching thumbs.

Although, I bet we'll start having to add "and please - no texting during the performance" to our ever-growing list of pre-show admonishments any day now.

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Posted byCOMTE on 2:43 PM

4 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

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