Saturday, October 02, 2004

Philosophy In The Blogosphere


This was originally going to be philosophy of the blogosphere, but I didn't find enough on the web to support any firm conclusions. It would seem that there is little work being done in this area at the moment. However, there's room enough for a short description of what the blogosphere is, as well as a few pointers to its philosophical implications.

The blogosphere is a collective term for "all the blogs in the world". Because there are so many blogs, through which it is very difficult to sift, it has become known as this nebulous, chaotically changing mass. Individually, a blog is whatever a person wants it to be - the key characteristics separating it from a website are regularity of posting, personal nature and similarity to a diary or log. Hence, web log - blog. But where is the blogosphere? It's a bit like asking "where is the worldwide web" - the answer is that it's right in front of you. But just like the WWW, it's hard to see the wood on account of all the trees that are in the way. To get a more overall picture of what's going on in the blogosphere, cruise over to Technorati, and see what it has to say about philosophy . Unfortunately, when I visited, the blogosphere was having a bad moment, and had almost nothing interesting to say.

Apart from the bias in the distribution of people who write blogs (i.e. people who are tech literate enough to manage it, and feel the desire to do so) you could consider the blogosphere as a direct instantation of collective opinion, fully searchable. No longer do we have to wonder about the metaphysics of cultural phenomenon, or precisely what "cultural norms" can really mean in a diverse country. Instead, we can jump directly to a keyword-indexed answer. The blogosphere even has a radio station , so you can just sit back and relax to the sound of the world. Chaos, to order!

Searching for "melbourne philosophy" distressingly turned up no results, something I don't quite understand. However, given the dryness of both Technorati and Google on this topic, I am beginning to think that I might be running the only general philosophy blog in Australia. I did manage to find a personal blog by Greg Restall at who is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Melbourne Uni though.

I would love to get comments on what people think might form the basis of a philosophy of the blogosphere. I'll compile any comments I recieve into another post, responding to each, and also posing some questions myself such as consciousness in the blogosphere, whether it is geographically-bound or linked more abstractly, as well as deeper questions about the past, the future and how much attention we should be paying to this odd phenomenon.


Blogger the narcissist said...

Interesting idea. I am inclined to say there is no philosophy, per se, of the blogosphere -- such is the multifarious nature of it. There is no system, other than the ground rules (ie. the template made up of HTML codes) laid out by the administrator (Blogger, in this instance).

Some users choose to post on grounded daily experiences, some on abstract personal musings, others on everything imaginable, and quite a few on nothing at all.

There are a number of blogs with a riveted purpose, some with none that is discernible. Others have a basic concept of format, and again some have none at all. On the whole, it's a mess. Basically, it's what everyone wants it to be -- freedom of thought to its very extreme. Which is not to say that it's a bad thing. It's probably a good thing. But as they say, too much of it...

On whether its 'consciousness' is 'geographically-bound' or otherwise, I have to say it's the latter. Click on 'Next Blog' and you never knows where it's coming from, not that it hardly matters anyway (unless it's in sanskrit or chinese or icelandic, which would render it unreadable to some; and even that can be amended).

Remove all reference of Australia from your blog (ie. 'Melbourne' from 'MelbournePhilosopher') and you could be anyone from anywhere with a decent access to information (and today, the Net is just about all one would require), and the anti-war rally you attended could have happened in South Korea or Poland or America.

I think we shouldn't pay too much attention to this phenomenon, 'cos it would consume too much of our time. Maybe just enjoy it as long as it remains enjoyable, or something to that effect.

All strictly my two cents, of course. Thanks for the food for thought.

10/03/2004 09:09:00 PM  
Blogger a process of emanation said...

See this list of Philosphy related Blogs. Many with further links in and around.

On the philosophy of the blogosphere. The fact that blogs are often just a collection of links with commentary, and that Technorati is basically a ranking of inbound links searchable by said commentary, seems to point to the philosophy of such a sphere being a somewhat closed or self-referential system.

More and more, blogs are becoming increasingly similar and definitely follow trends in both design and content. To join the blogosphere you need to gain linkage, and to gain linkage you need to follow the trends in content and/or design or whatever else... I may be a little pessimistic but cutural phenomenons and norms are still very prevelant. And will be for this is a medium of 'Technorati' - a technological elite social group.

10/04/2004 12:29:00 AM  
Blogger mh said...

Perhaps this could provide the opportunity for a case-study in concept building. I suspect that a purely nominalist definition definition of the concept "blog" would run into troubles very quickly. I doubt "collection of links with commentary" or "online diary" really do much to get at the essence of what a blog might be, although they could provide a useful start.

Thinkers in the Kantian tradition (I'm thinking of Kant himself, Nietzsche, Hegel and Adorno) have long contended that to provide a bare classificatory definition of something that has a history (or that is a product of human history) is to miss its point. If anything, a definition was something you reached at the end of a reflection on that history (compare the section on 'Constellation in Science' in Adorno's Negative Dialectics and Max Weber's study of the "essence" of capitalism in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and its introduction).

I think to this end one would have to pursue a history of "the blog" in terms of (at least) its genesis, function (both socially and for social beings: humans), its relation to the technology that makes it possible, and its relation to other forms of publishing, communication or expression (assuming that blogs have something to do with these latter).

10/06/2004 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...

My dad had a comment on the search-engine entry about the effect of search engines on language, how it forces people to adopt particular phraseologies etc in order to attract search results etc. I know I changed the content of Melbourne Philosophy's front page to have better search-words on my front page. Maybe one could write an ode to a search engine. In fact, I think that will be today's post.


10/06/2004 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...

By the way, I agree with your comments on concept-forming. I found the texts you quoted to be difficult reading - i.e. not very clearly expressed. The one on the relationship of protestantism and capitalism seemed to be drawing a long bow. The other one seemed to be saying good things about the ontology of concepts, but as a translation, I found it wasn't using a very accessible form of logic.

However, you seem to have drawn good conclusions from it, so it may be a problem on my part! I'll go looking for some texts which I find clearer on the philosophy of the mind - or rather of mental processes rather than the mind/brain problem.


10/07/2004 12:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Adorno breathes a different air to us, it seems. Less David Hume and Bertrand Russell, more Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin and G W F Hegel. He sees himself driven by his epistemological critique to an unusual (for us, at least) mode of presentation. Whether or not it's for that reason or another, the translators have until now had a tough time with Negative Dialectics. Thankfully a new translation is, I hear, in the making.

10/09/2004 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...

Hey, great link! Sadly I find myself unable to read more than two or three pages of non-printed text, especially on glorious sunny days like it happens to be today. I have made a mental note to try to follow up on this, because it looks very like something I've been reading called Critical Mass by Phillip Ball. It is less of a philosophical work that a broadly statistical one, but it is a good introduction into how society can behave, how sudden changes propagate through social systems etc. So this Adorno stuff is definately of interest. I need something I can read on the train however! :)

10/10/2004 12:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Nonymous said...

There used to be a philosophy radio program associated with La Trobe in Melbourne (I believe the author of this blog appeared on that show!), and the topic one week was philosophy of film. It was observed that there's different ways you can relate "philosophy" and "film". For instance, there's films about philosophy (like "Derrida", "Wittgenstein"), there's films that explore philosophical ideas ("Matrix", "Ghost in the Machine"), there's aesthetics of films and studies of how and what film communicates, there's much to say about the role of film in societies and cultures, and there's phenomenological musings on the nature of film and the experience of them.

Well, I suspect similar concerns could be transferred to philosophy and blogging. So you could speak about the aesthetics of blogging, the cultural role of blogging, etc.

Such an investigation might be connected with a discussion of the differing formats that philosophy has taken over history -- Socratic dialogues, Lucretius's poem, Aurelius's meditations, Cicero's letters, Montaigne's essays, Spinoza's "geometrical" writing, Pascal's fragments, Sartre's novels, and the contemporary academic book or refereed journal paper.

It's even arguable that the blog is the modern descendant of the aphorism, practised by people like La Rochefoucauld, Nietzsche, Goethe, Wittgenstein, Walter Benjamin, Kafka, Lichtenberg, Kraus...

3/21/2010 12:35:00 PM  

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