Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Derrida, Blogging, Running Water

The Slog has a great post about one of Derrida's last interviews, where the philosopher and writer expressed worry that his work would not continue after his death. Charles Mudede, the author of the post, compared Derrida's worry to blogging:

I blog, I go away, I die: It is impossible to escape this structure in our post-newspaper, post-book age.

True, there’s more death in a blog than in a book, but it still has its beauty: Blogging is like writing on running water.
True, blogging is a bit like writing on running water. Blogs are fluid things, because you can (and I do) go back in, tinker with things you've written before, even if it is just correcting a typographical error or fixing a link that doesn't work.

But even so, perhaps a more appropriate metaphor is that blogging is like dropping rocks with words painted or carved into them into a fast-flowing stream that empties into a lake. As quickly as information flows through the "blogosphere," it does go somewhere, and even though I can change old posts there are programs that have captured what I wrote the first time, even if it's blogger's database or a Wayback Machine crawler. Nothing you write online will ever permanently disappear.

And yet, it will. If the planet were pounded by strong enough solar flares tomorrow, there is a chance that the event could theoretically wipe out enough technology to make this blog and many others irretrievable. If civilization started to collapse and in a thousand years computers were just coming back, it's unlikely that any of the Internet as we know it would survive.

This is the rub of push-button publishing: we're creating a permanent but non-permanent record of our civilization. We're more culturally attuned to each other than ever before, but unless archaeologists thousands of years from now are using Windows XP, a good deal of our cultural knowledge stands to be lost.

I don't know how I feel about that.

1 comment:

Roger said...

By the way, I sent you the complete article from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Also, you might want to check out this URL for an entire issue on academic blogging, if you are interested...