On blogs, Lovink argues that “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”. On this point of “management” Lovink goes further, referring to the “need to structure one’s life, to clear up the mess, to master the immense flow of information”.
Lovink’s point is an interesting one. Why does one neeed to “clear up the mess” and “master the immense flow of information” by using a blog? What is there inherent in blogs which attracts people to use them for such tasks? Are people attracted to blogs to use them for such tasks? I would’ve thought diaries to be a far more useful tool to keep my life in order and give it structure, or even Facebook…
Indeed, Lovink’s argument about blogs is a cynical one. A key reason people use blogs is because they provide an accessible platform from which we can express ourselves. Self-expression and life structure are two completely unrelated human concepts. An example of such expression is seen in the following blog:
As most people lack celebrity, people have historically conducted their self-expression in private in the forms of hobbies, private journals etc. Some went further and joined writing societies, book clubs, started bands etc. But with blogs the ability to promote one’s self-expression is made far easier. People like to promote their self-expression often due to a natural yearning for vindication. It is this desire for vindication which underpins the growing prominence of blogs as a means for self-expression. Indeed, in the blog afore mentioned, this desire for vindication is seen. There is no sense of “clearing up the mess” in it. His photography is exhibited in a virtual gallery and is thus made available to a much wider audience — a wider net can be cast for vindication. Some might point to analysis based blogs such as ones that analyse film, television, politics, music and literature as evidence of this desire to “master the flow of information”. But such blogs are unavoidably couched in subjective opinions and are thus also a manifestation of self-expression.
That said, there is, at least to a certain degree, some merit in Lovink’s claims about structure. These “structure” based arguments are, however, still rooted in this concept of self-expression. What blogs provide is an ability to express one’s self from an accessible platform in an organised and structured way. We can select and edit what we choose to express about ourselves and thus streamline the process of self-expression. Though this sense of structure is no different to how celebrities have expressed themselves throughout history (using art galleries, books, published essays and music manuscripts), blogs grant people this sense of structure and control in an accessible way. The photography blog posted above is an example of this streamlining of the process of self-expression. Though the photographer in question would have used several rolls of film, his blog allows him both a visible platform from which to express himself as well as the ability to select and edit the photos he wishes to publish.
Geert Lovink, Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge, pp 28.