Saturday, January 09, 2016

Gottlieb, Althouse, and Blogging

Over on Facebook, Annie Gottlieb recently became sentimental about the old days of blogging...all the way back in 2004:

Today I found myself nostalgic for the early days of blogging as if it was some leisurely, pastoral 19th-century...
Posted by Annie Gottlieb on Thursday, January 7, 2016

I was in the thick of blogging back then as well and remember it as a heady time when we thought that ordinary people--though Gottlieb is no ordinary person, she's a published author--could get our thoughts out into public view and engage in public dialog about issues that we thought were important or just engage in silliness that "the blogosphere" might find interesting.

And, as Gottlieb points out, in the days before Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and even the now nearly-forgotten MySpace, there were thousands of people writing blogs, commenting on blogs, and interacting with blogs in an interesting way. A recovering alcoholic told me that a piece I'd written had caused him to go to worship at a church for the first time in his life. An expert on German culture told me how insightfully I'd written on German ambivalence about a national ad campaign that encouraged patriotic pride. A political journalist complimented a piece I'd written on the 2008 presidential campaign. The New York Times linked to a piece I wrote on the gnostic gospel of James. In the process, I virtually "met" a lot of interesting people. Gottlieb, for one. But others as well. As I say, heady stuff.

As Gottlieb posted on Facebook, that was all short-lived. Social media came along and many of us in the blogosphere drifted to it. But few of the posts that appear on social media today--including cat videos--are as interesting as the thoughtful, interesting, passionate, or funny blogging being done in those days by people like Mark D. Roberts, Richard L. Cohen, Danny Miller, Charlie LeHardy, Alex M. Jordan, Tamar Jacobson, John Schroeder, and others.

Several bloggers have weathered the changes wrought by social media and the usurpation of the blogosphere by name brands. One who stands out to me, though I don't always agree with what she says, is Ann Althouse, law professor at the University of Wisconsin, who, by the way, met her husband through her blog, a guy who, when their face-to-face "courting" began, lived about five miles from where we were living in Clermont County, Ohio. In a comment on Gottlieb's Facebook post, I wrote:
...Ann Althouse seemed to "get" blogging from the beginning. She's...a quick study with a wonderful wit. She writes well. And she's thick-skinned. I still read her blog occasionally and clearly, she has a loyal readership.
When I say that Althouse "got" blogging (and did so in ways that others, including me, didn't), I mean that she seemed to see it as a kind of performance art, the perfect venue for her rapid and often unique observations of reality, the news, and politics. (Though her politics don't easily fall into red or blue categories.) She understood that the blogger could entertain and provoke, but with humor. The blog became an outlet for the kinds of observations two friends might make to each other about the latest headline, a piece of art, a place in a park or a coffee shop, or, and this is something that horrifies Althouse, a man wearing short pants.Althouse's blog is still enormously popular, her many daily posts eliciting lots of comments and dialog. Often, Althouse's posts are cultural or semiotic observations.

Gottlieb responded to my observation:'re right, Ann figured it out and is one of the survivors. (I met most if not all of my blogfriends in her comments section—you included, I think!)
Yes, me included. And interesting people like Gottlieb are part of why I still blog. I still hope to keep finding them and to interact and dialog with them in respectful, and more long-form, ways about the most important ideas and values in our lives.

No comments: