It is often difficult to explain to people the shifts that are taking place in today’s culture. And, it is easy for people to completely discard things like blogging as a fad, or a vehicle for imprudent exhibitionists.
And yet, as I’ve been blogging for a while now, I realize that there is more to it than that. For instance, I was preparing for the God Complex show the other day, and I printed out my blog post on how we can’t afford an educated clergy. As the papers spewed out, I studied the posts that responded to it, and all the comments. I was surprised that it came up to well over 25 pages. And I mean, well-thought-out pages. Comments and replies coming from professionals of all sorts of denominations.
Perhaps it was just having the stack of paper in my hand that stunned me, but it felt like a magazine. Except that I knew that I would not have been able to get that kind of brain-power together if I had been an editor. I began to wonder if even I have been underestimating the power of the blog.
We have all heard the criticisms before—blogs are narcissistic ramblings of the self-important amateur. Sometimes it’s true. We’ve all ventured onto blogs where the comments are completely outrageous, vacuous, or tedious.
And yet… as I stood holding the pile of substantial and thoughtful conversation, I knew that it had the weight (physical and mental) of a publication. The comments were constructive, moving into different directions, leading people to different studies and streams of thought. There was a continuity to the discussion, that was more organic than an editor’s vision. It was fascinating, reading it in paper form.
Certainly there is an emotional intensity in blogging that people may (or may not) enjoy. There is a personal narrative that may (or may not) be so fascinating. But, I don’t think that I am going to buy the notion that blogging is a medium without depth any longer.
Without the restraints of an editorial board, we are beginning to learn some important things about our institutions and ourselves. We are beginning to hear from people who may have never gotten through the rigors of formal publication, or who may not have had the right connections for the mass-produced, printed word. A different sort of conversation is taking place, as the tired and cliche magazine subjects are being set aside and replaced by problems that people are dealing with on a regular basis. People are reading, and people are listening, and a different sort of thought is igniting.
Traditional publications are floundering right now. I don’t think that they will all go away, but they would be wise if they begin to use blogs as places to farm for new thought, ideas, and talent. It’s easy to tell how hot a topic is through looking at blogs. The comments start to pile up immediately. For publications that need a fresh, new readership, looking at what generates traffic and conversation is a good place to start.
I could even imagine a magazine that used a blog as it’s primary starting point, and invited the people who comment to write articles around the topic.
What do you think is the future of all of this? How comfortable is your church with blogging? Do you see it as a source of important thought, or just a distraction from your real work?