August 15, 2003

Where-blogs and Place

* Is your weblog a place in itself? How do you locate it in the scheme of things? What kind of map is it on? What's your relationship with your weblog? And with those who visit it?

A weblog is typically considered a means of "self-publication". I often think of mine more as a broadcast from a place. Hitting the "SEND" button to post a daily entry to my weblog brings to mind my early 'radio days'. I would tune in my shortwave to just the right frequency and pick up transmissions of real people-- merchant marines, missionaries or wanderers -- in remote places on the globe. Their listeners could tune receivers just so, pulling the exact radio signals from among thousands of wavelengths, and so maintain a connectedness with their communities on the other side of the world. Now decades later we take for granted that communications-- not only of voices but of images and all manner of digital information-- can move instantaneously to any point on the globe. From any computer desktop in the world, words can be transmitted instantaneously with no more than the modern equivalent of the Smith-Corona electric I used in 1980.

Millions of us are pouring our opinions and reflections, hopes and fears through our fingers and into keyboards and hitting the "Send" button. The transmission is remarkably easy. But tuning in to any one of those countless blog 'broadcasts' is far less likely than my finding the one of a thousand frequencies on my shortwave whose words from world travelers I could understand and that had some particular meaning for me. My weblog now is one of millions of such 'broadcasts', and finding receptive readers who would care to listen still relies for the most part on random chance of Google, or friend of a friend of a friend referrals.

But my weblog emanates from a real and permanent "address"... a term used metaphorically to locate any webpage. Fragments from Floyd comes every day from a literal address-- the same desk in the same green valley of Southwest Virginia. Many blogs' political or technological opinions and fact-streams have no bearing to their location of origin-- which may even change from day to day now that road-posting and hand-held blogging is possible. Other webblogs, fewer in number, could be thought of as "where-blogs". For these bloggers, place is central; and for some, the person and personality behind the keyboard is also integral to the information being transmitted.

Fragments for me is a way to transmit the small wonders of my daily life beyond my own perceptions, past these walls and well beyond the small world I inhabit here; it is a way of self-validation that says "I am still here and here is what makes me smile, reflect, wonder". Readers who come here over a longer period might feel that they know what I see and feel, and even what I smell, see, hear-- from Goose Creek in Floyd County-- and know, in some sense, who I am. I transmit on a weak frequency, as blogging statistics go, and not many folks 'tune in' to my frequency here on the margins of the blogosphere's map. And yet for those who come regularly and intentionally, their 'visits' seem in a way like neighbors-- recognized but mostly not well known-- dropping in for a quick hello. I know about their places too, know who they are when I see their visit records, and I can imagine their desks in their own quiet houses in towns and neighborhoods from which they broadcast. There are elements of community in the links formed by this world of self-publishers, but with great potential yet to be realized as the medium matures. Much is needed yet to facilitate the bringing together of geographic and special-interest clusters of bloggers, creating better ways to find others 'in place' in the increasingly complex and broad world of weblogs.

Meanwhile, somewhere in this burgeoning babel of voices, Fragments tiny beacon is from time to time picked up by a listener dialing across the million frequencies and they stop, tune in, and leave some indication they might come back again someday. And in this, there is the sense that my weblog has become a point on someone else's map of the world of weblogs. The reception of my words and pictures by others in other places has been a means of connecting to a sort of 'real' if largely faceless community. I have set about writing, mostly, to hear the sound of my own words, to make memories, to tell my story to me and my family -- to know what I think by seeing what it is that I will say or images I will show each day. That there are a few interested readers who want to look over my shoulder while I spin these tales and daydreams and foolishness makes the effort seem a bit less self-indulgent and certainly worth the effort.

* Biweekly topic for August 15, 2003 at the Ecotone.

Posted by fred1st at August 15, 2003 04:55 AM | TrackBack

Well put! I find myself at your site with increasing frequency and have even sent maps of your location to friends and family. I feel you are representative of the burgeoning throng of writers who are transforming our ideas of literary communication.

As with most paradigm shifts, by the time it is noticeable and people have started to analyze it and quantify it, it will have kicked off many derivative activities which will generate new businesses. I hope that those of you in the vanguard won't be looking around in bewilderment at all of the money being made by those coming after. Best of luck on your book.


Posted by: David St Lawrence at August 15, 2003 05:52 AM

I'm reading a book called Two Roads to Dodge City, written by a father and son, Englishmen. The father, Nigel Nicholson, knew Virginia Woolf. His mother, Vita Sackville-West, was one of VW's best friends. Both father and son are regularly open-mouthed at our American ability to reduce just about everything to a question of money.

I think Mr. St Lawrence is probably right. Those of us in the vanguard will be blinking slowly as we watch the medium turn into a cash cow. Not that we don't know this about our culture, just that it never ceases to amaze us.

Posted by: trish at August 15, 2003 08:27 AM

I had thought of the analogy to ham radio myself. Another comparison that comes to mind is the CB craze, back in the 70's, which like blogging was more accessible to the average guy than ham radio, which requires a license and some specialized equipment and skills.

Posted by: bill at August 15, 2003 09:16 AM

I enjoyed your entry. Made me think about a song by Van Morrison about the early days of radio and what would and wouldn't have come in without "those - radio - knobs". It is too early to comment on the longer term effect of blogging but it's not too early for bloggers themselves to talk about what it is like for them to blog. If another person says to me "Oh you mean it's keeping a diary online", I'll I-don't-know-what. I think your idea of fragments works well as a description and creates a set of permissions. Once in the public domain, a blog can be a stopping off point for anyone with access. And it is nice to have some filtering in the "babel/babble of voices" - ie those who choose to linger a while. Thanks for the co-founding role you've had in Ecotone, Fred.

Posted by: Coup de Vent at August 15, 2003 12:13 PM

I love the radio analogy. You are after my heart with that one, being that I'm an old radio guy myself.

Posted by: Chris at August 15, 2003 06:18 PM

I guess all of us Hams saw the connection between blogging and hamming. In fact, I extended the connection to consider cell phoning. I grappled for completion to the simile, blogging is to cell phoning as hamming is to...(CBing?)... or as reading is to TV viewing? We humans seem to have a need to communicate (whether we have anything worth saying or no). Fortunately for us readers of Fragments, there's always something worth reading on Fred's site.

Posted by: Cop Car at August 16, 2003 04:05 AM

Fred, I enjoyed reading your entry on weblog as radio signals with various frequencies that bring news from other "desks" anchored in physical rooms scattered across vast georgraphical areas.

And I wanted to thank you for directing me to the Ecotone Wiki.

Posted by: maria at August 17, 2003 02:28 PM

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