I may have mentioned my tendency to be a curmudgeon (one of my favorite occupations, right after raconteur). A healthy dose of skepticism helps counter-balance the breezy optimism of product-creators I encounter in my work.
That said, I try to be open to change. So for instance, at first I thought some of the slang (OMG, BFF, etc.) associated with instant messaging was stupid, but over time have found myself beginning to use it.
I’ve been known to rail against linguistic excess: my fight against use of “impact” and its over-eager pal, “impact on” as verbs is one example. At the same time I’m not one of those people who feel the English language is being ruined by the introduction of various new words and phrases.
So having said that (and that), I was thinking about the possible impact of blogging on our ability to form and communicate nuanced thoughts (hell, even complete thoughts!). I had seen a newspaper article saying that text messaging abbreviations are making their way into more formal types of communication, such as school essays. It got me thinking about whether something similar would happen to written discourse as a result of blogging (speaking of new terms).
Blogging is fast--nearly immediate, depending on the habits of the person writing--but is it thoughtful? At the Twitter extreme, if all I’m saying is “I just finished peeling an orange” than don’t hold your breath for my thoughts on climate change. But the other end of this continuum are traditional forms of written communication--essays, opinion pieces (other than "you suck"), books, theses--which can be rich in meaning.
I’ve always enjoyed writing for the discipline it requires: you can’t get away with half-formed thoughts in Word, the way you can in PowerPoint. We gather thoughts, structure them into larger levels of meaning, expand upon them, and so on. What we hope to produce is a nicely written, well-structured set of thoughts. If you've ever used the outlining feature in Word, or developed a "mind-map", you know what I'm talking about.
Writing that expresses complete thoughts is great, but timeliness is important, too. Anyone who’s read my Christmas newsletters knows that the process of this “construction” can sometimes take a long (long, long) time, resulting in newsletters that arrive sometime around Valentine's Day if they arrive at all (watch for The Unpublished Letters on this blog, coming soon. Or not.)
In the hyperbolically current milieu of the Internet, immediacy counts for a lot. People who write blogs for a living have talked about the burnout they suffer, given the pressure they’re under to produce something interesting to say at least once a day, if not more often. Does this mean the end of essays, journal articles, and such types of communication?
Of course not, don't be ridiculous. It just means that there's a lot more material being published. Some of it is great, some of it is dreck. As for how the blogging phenomenon affects me, I’ve got my work cut out for me. I don’t want this thing to become the electronic version of the journal I had to keep in Eighth-grade English—the one where entries deteriorated to “today nothing happened”. But I also don’t want to go so long between posts. So we’ll see if I can find interesting stuff to talk about without going for weeks without saying something, and without feeling like I’ve contributed to the ruination of our ability to express ourselves in complete thoughts.