Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Barristers and bloggers

Picking up where I just left off ...

Some professions seem fairly immune to technological change. The law is one. As the man said, lawyers find out still litigious men. If automobiles supplant buggies and consign the buggy whip makers to a small niche, chances are everyone involved will want to consult a lawyer sooner or later.

Which brings up a question: In the spectrum from buggy whip makers through blacksmiths, brewers and bakers to lawyers, where do writers fit in? My fond hope is that it's closer to the lawyer end (at least in terms of viability), and I think there's some evidence for that.

The odds seem good that there will continue to be viable business models in which writers get paid, whether it's through advertising, or as part of the production of interactive games and experiences or perhaps some other way. Certainly people still seem interested in text and in scripted entertainment.

And yet the writing game must surely be changing. Consider blogging. That's something radically new and different, right? Well, it depends. Certainly the medium is new, but just how has it changed the game?

For example, this blog, along with many others, is basically a column. The genre has been around for quite a while. The present example owes as much to E. B. White (at least as a model to strive toward) as it does to the pioneers of the web (to whom it also owes much).

What about political bloggers, with their game-changing, king-making deal-breaking influence? Is this a new phenomenon, or is it just political activists -- players in another very old game -- making use of the latest technology? (Let me add that when I say the game is old, I'm not claiming that all political bloggers are working for a particular party. Grass-roots activism has its own long pedigree.)

What about the celebrity and gossip blogs? Again, I'd argue that's an old genre in a new medium, and similarly for music blogs, personal journals and much if not all of the other material I've run across in the blogosphere.

What about the web of reactions among blogs? Surely this is new, could only have happened on the web. Well, no and yes. No, because deliberative exchanges in writing are most likely as old as writing itself. But yes, because the ability to quickly build up such a discussion, and to easily navigate through it later, is new and has a very web-ish flavor.

So what am I trying to say here?
  • Writing as a profession seems to benefit from the web, rather than being marginalized by it.
  • The web offers new media for writing, but the genres are probably largely the same.
  • Web media offer new possibilities but, IMHO, the similarities to old media are at least as significant as the differences.
On that last point, I might liken the situation to 3-D movies vs. traditional ones. Yes, there is a difference, but the basic experiences are more similar than different.

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