Saturday, January 06, 2007

Making Friends in the Blogosphere

My new effort here has been plugged by Jim Johnson on his wideranging, broadminded, eclectic, and endlessly fascinating blog, "(Notes on) Politics, Theory and Photography." I am indebted to him for doing so and for seeing fit to include me in his copious links, which are a veritable encyclopedia of interesting sites. So far I have also linked up with Sion Touhig's Sionphoto blog, John Loomis's quirkily named Drinking with a Dead Man, Stefan Rohner's Ball-Saal, Velibor Bozovic's Vebahood, Jonathan Auch's the thousand words, Roland Quilici's Miradas, Jeremy Sutton Hibbert's Tokyoland, Wayne Yang's Eight Diagrams, and a few others.

The idea of making friends in cyberspace has always somewhat perplexed me, as I find it odd carrying on sometimes quite penetrating discourses with people whom I have never met face to face. I consider some of these people real friends now. I have gotten used to it since becoming a member of Lightstalkers, but the phenomenon is nonetheless rather odd. Ferdinand Tönnies made a famous distinction between Community (gemeinschaft) and Association (gesellschaft), the former a feature generally of small rural communities connected by blood and the latter a feature of a new abstract type of social organization brought about by capitalism and urbanization -- association through the cash nexus, through the workplace, through bureacratic institutions and so on which are entirely bloodless and potentially alienating or anomistic. When the web came along, I remember that everyone was crowing about the potential community building inherent in the forums that cropped up everywhere, and while I was skeptical about the predictions of a radical redefinition of community, I have to admit that something like that is in the wind. I wouldnt say that the blogosphere or forums like Lightstalkers are genuine communities as defined by Tönnies, but they do seem to straddle the fence between community and association. They are bloodless and abstract, seen from one angle, but almost filial and all too human in their ability to tie one person to the next with the filaments woven by common purpose, curiosity, and passion for ideas. And they have tremendous potential to connect people from all over the world, the political and cultural implications of which have hardly been plumbed.

Networking is no new thing. The circle jerk that defines the networking in Academic parlors is one sort of community building, albeit one that ironically seems to cut the participants off from the rest of the world, as the jargon that serves to dress up one's intellectual bonafides, like medals on an Eisenhower jacket, has succeeded in alienating outsiders who might otherwise have joined in the discussion. But here we have another sort of networking, which, if I understand correctly the thinking behind web 2.0, is inclusive, eclectic, open, and inviting. My hope is that while all we photobloggers are linking to one another and reading one another's weblogs, we succeed not in creating merely a tightknit circle of photo fanatics but a genuinely freewheeling and expansive community of individuals driven by intellectual curiosity and the desire to explore. The existence of photo blogs written by the likes of Jim Johnson, a political theorist, and Joerg Colberg, an astrophysicist, give me hope that indeed we have achieved a valuable eclecticism here.

One thing I can say without a doubt: the fact that I can publish my thoughts at will, rather than having to wait on approval from a desk jockey at some magazine, has made me much more productive and creative. Creativity is a drive every bit as exigent as hunger or sex, but one needs resources to feed it. The web is one such resource, its particular virtue being its ability to entirely sweep away the obstacles that hitherto obtained in the pursuit of mass communication. There are no gatekeepers.

Well, I only hope that as this blog changes and grows it can live up to the example set by the rest of you.

5 comments:

Daniel said...

It's something that takes getting used to. I've been using the web since '94 now and haven't met some of the people from back then, even though i know more about them than most and consider them very good friends.

The Intaweb is weird, but it does bring people closer

Wayne said...

Always great getting an opportunity to read your thoughts, Jon. Congrats on the new blog. And thanks for linking to mine. W

Stefan R. said...

well, it is possible, making new friends in the web. I had very positive experiences. but it can be also very difficult, brains who connected very well in the net could not connect anymore in real life.

Velibor Bozovic said...

it is much easier to approach people on the web, for many. and web friendship is possible but not a guarantee that connection would last in a 'real life'. but, i guess, that's not different than meeting someone in a bar, feeling good about it, than go the next day with the same person to a bookstore and feeling as if you are in a nightmare...

Paulo Fehlauer said...

Hey Jon,
Welcome to the blogosphere! I guess that was a good New Year's resolution! Well, i love blogs for all the reasons people defend them. I call mine a kettle whistle, to let the pressure out...
Just try to keep the pace, read others', and things just happen.
Like I said in the LS forum, good luck!