Blogito ergo, huh?


MiniMediaGuy: Something to say, or just the need to say something? 

This blog debuted in January 2005 with a purpose in mind: to organize media producers into legal cooperatives to help them get better pay for creating content just as farmers have banded together to sell fruits, nuts and grains.

Alas, this idea has gathered no support. The Knight 21st Century Challenge and J-Lab, have rejected my pleas for grants. That is not surprising nor discouraging given how many apply relative to those few who are chosen. More demoralizing is the absence of attention to postings in which I have outlined the potential benefits of a media producers’ coop: group health insurance; a forum to meet collaborators; and an agent to negotiate better terms for independent media makers. (Here is a link to the first of three postings on that idea.)

So lately I’ve begun to wonder: Why have I spent roughly 90 minutes per workday writing upwards of 700 postings over the last three years?

It ain’t for the traffic. Awstats, the statistical package that comes with my WordPress installation, counted just under 105,000 unique visitors to in 2007. While that’s roughly double the 50,036 visitors recorded in 2006, I’d have to draw 100,000 uniques per month to generate commerically meaningful traffic.

It also ain’t for the conversation, which is the mythic goal of blogging. WordPress has counted 310 comments over the last two years — versus 82,253 spams that were blocked by the filtering program, Askimet. That signal-to-noise ratio suggests that is little more than a convenient place from which to advertise unwanted crap.

So why persist? Well, it must be obvious that I am stubborn to the point of contrariness and also posessed of a foolish pride that imagines I can both discern things not obvious to others and then persuade them to adopt, or consider, my views.  Given the aforementioned mathematical evidence it could be argued that I am also delusional.

I see in a nobler light. I love to write.  Like the bus driver who takes car trips on weekends, I spend my spare time doing what I get paid to do at my day job. I find facts, discover patterns and link ideas in amusing or logical ways. What greater satisfaction is possible for a human being than to write?  Not eating. Not running a marathon. Not even hot sweaty sex. Those are animal pleasures. As humans we should set the bar higher. We should exercise that trait which makes us unique. Cogito ergo sum. More than four centuries have passed since Descartes coined that phrase but the truth remains. We think therefore we are. Writing is thought given shape. We are the first humans to have the ability to share our thoughts so effortlessly and easily on a global scale. To me the real question is why are there only 50 million bloggers when there are a billion people with Internet access? What is preventing the rest of the race from demonstrating their humanness in this simple way?

Of course I may hold writing in too high an esteem. The economy seems to be devaluing paid prose. Why pay when someone, somewhere, will post the content for free? Even my philosophical pretensions are undermined by writers of greater accomplishment. In his 1946 essay, “Why I Write,” George Orwell said “for all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention.”

I think better of my efforts. I imagine myself among the cohort that is changing the world. Thousands upon millions of bloggers have begun to take media into their own hands. They’re learning how to uncover facts, correct falsehoods, tell stories and create communities for change. This gradual expansion of media power has the potential to extend democracy. I say potential because I do not believe in inevitability. Most people use the Internet as a gigantic juke box or vending machine. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that Web will mutate the couch potato into the two-legged sloth that gets its amusements not from the stationary television but from the mobile phone.

Nevertheless for stubbornness if nothing else I continue to believe that contributes to some higher purpose. And when I am bitten by doubt – such as now, with little to show for three years of effort– what worries me inot Orwell’s baby remark. To me childishness is quitting the hike just because you can’t see over the hill. Instead, my worries revolve around something my dad used to say when I was a boy.

“Thomas,” he would tell me, “There are some people who have something to say, and some people who have to say something.”

And now he is dead and I don’t know whether he would consider me one of the former, or the latter or, more likely, a bit of both.