Blogs vs. print

I ran across a bit this morning that sheds some light on our discussion from yesterday about print vs. online writing, particularly blogs. There was some uneasiness expressed in class about the lack of vetting in online publications–that anyone could post under any otherwise-untarnished name, for instance, and claim any kind of authority they want.

Although he doesn’t comment on the authority issue, in his introduction to the Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale U Press), Julian Dibbell points to differences in venue as central to critical reception of writing. He notes that for the edited volume, all of the selections come from print sources–despite the vibrancy and timeliness of blog writing, especially in technology. Borrowing the idea from Clive Thompson, another print-based tech writer, Dibbell says why the selections are still print-centered:

…it is difficult to transplant the best online writing into print with its bloom still intact. Though much maligned as exercises in solipsism, blogs, for instance, are in fact defined by dialogue more than monologue; embedded in a conversational universe of links and comments, they are closer in many ways to what Socrates imagined to be the heart of true knowledge. As such, they do not sit well on the printed page.

I find his (and Thompson’s) assessment spot-on, and important when we think about the contexts for writing and literacy.

Incidentally, Dibbell’s one of my favorite tech writers. Check out more of his work on his website.

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