Wednesday, November 29, 2006

History lesson - circa 2050

(Words in italics appear in the glossary under 'REDUNDANT TERMS'.)

In the early part of the 21st Century, newspapers (printed with ink on paper) still existed. Although some recycled materials were used, the environmental costs associated with their production and distribution were astronomical.

An even greater threat to their survival were the inherent delays. A morning paper could, by its very nature, not include up-to-date reports of unfolding news. With the internet able to report events as they were taking place, the news in papers was no longer new enough.

Features and reviews, previously penned by professionals accustomed to dictating public taste, were far from immune to the changing face of journalism. Anyone with access to a computer and internet connection (in those days the computer was a large box that needed to be plugged into a phone line with wires) was able to publish information and express opinions and make them available across the globe at the press of a button on a keyboard.

The advent of weblogs, known as blogs, hastened the demise of traditional roles within journalism. Bloggers could publish posts on any subject and others could comment on the issues raised in a form of collectively-owned interactive debate.

Many in the industry embraced the inevitable changes and adapted. Others, terrified by the unregulated (and interactive) nature of the World Wide Web prophesied falling standards and anarchy. (See here and here.)

It was no surprise that many of those who had previously enjoyed a heightened status as the sole repository of access to information and opinion felt threatened. Some worked hard to undermine the importance of blogging, provoking much debate. (See here and here . For some of the responses, see here and here and here and here. ) At this time people still believed that if someone was paid to do something like write a review, this exchange of money was in itself a guarantee of quality. The amateurs of the blogosphere argued that, as they were not accountable to bosses or advertisers, their contributions were more likely to be honest.

Within the blogosphere as well, sparks flew as the bloggers strove to identify the parameters within which they operated. This led to some unpleasant spats. One blogger, for example, when debating the independance and integrity of online reviewers, was denounced as a nitwit and a slattern!

The power of the blogosphere was such, however, that newspapers soon became extinct, with the majority of people preferring to have a diversity of sources for their information. Although there were inevitably many blogs of limited interest or dubious content, people felt able to make informed choices as to whom they trusted.

New communities of like-minded individuals sprang up, whose members were able to reach out and speak directly with one another for the first time. They dealt with rogue elements (see the comments here) in a show of collective strength and created a world where ordinary people were empowered to combat injustice and bring about radical change, heralding the advent of the brave new world in which we live today.

31 comments:

Minx said...

Smart words Ms Alper. Glad to be a part of history - so to speak!

Sharon J (with no visible URL) said...

I've been part of online communities for about 15 years, from before the Internet became part of our lives. We had BBSs back then (Bulletin Board Systems) which had 'conferences' much like modern day forums (although not the same) and I made many 'real world' friends through them, some of whom I'm still in contact with today. Obviously, they didn't have the same impact that blogging has today but it was undoubtedly the start of all this and it's been interesting, to say the least, to see how different forms of communication and communities have evolved from those humble beginnings to what we have today.

Power to the people! (as Citizen Smith would have said).

Debi said...

Minx - we ain't part of history yet, babe. We're making it though - so we'd better watch our step!

Sharon - thanks for the wider historical context. BTW, interesting name you have there! I've heard of hyphens, but never brackets.

DBA Lehane said...

Lest we forget that in the year 2050 there will still be a requirement for tradtional newsprint papers when the cybergentic self-cleansing toilet-pod breaks down. Personally, I have obtained great personal satisfaction in the past of "wiping" the smile off of some smug, grinning broadsheet columnist. That and fish n chips, whatever else do we need traditional newspapers for?

Verilion said...

You know I do like traditional newspapers and the supplement on a Sunday morning, but boy oh boy am I glad to be reconnected. Stealing the words of a mighty mature eighteen year old, 'it's a connection with the world' and you just don't get that through a newspaper.
Loved the fictional take on the debate Debi.

Steerforth said...

Blogophile that I am, I don't think that anything on the internet is a patch on the Independent.

My view of the situation in Iraq is dependent on a mixture of sources: bloggers like Baghdad Burning and journalists like the superb Robert Fisk.

I think the whole bloggers vs journalists debate is unnecessary. Both sides seem to be digging in, preparing for a long war. Surely there is room for both?

I can see why some people have become quite hysterical about bloggers. As a bookseller I hate vanity publishers and I think that many journalists think that blogging is no better than self-publishing. But the reality is quite different. Most of the blogs I've come across are written by highly intelligent people who are passionate about their subject and have no agenda. I thought Rachel Cooke's dismissive approach to Dovegreyreader was quite unjustified.

(At this point I am beginning to realise that I am contradicting myself. Sorry, I had a hard day at work and I have had three glasses of wine in rapid succession which have compromised my cognitive abilities)

So in conclusion (yes, there is a point somewhere) I want bloggism and newspapers. The loss of either would be a tragedy.

skint writer said...

Great post Debi, presented in a lovely humorous way and of a nice addition to the debate

DBA Lehane said...

Ouch, if there is one phrase I particularly hate it's "vanity publishing". Only in the patronising world of literary types would the notion of going it alone be sneered upon with such gusto. In the commercial world going it alone is seen as entrepreneurial spirit and is commended. I trust our bookseller friend is not a "vanity employer" with his own business, that really would be hypocrisy of the highest order. The facts are that more and more authors are choosing to self-publish, more and more people are blogging...those literary dinosaurs are trembling in their antiquated wellingtons as the literary punk revolution gathers pace. Never mind the bollocks, indeed!

Doris Dayle said...

I once sneered at 'vanity publishing', probably still do in its strict definition.

However, when it comes to 'self-publishing', I have changed my beliefs somewhat. I have bought quite a few self-published novels that I've come across on the Internet and only one left me disappointed. I only wish the ratio of disappointment from mainstream publishers was the same.

Steerforth said...

Re: vanity publishing, or self publishing if you prefer, I'm not saying that all books in this category are crap, but they are usually extremely difficult to sell.

I struggle to sell novels by mainstream publishers which are backed by a six-figure marketing spend, so when I get a self-published author tell me in no uncertain terms that I should stock at least six copies of their book because its very good, I feel less than sympathetic.

I disagree that 'only in the world of patronising literary types would the notion of going it alone be sneered upon with such gusto.' I can think of plenty of other people who would have reservations, purely for commercial reasons.

Self-publishing works really well in the case of local books, but as far as fiction and poetry are concerned, you can forget it unless you are exceptionally good at marketing and have the time and money to do it.

By the way, what is a 'vanity employer'?

Elizabeth Baines said...

Very clever, Debi, and a great summing-up!

Steerforth said...

Apologies for my earlier rants. I've just re-read them and they come across as if they've been ghostwritten by Ian Paisley.

Peter said...

No discussion I've read has mentioned one advantage blog book reviewing has over traditional reviews: We bloggers are under no pressure to review the newest and the latest.

It's long been a commonplace that mass media as practiced in the twentieh century enabled a telescoping of past and present. I take more delight in discussing (relatively) little-known Australian comic crime novels and American 1940s pulp stories on my blog than I would reviewing the latest hardback titles for a newspaper. Of course, I make no money doing it, which is one area where the new media have yet to catch up to the old.

===================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder is More Fun Away from Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Marie said...

Well said, Debi. Nice to know that we're making history. Don't think I'll be around in 2050 though.

Cailleach said...

Interesting post, taking the forward looking point of view!

DBA Lehane, you forgot about the page three aspect of the tabloids, which I suppose have been superceded by the veritable avalanche of porn on the internet... leaving the question then as, well what will those papers be useful for.

Maybe at a future stage newspapers and mags will no longer be a staple at all because we'll all be carrying around mini-laptops that we can read these things on (hell, aren't some people doing that anyway?) and trees will be protected as the 'lungs of the world' because of over-logging, like fish being over-fished...

Cailleach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cailleach said...

Links don't seem to work right for me here try again:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6191988.stm
via Edward Champion:
http://www.edrants.com/?p=4998

Atyllah said...

Excellent and witty post, Debi on a fascinating, heated and highly emotive topic. Really well-handled. Well done!

Sharon J said...

Shall we all arrange to meet up in 2050 and compare notes of how blogging changed our worlds?

Debi said...

Thanks all. The debate continues - and that can only be good ...

Verilion - great to see you back! I was beginning to think the wild things had got you!

Steerforth, Lehane, Peter and Cailleach - welcome here. I've seen you all lurking on the periphery of my vision for ages and will now add you to my links - my blogroll is gonna be not-so-soft, but definitely strong and VERY long!

Doris Dayle - for some reason I could get to your profile but not your blog.

The discussion about self-publishing (quite different from so-called 'vanity' publishing) is huge and should have it's own post. I'll try to get round to this, but currently burrowing through mountains of other life stuff.

Cailleach - thanks for the links. They work if you copy and paste.

Debi said...

Good idea, Sharon. Except don't forget first we're meeting up on 9th Dec!

Peter said...

Steerforth, far from sounding like a front for Ian Paisley, your posts are rather calm and understated -- refreshingly free of the breathless self-promotion and triumphalism of those giddy folks who think the Internet will save the world.

Of course there is room for bloggers and traditional journalists; I am both and will continue to be both even if my newspaper's owners persist in their provocations and push my union out on strike in eleven hours, twenty-seven minutes.

Yes, blogging and newspapers can co-exist; there is more than enough bad, bland, semi-literate writing for both.

The last independently produced and distributed novel I picked up had an intriguing title in line with the kind of reading I like. My heart sank a bit when I saw that the author was using a name he probably regarded as creative but was really as stale as the 1970s punk attitudes it reflected. It sank further when I saw the author's photo was thoroughly in keeping with the name, but I opened the book anyway. Then I saw he badly misused a word in the first paragraph. I put the book down and left it for readers for whom attitude is all.

Sure, the hyper-cautious bottom-line self-censorship of, say, a Borders, could use an antidote. Sure, letting a hundred flowers bloom may be a good thing. But recognize that 97 of those flowers will smell pretty damned bad or will not be worth the effort it takes to smell them.

========================

Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Peter said...

And thanks for adding me to your blogroll. I've added you to my links list.
===================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder is More Fun Away from Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Kathryn Brown said...

I love blogging but love buying the sunday papers. It's like a tadition with me especially the sunday times with all its free mags. BUT you are right people need to adapt and move on. I will keep buying on sundays though :-) http://hiddenmelmelanieonline.blogspot.com/

Sharon (I hate Blogger) J said...

Don't forget this, don't forget that. Of course I'll remember the 9th! Now I just have to work out a "getting there" plan of action :-)

Debi said...

Hi and welcome here, Kathryn.

I too love the weekend papers - though whole chunks go straight into the recycling ... but I could never do the giant Sudoku on screen ...

Seriously though - I do believe change is inevitable eventually but meanwhile, the more diverse our sources are, the better.

Sharon - did I tell you about this brill event we're holding on the 9th ...?

December 9th said...

Be there or be square!

Confucious Trevaskis said...

Great post Debs - Are we vanity bloggers then?

Of course we are.............

Debi said...

Definitely NOT, Confy. Bear in mind the real meaning of the word 'vanity' - as in 'it's all in vain'.

What we're doing here is definitely not in vain!

WorkingWords100 said...

Here's my opinion on the matter:

http://booksandotherstuff.blogspot.com/2006/12/books-blogging-reviews-vs-print.html

Debi said...

Thanks, WW, and welcome here.

From your post it's clear we're all of the same mind ...