I cannot deny the irony in posting this bit of writing on a blog, though I am somewhat critical of the blogosphere I am also inclined to think positively towards its power in redefining our thinking in the 21C. This essay was based on an assignment that asked us to emulate Barthes as he tackles material culture in Mythologies. This is about the blog’s incredible hold on twenty-first century imagination. Consider this as almost a curious ode to a powerful artifact of our time.
The Work of the Blog
A form of communication, the blog is a believed symbol of free public space. As an oscillating combination of text, images, and media it functions as interactive commentary within an external network. It gives a political voice to the individual user, constituted by the desire to reveal experience. Belonging to a horizon not yet fully known, it hovers in a fetishized space, one that is part of the mystical fiction of pure uncontested democracy. A fiction held true by the powerful schizophrenic nature of a web of digitalized information deemed ‘accessible’ to all. The ideology of constant and open communication has us praising it as the apogee of the First Amendment, for we believe we are granted emancipation in the discursive space of the web.
No longer confined to the inert materials of everyday scenes, political voice is amplified through active virtual space. The form of this supposed democratic platform is absent of defined walls. It is imagined to grow simultaneously, while remaining contained within the hardware of a computer; systematically pumped with verbiage. Through a screen, its visible interface adopts numerous looks from the fading material world: a journal, photo album, book. The exact locale of its expression is unknown, lost in a labyrinth of code and displaced origins amongst a sea of reveries; however, its location in some imagined space is of no immediate interest. For the blog tantalizes us by inviting acts of democracy formerly felt restricted.
An abstract depository for the mind; the blog provides storage and access of data. The political economy extends itself to a remote database server, belonging to a shared network called ‘the web’, which transmutes our experience for us. Finally, the private interior space becomes a network open to the public. Coming closer to our eventual transformation to cyborgs, our psychological interiority is displaced by the psychology of open connected networks. Consequently, the inner is indiscriminately made outer unfettered by those debilitating human emotions. In this evolutionary unfolding the human mind is an accessible cross-fertilization of global ideas, with expression no longer limited by the sober decorum of social contracts. Globally synchronized networks mimic the combinatorial possibilities of the atom and the electron. At any desired time, the user produces narrative, tracks her readers, links to friends’ blogs, invites comments, all by the external commands of clicking and typing. Manipulation of discourse, now accepted, grants the ability to self-imagine and reconfigure society against the sovereign of History. Playing puppeteer with one’s own life has never been more desired; with the death of the Author the human regains power to bring into being the ideal self, however fictional.
Further contributing to the ‘desacrilization of the Author’, the blog transfigures authors out of the Author. In vain the blog writer believes herself transformed into Author as she partakes in self-making, yet merely is filling an empty role. Hands incessantly press down on the keyboard in an act of performance. In the century of the Image the blog writer wishes to create, but is in fact only translating signs drawn from a library of images. Signs, which are no longer read with an Enlightenment sentiment, are clouded with an immense sense of cultural and ideological mixing in a diasporic public realm, produce multiple translations. Faced with the complicated images of our world, the blog writer desperately seeks to identify herself, yet in the blog space she is never truly Author only reader. As she ‘cuts’, ‘crops’, and ‘pastes’ she is not creating anything new, but using the functions of a computer to read herself in the present.
Modernity requires instant gratification in its transitory moments. The attraction to the blog is its ability to validate a thing through an instantaneous state of presence in the present. Computer computation retrieves clusters of content from a serving database, in a matter of seconds. Identification of the self is then contingent on the materialization of this content through a reflecting screen. Though sincere in what she claims to do, the blogger gives no thought onto the present configuration. What sudden panic besets us when our wired saviors ‘crash’ and turn mute. We are confident the desired freedom prize is floating in this alternate dreamy world, yet it is kept distant from us and only visible through a designed screen. The debauching hardware and systems required for its use, belies the claim to freedom. The computer screen becomes the window into a fantastical world strictly kept leveled, intertwined among moderating systems.
Cultural institutions have helped to ensure the free-for-all myth. Conveying an image of decentralization, chaos, bottom-up creativity is in fact, however still bound by its Domain Name Servers and IP Addresses, which are run by the centralized mechanisms of corporations. Without any necessary understanding of its devices, the ‘cloud’ tantalizes us with its impalpability in delivering a service. Institutions maintain its dynamics made possible by thousands of hidden fiber optic cables running across the world. Keeping information flowing across wide expanses of area does in fact, require tangible transfers. Still, its physicality is of minimal concern in comparison to the chimerical world of its merit. The more beautiful the world imagined by the encouraged human has produced an ambiguous world kept in check by powers of systems and hardware. The play of self-imagining, an extended voice, and value of shared ideas though liberating, are never independent of a network and its chargers.