You're Talking a Lot, But You're Not Saying Anything

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How does commentary affect the world around us?

More Notes on Zero Comments: Community Power

What I found most interesting and troubling about Geert Lovink’s Zero Comments was probably its near-complete lack of emphasis on actual commentary (guess the “zero” in the title should have tipped me off?). The book talks a lot about the concept of online communities and the capabilities of blogs, but often stops short of analyzing specific commentary. Still, the work contains valuable observations about the power of online communities and the potential for their future applications.

My previous post touched on the power of blogging to poke holes in the existing media hegemony. At the same time, though, Lovink proposes that blogging is a deeply cynical endeavor, perhaps because of its strange dual status as a revolutionary force and a representative of the (online) establishment. In Lovink’s words, “blogging and social networks have become the hegemonic modes of internet use.” From the perspective of anyone entrenched in an online community, blogging is no longer revolutionary. Businesses are blogging, government agencies are blogging–heck, your mom might be on Facebook. Compared to the entrenched print media, online media is still new, but compared to the speed of technology, blogging is old. It’s the establishment.

So, Lovink says, with this dual identity comes a form of cynicism bordering on nihilism. We’ve come to take our online freedom for granted, and as such use it in too-trivial ways. “Blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self,” Lovink asserts, and in so doing perhaps they separate the self from the community of larger ideas that are present–indeed, enabled–by online publishing and interaction.

What’s the next step, then? I’d venture it’s the use of commentary and online interaction to remove blogs from the shackles of selfdom and place them in a larger context. Lovink quotes Axel Bruns as saying, “I blog, therefore I watch.” Perhaps, now, we need people to say “I comment, therefore I create change.” There’s already so much content online that we don’t need to create more, we need to make better use of what we have, to connect people with the information they seek and, more importantly, with other people seeking–or even producing–that information. Commentary and community are the tools to do this, and to undermine the individualized cynicism of the lurker online.

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Filed under: Commentary, Content

One Response

  1. […] out there than anyone can manage to process correctly, comfortably, or competently. I suggested previously that comment-based community might be the answer to the excess of emails and ideas: only with the […]

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