Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Blogs as Junk Food?

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jun 23, 2006

Originally posted on Half an Hour, June 23, 2006.

Responding to Miguel Guhlin

Hm. I'm not sure any magazine or newspaper writer would be on safe ground referring to blogs as junk food. There was more content, for example, in this post just read than in almost any magazine or newspaper article. It was probably written at a higher level of literacy, as well. And it was almost certainly more intellectually honest.

And don't even get me started comparing television news and newsmagazines with blog content.

Really, the only comparisons in which a blog comes out more poorly is with the academic journal (at least some of them, not necessarily all of them) and books (ditto). These formats allow for longer and more intensive treatment of a subject than a blog post.

Though I would say that if you took a set of blogs in totality that the depth and nuance matches that of even these more traditional media. Though we are tempted to compare individual blog posts with individual articles, or individual blogs with individual books, blogs are not structured in that way and should not be viewed in isolation.

A *blogosphere* - and not a single blog - provides coverage of a field or topic. A collection of posts from a number of writers, linked and intertwined (like a conversation) constitute the reportage. Each post is like a single sentence, a single word, even, in a larger story, told from one point of view, illustrating one thing. And just as we would not evaluate Moby Dick based only on the sentence "Call me Ismael" so also we should evaluate blog coverage of a topic by looking at only one post.

So - blogs as junk food? Hardly. Each blog post is more like a single grape, a cracker, a bite of meat, a carrot. Individually they may look like nothing more than light snackables. But together they make a meal.

The traditional press, by contrast, is like more and more of the same thing. And while it may look like a meal, it's more like trying to live on only one type of food - and no matter how good that food, there's always something missing. More of the same doesn't equal more.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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