blogging and the law of conservation of truth

[from south by southwest]

it will happen some time today, or in the next few days, during an interactive session at this year’s south by southwest festival in austin. someone will blog about blogging about blogging, and the blogosphere will become self-aware.

it’s inevitable.

i know i’m going over the top here, and this will get a little out of hand, but bear with me. i think i’m pretty safe; i know there’s only four people that read this site, and three of them are here with me. it’s self-indulgent, i know, but nobody else will indulge me.

yes, here i am in austin, surrounded on all sides, like buzzing insects desperate with the smell of blood in the air, by bloggers. everywhere, the tapping of keyboard, the clicking and clicking and on and on, incessant sussuration, clicking of fingers on keys, trying to keep up with the words in the air, ideas flowing past. like wounded antelope, limping behind the herd, laptops and wireless connections sing as the samizdat content flickers into being, racing with irrelevance.

[note: the malcolm gladwell keynote, and a couple of other sessions of particular interest, was thankfully quiet. people were paying attention instead of blogging, or taking notes. laptops were idle, or in bags instead of laps. it was nice.]

each of these numb and nodding regurgitators seek to become illuminated, elevated, insightful by shining their feeble lights upon the blinding insights of others, and basking in the collected, reflected glow. as if by simply repeating the words of the masters, they will gain wisdom. monks, scratching with quill on vellum, not creating, but duplicating the words of the prophets.

feeding the beast.

certainly there are many bloggers who are creating insight. collecting new and fresh ideas. and there are more who are cross pollenating, creating new memes from the old, nurturing the next generation, the mutations, instead of just masturbating. the remixers and hackers. the wonkettes and zeldmans and gillmors. they are here, certainly, but keeping on the fringes. or they are the ones clicking through keynote presentations, sharing that insight with us, becoming the center around which more and more every day begin to orbit. the vast orbiting hordes regurgitating the ideas of these better minds, propagating the memes but not adding anything new to the pool.

and it is these masses upon whom the beast will fall when it awakens. blogging about blogging about blogging about blogging, on and on, in infinite recursion. the blogosphere will soon become self aware, self-motivated and deadly. time and keystrokes and mouseclicks will never sustain it for long, it must seek blood to survive. we talk about the new journalism, the new free and independent press, emerging from babel, the fallen tower, the collapsed bubble. we are here, or so we tell ourselves and anyone who will listen, not to make money from this thing we have created, this new medium of communication, but to enlighten the world. we share truth where we find it, not bound by tradition, convention, politics or borders.

but there is only so much truth to be found, to be shared. the appetites of the beast we’ve built will soon demand that we create truth, that we no longer enumerate and calculate and catalog trends, but make them. so far, all we’ve created is value, and mostly false value at that. the connections and affinities between people and information don’t ccreate anything new, but only revalue what already exists. real change, real insights, real innovations will come, are already emerging, from this network we’ve created, but not from the current model. the random firing of neurons is shaping into thoughts, dreams, self-awareness. from inside, though, it’s hard to see.

up to this point, the blogosphere has sustained itself on the youth and keystrokes of its enslaved component cells, craving content like oxygen. it’s like recycled air, though, and one can only last so long by feeding where it shits. every day, though, more and more of the insects around me, buzzing and fluttering, make their way to the maw of the beast, there to be consumed by it, to feed it forever.

and the beast’s mouth is already full, choking on its own tail. soon it will find a taste for something all together new.

and here i sit, in what has become, if only temporarily, the geographic center of the blogosphere, pounding away in my own feeble way, feeding the beast. but i have so far refrained from posting, or indeed typing at all, during a panel discussion or keynote presenter. it’s rude, for one. i also find it painfully difficult to listen and type at the same time. i think i’m the only one in the room with pen and paper instead of a powerbook, humming and clicking. taking notes with scribble and scrawl, and paying attention instead of racing to keep up with the presenter’s slides, flailing to key in the cliff’s notes version of his manifesto, trying to distill genius into soundbites, to spew onto the internet with a hundred other, nearly identical accounts.

as such, it seems we’ve inadvertently created (or maybe deliberately, but nobody asked me) a bittorrent of ideas – the more popular, the more accessible. in the previous model web, one site might contain the kernel of a new idea, a new paradigm, but never be found by, or exposed to the masses. the author’s peers, cronies on IRC, or personal mailing list might share and disseminate and shape the idea, it would never get very far. the truly innovative, paradigm shifters would find their way out, but for the most part, even just a few years ago, ideas moved slowly, relative to today. now that everyone and their mother has a blog, and reads a hundred others’ every day, a good idea spreads like an infection, from one peer group and clique to another, gaining momentum if little else. a good idea, one whose time has come, or a the best handcrafted speculation and outright lie, is put in front of the hungry eyes of millions while it’s still timely. the process still hasn’t created its own truth, or been the genesis of world-shattering ideas, but it has fostered them, spread them, shaped them. moses still has to come down from the mountain, but now the israelites have IM and movable type.

but there’s a downside to all this. unpopular ideas, or ones whose audience isn’t plugged in and turned on, languish, unseen as before, but worse: drowned out by the reverberations and regurgitation of the seething blogger masses, the appealing but irrelevant lies, damned lies and statistics. the wild-eyed madmen, the tinkerers and hackers, are still plodding along quietly in their garages, blowing the minds of their dozen peers and cronies, the ones that understand the semantics and context, but don’t care about publicity.

there is a law of conservation of information (or truth) in place. it can be shared, moved around, understood, but not created or destroyed. there’s more information in the world today than yesterday, certainly; objective truth gets created at a constant rate. it seems there’s a lot more out there than can be accounted for by the slow excretion of creation, but the fact is that the smallest quanta of information are being vomited up on the internet as insightful, informative, or +5 funny. the current process is creating subjective value from objective reality, arbitrarily promoting and evolving the ideas that already have legs of their own.

i look forward to what’s to come. bloggers are killing the internet as we know it (and by we, i mean the oldsters like myself – more on that later) but something new and truly exciting will soon emerge from the corpse.

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