[Back by unpopular demand... another installment of my and Darren's backandforth about Circulars. Read below to catch up. I think I get the "content provider of the year" award today -- and this is just the public stuff! I'll be making enemies in my sleep... ;)]
DWH: It’s all to easy too imagine the Marcel Proust blog—Christ, what a nightmare (shades of Monty Python: “Proust in his first post wrote about, wrote about …”). Endless streams of novelistic prose, no matter how incantatory, are *not* what I want to read online. William Gibson, for one, thinks there’s something inimical about blogging to the process of novel-writing. I think that the paragraph-as-“post” is the optimal unit of online composition, and that an optimal online style would be some sort of hybrid of prose poetry and healthy geek cynicism (imagine a Slashdot full of Jeff Derksens). But I think I see your point, that it’s possible for one writer to produce the kind of dialogic multiplicity that could sustain a blog. There is, however, a large difference between “possible” and “likely.” IMO, as less stratospheric talents than the geniuses of high modernism, we stand a better chance of generating strong content collectively. Another model that I find promising is the Haddock Directory -- a site I’ve been reading daily for at least 4 years. Haddock has recently moved to a two-column format: standard blog description-plus-link on the left (maintained by the site’s owner and editor-in-chief, if you will) and entries from the Haddock community blogs, identified by author, on the right. It’s a very neat example of the effective aggregation of data within a particular interest group. And it seems to follow Stein’s dicta “I write for myself and for strangers.”
BKS: I’m still curious about the line “generating strong content”—what do you mean by “content”? My guess is not “writing” as we know it, but some admixture of links, intro paragraphs, pictures, HTML formatting, that creates a dynamic, engaging, and timely space on the screen. “Content” moves from “writing” to the shape one creates by selectively linking to other sites, serving, but also provoking, a “particular interest group.” (I wrote earlier today in a dispute over blogs: “Circulars was a short-term effort (or as short-term as the war) that was a response to what I sensed was, or would be (or hoped to be) a moment of crisis in terms of American self-identification.” Who would have thought, ten years ago, that a group of weblinks and writing could contribute to a crisis in national identity?) Most writers would probably feel demeaned to be referred to as “content managers,” as if all writing were a versioning of some other writing (put it back in your pants, Harold), but, frankly, we’re admitting for a whole lot of plagiarism in this concept of “content.” I think the blog-ring model on haddock.org is strong, since it lets writers tend their gardens, deriving whatever classic satisfactions one gets from writing, and yet contribute unwittingly to a larger collective. I agree: some “types” of writing just work better online—claustrophobic syntax, also non-sequiturs, drives readers back to hunt for hearty prose (though writers like Hitchens seem to be as uncompromisingly belle-lettristic on screen as on paper).