The other day I was perusing David Lee King`s blog and came across his post concerning the recent internet activity of the distinguished librarian and teacher Michael Gorman. Mr. Gorman had previously expressed views about blogging in a Library Journal article (“Revenge of the Blog People” February 15, 2005) that suggested that the whole enterprise of blogging is not as serious as the enterprise of print publication, and that bloggers generally are not serious readers, writers, or thinkers. It was, then, deliciously ironic for Mr. King to find that Mr. Gorman was expressing his latest thoughts about the phenomenon of Web 2.0 in the form of a blog post on a blog platform provided by Encyclopedia Britannica. As David put it: “…its just so hard not to write about this.”
Michael Gorman`s essay in the Britannica blog (in two parts) is titled: “Web 2.0: The Sleep of Reason.” Mr. Gorman expresses the view that the culture of print is far more useful than the culture of digital representation because print publication involves a tradition of careful editing and of responsible use of authentic sources, while the nascent digital culture has no such established tradition. Mr. King (rightly, I think) points out with a dash of glee that Mr. Gorman`s blog post purports to be about Web 2.0, but in fact has nothing to do with it. Mr. King leaves the impression that Mr. Gorman misses the whole point of Web 2.0 and that, despite his assertion that he is not an “Antidigitalist,” Mr. Gorman is opposing some of the best new things the internet has to offer (e.g. Web 2.0).
I am myself an old fashioned guy, a middle-aged bibliophile with a healthy respect for the traditions of the print culture. I naturally empathize with Michael Gorman`s apparent unease in the presence of a rapidly changing literate world that is moving inexorably in the digital direction. I believe, however, that the print culture that Mr. Gorman seems to want to defend really doesn`t require a defence as such. The culture of the book has a lot of life left in it.
More to the point, the digital means of expression such as the weblog are more like a new toolkit than a different way of approaching the process of writing, editing and publishing. It may be, as Mr. Gorman believes, that most of what you may read in any given blog is not necessarily well written or well thought out or does not rise above the level of navel-gazing. Yet I suspect that most readers understand the limitations of the form, as well as its possibilities (e.g. the wealth of associations provided by links). I also suspect that if we conducted a grand analysis of everything printed since Gutenberg, we would find that the majority of it might fit Mr. Gorman`s definition of junk (whatever that might be).
As I view the literate world, we can be both book people and blog people. We don`t have time to read everything, but then we never did.