This is the age of social media. Instagram. Twitter. Facebook. YouTube. The quip, the hot take, the alluring image. Likes, click-throughs, and shares are the currency of the realm.
But there is still a great need for the humble, stodgy, curmudgeonly blog.
While great work is being done by scholars and others on Twitter, the format doesn't work well with long-form pieces, and social media drama (status signalling, call-outs, etc.) tends to drown out the signal with too much noise. And certain platforms, such as Facebook, are difficult to search and don't seem to function well as a digital archive for important information.
Medium is perhaps an exception to the general trend toward short and noisy communiques. The platform is designed for the long-form essay; but it still seems rife with clickbait titles and mostly vapid posts. Perhaps this is because Medium uses algorithms to direct users' attention to other posts in order to sustain their engagement, much like YouTube does for videos.
In any event, here are a few fine examples of active (or recently active) blogs that show the medium's great potential as a platform for sophisticated thought and analysis:
- Marginal Revolution: Two George Mason economists discuss economics, policy, the arts, and more.
- Slate Star Codex: Brilliant analysis by "Scott Alexander." Currently in hibernation because of drama with the New York Times, but, as the saying goes, "that is not dead which eternal lies, and with strange eons even death may die."
- Applied Divinity Studies: A worthy successor to Slate Star Codex. Applies critical thinking and statistical analysis to vexing problems.
My own colleague at Pasadena City College, Ed Feser, has been hugely successful at making his personal blog a platform for sharing his (conservative Catholic) political, religious, and philosophical views, and his blog serves as a gathering place for people of like minds. This is yet another example of the conintuing power and relevance of blogging as a medium.
When I look at my online reading, much of it is still of blogs, accessed through Feedly (an RSS aggregator). I imagine there are still many journalists and perhaps some academics who are similar in their information consumption habits.
In addition to a decline of blogs due to the new (and relentless) attention economy that drives what happens on the internet these days, there also seems to be an issue of popularity or fashionability. People follow trends and imitate what other people do and believe, especially people they perceive to be of higher social status. It's no longer cool, fashionable, hip, or trendy to blog. Sadly, this loss of social status of blogs seems independent of their actual usefulness or functionality.
(On a related note, a similar case could be made for the continuing relevance of the humble, stodgy, curmudgeonly, and decidedly unfashionable internet discussion forum or bulletin board. A lot of useful and focused work is still being done on forums in obscure corners of the internet.)
Because of all this, it is my sincere hope that the great thinkers and makers of our time return to blogging, or that they start blogging, if they never experimented with it before. We need a blogging Renaissance.
Also because of this, I have decided to start blogging again, using my old personal blog. I may not find much of a readership, but it seems like a better place for sticking my random thoughts and lists of links and resources (mainly for students) than private emails or the social media cesspit. So here we go.