historiographic reference points, no. 1

In September of 2000 there are thousands of weblogs: topic-oriented weblogs, alternative viewpoints, astute examinations of the human condition as reflected by mainstream media, short-form journals, links to the weird, and free-form notebooks of ideas. Traditional weblogs perform a valuable filtering service and provide tools for more critical evaluation of the information available on the web. Free-style blogs are nothing less than an outbreak of self-expression. Each is evidence of a staggering shift from an age of carefully controlled information provided by sanctioned authorities (and artists), to an unprecedented opportunity for individual expression on a worldwide scale. Each kind of weblog empowers individuals on many levels.

Rebecca Blood’s ‘Weblogs: A History and Perspective’ passed its tenth birthday a couple of weeks ago. It gets more valuable with age, as an aide-memoire to those who were around the web at the time, and a testament for those who weren’t. It identifies the connection between early weblogs and newer publishing platforms (Tumblr is old school) and the tensions and divergent motivations that now delineate the online landscape. But its closing thoughts of an adversarial future–

Our strength–that each of us speaks in an individual voice of an individual vision–is, in the high-stakes world of carefully orchestrated messages designed to distract and manipulate, a liability. We are, very simply, outnumbered.

–make me think, ten years on, of an orchestration has been done through envelopment, programmatically, and with a degree of complicity: a co-opting of mass participation that’s templated and textboxed and increasingly tied to a handful of gatekeepers.