I was reading a short article in the most recent issue of Wired that surveyed the slew of books and articles which have appeared recently on the negative impact of the Internet and all associated technology (as in The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future and "Is Google Making us Stupid?"). One author suggests that the Web makes us "both moronic and narcissistic."
Writing a blog is a perfect example of what is meant. Blogs are used for jottings of random pieces of information which those who post them presumably think are important and worth others reading. Blogs are, when you come down to it, the contemporary form of a diary, something that always used to be private and often kept under lock and key. Today, blogs reveal all to the world; things which in the past would have been between myself and my pen are now between the world and my keyboard. Blogs suggest we think ourselves to be of such individual significance that we should share our thoughts and lives. Moronic and narcissistic.
But there's another view: blogs, and things like Facebook, personal domain names (I own three names: rippin.org, rippin.ca and islamicworld.ca) and all those other manifestations of the Internet, are a part of an emerging arena for the construction of social relations. Facebook, it strikes me, is like going to a party except it's online: it's an opportunity to meet new people through other people you already know. Our personal networks are expanding tremendously. Blogs are a way to provide communciation to friends and colleagues, and perhaps gain some new friends in the process.
I've always said that if I had to do my career over again I would choose to be a rock star (sometimes I even say that's what I'll do when I retire -- not that I have any musical talent though). I've been thinking about that. While that fantasy aspiration would be fine if I could be a rock star of the late sixties/early seventies and stay in the that time period for ever, I fear the reality would be that I'd have to keep up with the musical times or sell myself as an aging rocker, Mick Jagger style. Both of those seem pretty dismal outcomes that I don't think I'm up for. So, I think I'll change what I would have liked to have been: I'd be an academic but I would have taken up cultural studies so that I could really understand things like blogs and what they mean.