I was reading my undergraduate thesis last night, when it suddenly occurred to me that I should have something more to say about this whole debate about “blogging ethics.” (My thesis, by the way, is a 366-page tome on Friendster.com: check Original TMX for details.) A lot of bloggers are PO’ed over critical (?) statements made by the likes of Luis Teodoro, Malu Fernandez, Tim Yap, and Korina Sanchez regarding blogging. Their statements can be conveniently summarized in two bullet-points:
- That some bloggers are “irresponsible” and the blogging community is in need of a “code of ethics,” and;
- That the lot of bloggers who blog anonymously reduce, if not destroy, credibility in opinion-sharing in New Media.
Then I figured that I didn’t make a 366-page thesis on the “sociology” of virtual environments for nothing. Rather than posture as an “academic expert” on this matter, let me try to make some sense of it using my own background as a “social anthropologist.”
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Let me begin by asking a rather inane question: what is blogging?
Hmmm… it isn’t all that inane after all. Every blogger has a definition of what blogging is. If you asked me, blogging is the act of writing extended to the medium of cyberspace. I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record every time I refer to Marshall McLuhan’s quote, “The medium is the message.” Most critics of blogging grapple with the content of blogs, but fail to recognize that the “message” of blogging is not what’s written in the blog, but the blog itself. Blogging is like every medium of communication: it is an extension of ourselves. Hence the term “mediation.”
As a “social anthropologist” (always note the quotation marks when I use that term), I don’t necessarily subscribe to a setting where the medium is “in between” elements in the communication process. There is always delay. Whatever means we employ to communicate, there will always be a spatial and temporal distance that alters the messages and actions we convey. At the same time, there is always production. We constantly produce stuff, which includes communicative messages; at the same time, we are constantly produced by stuff. Both delay and production lead to that all-important term that characterizes the communication process: interpretation.
So what do we analyze when it comes to blogs: the content of the blogs, or the blog itself?
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Now that Mainstream Media has conveniently wasted time making these human-interest stories about Brian Gorrell, I personally think that they have conveniently missed the point. We should “beware” the blog not because people like Brian Gorrell use it to air their grievances, but because we are coming to a point in history where delay and production – and subsequently, interpretation – take whole new meanings when applied to a situation like cyberspace. Note:
- Delay is present – and at the same time absent – in blogging;
- Information is constantly produced in blogging.
Anyone familiar with Jacques Derrida or Roland Barthes would be familiar with delay. For Derrida, delay is a paradox: something is “first” because of a “second” that follows it, and because of this, the “first” is always a repetition, a copy. Because I have problems understanding Derrida, I would use Barthes. Blogging is writing: every text is committed in the here-and-now. No matter how many times I will tell you that I wrote this sentence on May 10, 2008 at 1:40 PM, this sentence will outlive that point in time. In the case of both journalists and bloggers, they commit themselves into the text. The text will outlive them, and therefore no text is “owned.” It is there, and that’s all that matters. It is there because it is the medium. What I say afterwards won’t matter to this particular instance of text.
More importantly, information is constantly produced and reproduced. There is no “source” of information, nor is there a “gatekeeper” of it. Information, like text, is there. A blogger, a journalist, and even the neighborhood chismosa is not the infallible”source” of a collection of information. Anyone who uses media is in effect a scriptor, an aggregator, an interpreter, a person engaged in a commitment and a practice. So a Mainstream Media reporter covers a police report on an exploding banana that killed an errant pedicab driver pedaling through EDSA at the wrong lane, is he/she the source of the information? No. He/she produced the information that came from an information that preceded it, that came with it, so the information is merely a copy.
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So here’s the thing: whatever a Mainstream Media practitioner swipes at a blogger is technically a swipe a blogger could make against a Mainstream Media practitioner. Blogging is consequential of information, just like Gutenberg’s printing press. Deal with it.