The post-modernist stamp of approval came in May this year to the blogosphere from Professor Chris Chesher, at Blogtalk Down Under:
Far from dissolving authorship, blogs perpetuate, coexist with, and transform it. Authorship re-emerges in proportion to the distance that a text moves from its context. Specific features of blogs allow them to invoke Foucault’s author-function more effectively than static personal home pages: the inverted narrative structure of the archive, the consistent voice, the time stamp that positions posts in a reference to a temporality shared with readers. However, the practices associated with blogs also do transform authorship. The reader’s capacity to give feedback through comments compensates for the conversational mode of writing. Many blogs’s authority comes from positions outside institutions.
Chesher does manage, however, to articulate his thesis that blogs do not challenge conventional notions of authorship and have not brought the flexibility to electronic publishing that was expected by scholars ten years ago, and makes some contentious remarks in the process:
A decade later, when networked electronic writing has become widespread as a social practice, it is already clear that most of the predictions about the social changes that would come from electronic writing have not been borne out. The dominant vehicles for electronic publishing are as centralised and controlled by commercial interests as traditional print media. Many of the most visited websites and online services are controlled by media conglomerates that pre-existed the Internet.
Particularly since the tech-wreck of 2000, a small number of companies dominate the web. Vigorous enforcement of intellectual property law and content regulation in many jurisdictions is restricting online activities.
Even the blog, among the most demotic of Internet forms, might be considered to be regressing to conventions that electronic writing should have escaped: a resurrection of the monovocal author, a linear narrative structure and the domination of a new elite. To understand these apparently developments, this paper will answer Grusin’s call for attention to the imbrication of electronic writing in wider ‘cultural, linguistic and technoscientific practices’.
Them's rallying words. Personally I thought we were all doing quite well with our imbrications 'in sondry wise'... Comments are invited and the rest of the paper is here, along with several presentations from the conference (including one by someone I read Yeats with at university, who now teaches journalism). There's a reference to the Chesher paper with a great title:
Stone, Biz (2004) Who Let the Blogs Out?A Hyperconnected Peek at the World of Weblogs. New York: St Martins Griffin.
And Rebecca Blood's paper? She gave one in 2003 in Vienna, but the Australian paper for 2005 is not extant just yet. The author looks well, though.