The weblog interface, as part of an evolving electronic apparatus, offers an easily accessible environment for alternative forms of discourse. Bloggers, working as digital archivists, all have various reasons for writing on-line, but most of them share the need for alternative space that allows them to work outside traditional institutions. This movement from ephemeral media to digital or hypermedia provides a new space for bloggers to experiment with nonlinear narratives. Hypertext creates an interactive reading experience and does not dictate one prescribed method for reading. It becomes a medium for dissimilar ideas to work together in a layered narrative, a story that is not necessarily linear. By clicking on a web page hot link, other sources of text are mingled in with the original content, again weaving text into a new narrative. Differences in hardcopy and digital memory archiving are obvious. A hardcopy journal has a tactical element that a digital equivalent does not possess. However, along with having similar purposes of passing along information and documenting the past, both also share other qualities. For example, both use scraps of ideas woven together. The stories formed have a “narrative/iconic relationship” (Lanham 44).
Anything new and different doesn’t take long to spur some sort of controversy and the weblog world has plenty of it. One of the hottest issues in the blogosphere is that of the citizen journalist. Professional journalists often take offense to the idea of someone else (a non-journalist – how dare they!) reporting about news and information (someone whom they feel is not a “professional”). Because the Read/Write Web now offers the ability to write on the web to anyone who can get Internet access, this opens up an alternative form of communication, and this means the citizen journalist might have the same power to persuade that was once limited to those with press credentials. This idea is threatening to many journalists who feel they should be the only ones with this power.
Rebecca Blood reports on this in a posted entitled “Weblog Ethics:”Journalists — the people who actually report the news — are acutely aware of the potential for abuse that is inherent in their system, which relies on support from businesses and power brokers, each with an agenda to promote. Their ethical standards are designed to delineate the journalist’s responsibilities and provide a clear code of conduct that will ensure the integrity of the news.
Weblogs, produced by nonprofessionals, have no such code, and individual webloggers seem almost proud of their amateur status. “We don’t need no stinkin’ fact checkers” seems to be the prevailing attitude, as if inaccuracy were a virtue.(http://www.rebeccablood.net/handbook/excerpts/weblog_ethics.html)
You may have heard terms like web. 2.0 or the Read/Write Web thrown around. This refers to the fact that at one time the Internet (or web) was read only. In other words, you could read on it but you could not really write on it other than, say, bulletin boards, now often referred to as forums.
With the invention of the weblog, this changed the nature of the web because now the reader can also become the writer. Along with weblogs, wikis are another apparatus that allows the reader to write and publish on-line.
This ability to instantly publish has drastically changed the nature of the web. Readers are now more involved in the building of content. Rather than reading static pages of information, they can now not only create their own, but they can also become part of a world-wide conversation on any topic.
For more information, there’s an excellent article available on line: “The Read/Write Web.” (.pdf file)
While there is some controversy over who wrote the first weblog, many sources give credit to Jon Barger, who in 1997 began posting comments and links to various areas throughout the Internet on his web site. He is believed to have come up with the term “weblog” to describe his logging of the Internet.
On December 17, 1997, Barger began posting short comments and links on his own Robot Wisdom website, thus pioneering the “weblog” as it is known today. His site soon included interlinked weblog sections titled “Fun,” “Art,” “Issues,” “Net,” “Tech,” “Science,” “History,” “Search,” and “Shop.”
By 2000 he felt he had exhausted the formal possibilities of weblogs, and began instead to explore the timeline format, annotating each timeline entry with a link to a relevant resource. Meanwhile Robot Wisdom was evolving to include information and essays on James Joyce, AI, history, Internet culture, hypertext design, and technology trends, among the topics Barger covered. Announcements of plans for a future “hardcopy edition” of Robot Wisdom for purchase began appearing at the foot of some of the site’s pages.
He occasionally posted comments about trying to find types of employment that did not conflict with his philosophical ideals. The maxim “You can’t serve God and Mammon” appeared at the top of his “issues.literate” weblog section. By December 2001, he was experiencing financial difficulties that he announced would cause an interruption in keeping Robot Wisdom online. Before taking the weblog offline a couple of months, he posted comments mentioning an interest in employment by telecommute but noting his philosophical concerns: “I have a gigantic psychological block against Mammon-in-general, and no longterm ideas how to overcome it. Alternative currency? Retreat to a cave?” Barger has, however, experimented with Robot Wisdom as a revenue-generator, soliciting advertisements in 2000, and, in 2005, donations via PayPal.
Previously a longtime resident of the Rogers Park neighborhood in Chicago, Barger was living in Socorro, New Mexico as of late 2003. Several bloggers initiated an outpouring of concern and speculation in December 2003 when Barger had not been seen online for some months. However, Barger had been known to take unexplained absences from the Internet before, and his departure turned out again to be temporary; Robot Wisdom returned in February 2005.In a July 2005 Wired magazine item, writer Paul Boutin reported encountering a “homeless and broke” Barger walking with a mutual friend in San Francisco, California. The article said that Barger, “living on less than a dollar a day,” had allowed his weblog’s domain registration to lapse, but that Boutin found Robot Wisdom back online a few weeks later. Boutin claimed in the story that upon subsequently meeting him at a pub, Barger told him that the previous time they had met he had been carrying a panhandling sign he had not shown him. Barger reportedly told him the sign had read, “Coined the term ‘weblog’, never made a dime.” Barger has since said that the Boutin article was mostly “fiction.” For his part, Boutin published a clarification in his own weblog, saying the headline Wired had chosen might have misled readers into thinking Barger was “living on the street,” rather than staying with friends.
Robot Wisdom went offline again in late January 2007. On 10th February, Barger placed a note on his “auxiliary” weblog soliciting $10 (US) donations, payable to his web host, to help “save robotwisdom.com”. By 12th February, robotwisdom.com was online again.