A Blogger By Any Other Name...

Part of the beauty of bloggery (or perhaps the bane, some might argue) is its tendency to offer a steady stream of self-reflection about its own function, meaning and influence. For example, last week we took a look at a little debate that had erupted among some well-known bloggers over the meaning of the blogosphere's most omnipresent moniker -- mainstream media. Who is the mainstream media? Why does the blogosphere torment it so?

In a similar vein, AdAge's Simon Dumenco opened up a semantic can of worms by taking on the meaning of blogging in his recent column – "A Blogger Is Just A Writer With A Cooler Name." His basic thesis is that blogging is less a phenomenon far from the traditional media than it is, simply, an advanced mode of communication:
"…there is no such thing as blogging. There is no such thing as a blogger. Blogging is just writing -- writing using a particularly efficient type of publishing technology. Even though I tend to first use Microsoft Word on the way to being published, I am not, say, a Worder or Wordder. It's just software, people! The underlying creative/media function remains exactly the same."
If you've treaded on this ground before, you know that for those who bear a blog, that's not a concept so easily swallowed. While Paul Conley doesn't completely disagree, he "winces" at the suggestion:
"Blogging isn't just writing. It is more. It is writing and conversation. And those two things combined make for better journalism than either could alone."
Steve Rubel at Micropersuasion takes a similar position – that the identity of a blog lies in its cultural value and must be considered an entirely different medium:
"While some of what [Dumenco] says is true from a structural POV, from a cultural one it's bunk. Blogging more closely resembles conversation, not writing. It's dialogue, while most writing tends to be more monologue in nature. People don't converse with books or magazines on the same scale that they can with bloggers - oops I forgot that Simon says 'writers.'"
But Dumenco suggests that these dueling identities are less the result of some organic, fundamental difference, but more intentional constructions by both in order to maintain certain perceptions of each other:
"…why does the idea of the blogger as The Other continue to persist? Because many bloggers, of course, like the idea of being all alterna; it's a point of pride, a tenet of the 'blog community' (whatever that is), that bloggers are superior to the musty, lumbering, out-of-touch traditional media. And for traditional-media types, blog/blogging/bloggers are variants of a sort of linguistic armor -- labels that allow old-school-ists to convince themselves that they are the true professionals, and they needn't radically alter the way they work (i.e., work way faster, interact constantly with readers, be vastly more voracious, etc.) to compete with the amateurs, the arrivistes."
Whether one considers "blogger" to be a label that succeeds primarily in isolating the medium from the "mainstream media," rather than exhibiting a fundamentally different form of journalism, Dumenco's final point seems reasonable – that both interests are moving toward the same reality:
"In the very near future, there are only going to be two types of media people: those who can reliably work and publish (or broadcast) incredibly fast, and those ... who can't."