the medium shapes the message

i believe the medium is not the message. i also believe that the medium shapes the message.

this is why i don't keep a web journal (rants, linkblog, writings, yes; but not a journal).

weblogs are a massive craze, bigger than the free-host-inspired homepage explosion (think tripod and geocities). but if you read blogs, and if you blogjump a bit, you quickly realise that everyone's writing similar stuff. the banal stuff about daily life is fascinating... for a while. but often it's really not interesting unless you know the person already. perhaps if you spend a very great deal of time online this changes. you come to know the persona in the blog posts so well that you feel you know the person, and you form a bond.

but for me it takes something pretty unusual to catch my attention to that level. i mean, for me to really care; and oddly enough it takes something like that for me to allow myself to be pulled in so completely - without feeling that, on some level, i'm intruding.

i was reading some random blog, chick with glasses, and i guess enjoying the style. but there was an exchange in a comment forum which was very open and warm between people who obviously know each other. all of a sudden i felt like i shouldn't be reading what they'd said; it was a very personal moment and even though they'd put it out there on the web, it just didn't feel that way.

but mostly it's the daily stuff. whether maintenance people came to fix broken stuff, what they bought today, what they saw. what music they're listening to right now. wrapped up in template designs, published on monster blog sites.

i can't help thinking that people are losing the personal touch they would have given such writings in the past. many people don't modify the templates at all; whereas in the past you had to come up with some form of design to wrap your thoughts in before uploading them to the world. many don't know how to do so; but many do.

but as with so many things, it's just a little easier to do it a certain way; so why not? we buy pre-prepped food that we can cook with a minimum of fuss; rather than doing everything first-principles. it's not like we mix our own salad dressing these days; we don't make our own noodles or mix up our own curry paste. sure, we'd eat like royalty if we did but we just don't have the time or energy to do it every day.

so we get the pre-prepped web publication that is weblogging... and with it comes the habits which are just easier to fall into. posting whatever you can think of, for instance; because you haven't written anything for a few days. talking about the scum in the bottom of your vegetable crisper in the fridge. talking about anything and everything.

is there anything wrong with this? well i guess not. but it's a slippery slope from pre-prepped food to take-away crap. a certain amount of navel-gazing is ok but you really need to keep it in check. i'd blog all this sort of stuff too; but i'd be too worried that someone out there might think i honestly thought it was interesting to someone else. when i post here i try to keep it structured enough to at least sustain that theoretical possibility. i avoid blogging because it might lead to a place i've already been.

i once poured my angst out in a small but public forum, over a fairly long period of time. one day i caught myself out, had a 'moment of clarity' and looked at myself from a step back. fuck. i must have bored the crap out of some of the people who were in that group, must have looked like a right wanker. i know it's unavoidable that some people won't like me, but that was a moment when i have to admit, i wouldn't have liked me either. that moment left a bitter taste in my memory; and it was perhaps the exact moment when i turned a corner, and began to grow out of my teenage angst.

i basically told myself to get over it. i'm a little surprised nobody else had done so already. i suspect that - knowing those people reasonably well - they knew and understood where i was, plus they knew it would pass. so they let me come to that conclusion on my own. one person who was there the whole time is still one of my greatest friends. others i've lost contact with.

but still, get over it, get over it. that taste. that moment.

so i keep myself away from a medium which might lead me to that level of public navel-gazing. i purposefully keep the structure of this page at a level which requires just a little more effort to post. i have to create a document, write out my thought until it's happy in its new home on screen, link it to my page and upload the lot. it takes more than just logging in and pressing Publish.

i'm bad enough as it is. but in this form of web publication the message is shaped into something just a little more structured.

the medium should never be the message. but you should always be aware that the medium has a power over the message which is practically impossible to control. you create at your own risk. you have to ride with the message and let it be, because you can't fight it, and ultimately why would you want to? it's part of the magic.

2002.04.20

back