22 February 2002

I Second the Motion

Tom, Helen Razer, and Dave (1, 2, 3) have recently directed our attention to deep problems in the imagination and exercise of copyright. Count me in, emphatically. The notion of copyright that we’re laboring under derives its cogency from entirely different circumstances, and has been warped to serve the interests of industrialist more than the authors, writers, performers, et al. in whose behalf the industries piously protest.

Artists, musicians, writers and others deserve recompense for their efforts, probably more than they get under the current mechanism for assessing and distributing rewards. But a dysfunctional and obsolescent model won’t be the means by which they get their deserts.

Tear it down. Clear the ground. Let’s start something new.

Writing For Whom?

Mike Golby mulls over my ruminations on blogs and audiences, my metablog on for whom we write, for whom we should be writing, and why. He runs a nice inversion on what I was thinking — where I was thinking, “Anyone who wants to read this stuff may, and anyone who thinks it’s self-indulgent or ingratiating doesn’t have to read it” — thus regarding the Web as perfectly inclusive, since the choice to read or not is free, and the company of “people who read AKMA’s blog” is entirely open. Mike runs it the opposite way, though — my expression of my interests and commitments make the blog less open, in that as they take patterned shape, they form and select their audience.

I have to think through Mike’s version of the idea; mine involved an imagined conversation with someone who felt that blogging functioned by active exclusion, by keeping some visitors at bay and by trying to glue others to one’s own blog, a sort of glory-by-proximity (“Oh wow, Chris Pirillo mentioned me! Maybe he’ll blogroll me!”). I’m still chewing on that notion; certainly anyone in my vocation gets acquainted with people’s lack of connection to their own motives, and with the unnervingly base impulses that many apparently-well-socialized people sometimes reveal. So it could be that blogging amounts to little more than a mutual admiration society for weak egos.

I should add, though, that I haven’t discerned that in other folks whose blogs I’ve read. What I’ve observed looks much more like a bunch of friends having a great, loosely-joined time weaving in and out of one another’s conversations. Sometimes people you like are talking about a topic that excites you; sometimes they’re not. Sometimes one of them drags you into the conversation and offers you a drink; other times no one notices you if you don’t call attention to yourself. Is it their obligation to notice you and fawn over you if they’re deeply engaged with some other fascinating topic? Is blogging “exclusive” in that sense? I’m inclined to doubt it, because (as I said earlier) the big, loosely-organized party is so vastly expansive (yet so intensely, accessibly intimate) that anyone has access to jillions of other conversations any time.

Mike says

Somewhere in this idea lies my answer to AKMA’s further question. “I’ve wondered why we oughtn’t like people who like us; is there some hidden transgression in mutual respect and affection?” I fear and eschew “oughts” and “shoulds”. They muddy any issue. The word “transgression” also frightens me because it introduces a host of unknowns demanding definition.
Before I try to answer the question, I’d first ask AKMA whether or not this might be a better way of phrasing it: “In what way do we not like people who like us. What is it that sets us apart as soon as we start coming together?”

Well, that’s not where I’d have gone. First, “oughts” and “shoulds” generally play a powerful role in any interaction, so I like keeping ’em out in the open, where I can see ’em. Second, and I wrote this badly (curses!), my point was, “Is there anything wrong with liking people who like you, and not worrying about people who don’t?”

Here’s an example (I’ll get personal). Mike and a lot of other cool people of whom I’m fond (in a hyperlinked way) think an awful lot of Marek. So I’ve gone over to his site and read, and I’ve thought, “Sure, okay,” but without quite the ardor that other visitors seem to have felt. And for all I know, Marek has come over here and asked himself, “Why’s Golby cross-blogging with this mongrel dog who teaches? Give us a break, you pedantic geezer.” And that’s fine. (Really it is. You can’t hurt me. I wasn’t just waiting around for Marek’s approval. I have things to do. Who cares what he thinks anyway?) Marek hasn’t expired, pushing the “reload” button on his browser every five minutes to see whether I posted something complimentary about him, and I’m not all broke up that he hasn’t erupted with fascinated anthusiasm about me. We do different things, that some of the same people like. He’s not excluding me, and I’m not excluding him, even though the personae we’re composing online (and I’m still dubious about the online world/real world distinction relative to personae) may be so constituted that neither of us feels a particular attraction to the other. He’s got more important things to do than exclude me, and excluding him would be inhospitable of me.

And if one of us ever does feel like coming over, or going over, for a visit, I suppose that’ll be fine too.

Is that clearer, Mike?

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