I remember the birth of CB radio, the early days of the internet, and way back, I knew just a few ham radio operators. I was once a kid in the cellar with a Quaker Oats carton, rolls of copper wire, coils, 'cats-whiskers', mysterious crystals, and presto!— a working crystal set! All of these, as they emerged had the 'feel' of whale songs overheard in a cavernous ocean of silence and signals. At first, the signals were few, rare, and precious, and the silence was everywhere else. Suddenly there was overwhelming Babel. Citizens Band Radio suffered from this nearly lethal later malady.
At this moment—this stage of development—any or most weblogs are odd isolated voices. Some of the most isolated and strange sounding people are ranting in blogspace. This is to be expected and predicted. Blogging is now somewhere between ineffective voices in the wilderness, as the community forms and becomes regulated, and the (spooky and inviting) calls of whales and wolves, but we are slowly spinning towards the last stage, to the tragedy of the commons. Now, right now, we need some kind of organizing principle to make the space visible, prevent overgrazing by a particular kind of user, to validate it and it's content, and to make it useful to the millions who do not yet know that it exists.
Communication channels have a life cycle and develop over time, and they mature with increasing use. The first stage of new, open but still empty communication channels is typified by signals (test patterns, logos, chimes, etc., that stand as symbols in place of the self, or in place of an organized broadcast channel that is itself a place-holder for future ‘content’.
If the world of web logs is to be successful, it must soon migrate from a predominance of identity-seeking postings, typical of stage one, to content based communication directed to what in psychology has been termed ‘object’, or non-self.
Examples of this migration pattern from earlier channels that have now matured are:
A. Early radio as experienced by child crystal set builders (my-self among them): (Dad I can hear a station! Listen to this! I did it!).
B. Ham radio: (CQ, CQ, CQ).
C. TV: (we watched test patterns and even ‘snow’—visual noise when there was no programming).
D. Hi fidelity: the first High fidelity long playing records were ‘demo’ records that no one particularly wanted to hear for their musical content, but we were fascinated with the kinds of sounds and sound-effects they contained.
F. CB: (Breaker, Breaker, Highwayboy, come-on-back).
G. On the internet, in the beginning, there was a preponderance of individual web pages (with self-photography). Many of us remember when e-mail and the interned were considered merely geeky and weird, and the term wired had not yet become fashionable.
I suggest that communication channels, and in particular, the web logs we are considering replicate human development (a probably fallacious theory, but for the moment a useful and pretty one). Following upon this, a series of stages might be hypothesized as follows:
Stage 1— Calling out of identity: Voices in the wilderness call to each other making possible the exploration of new territory while preventing isolation. These are 'contact calls.' Contact calls are a common feature of social animals from birds to bison and, apparently, even humans.
Stage 2— Content overwhelms identity: Stage two might be represented by individuals who have something other than their own existence and identity to express and communicate to others. At that point, Web logs can be integrated into the word’s larger interests and serious considerations.
Stage 3— Building order and community: The third stage may be the ordering, finding (browsing), classifying, and legitimization of postings (and those who post) on web logs by means of new software, new public awareness and interest, and with rapidly growing mass involvement.
Stage 4— Integration with everyday life and thought: A possible fourth and nearly mature stage may occur when associatively linked web logs become integrated into the thinking and communicating of individuals around the globe, as has happened with radio, TV, and more recently with the internet itself.
Stage 5— Winnowing: A fifth stage might be characterized by a winnowing-out of redundant and/or less successful ‘broadcasts,’ reducing the channel clutter, improving transmission reliability, focusing bandwidth distribution onto significant or powerful loci, and reducing the noise and chaff. At this fifth stage, we may also find a reduction in the democracy and accessibility of the ‘broadcast’ bandwidth and a disenfranchisement of the low profile broadcasters.
Stage 6— Revolution and return to Stage One: The Sixth stage would be founded upon the wreckage of the now over-regulated fifth stage, and initiates the recycling of the whole process, and the birth of a new Stage 1. The fifth stage sets the stage for a technical and social revolution in which a newer form of communication supplants the ageing less open fifth-level predecessor.
Communication is, in the beginning and in the end, an individual urge, and when individuals are denied access, they will create a new way to gain it. Cockney is the dialect of a repressed underclass in London that was evolved to prevent upper class Londoners from understanding or overhearing. Yiddish is a similar response to repressive social forces, and children overpowered by parents in family life, invented Pig-Latin which survives over generations of child culture.
Before the third and fourth stage can develop and mature, we must invent and develop some way of replicating the associative process of the human brain and mind within the lexical ‘blog-space’ of the internet. To be most useful, web-log-space must eventually replicate mind-space, and it must be able to interconnect the minds, thoughts and ideas of all who use web logs and the internet, and do it rapidly and easily, without barriers or commercial franchise. Because web logs are constructed with word-based content (even a single word could, in practice represent a posting), and are not dependent upon bunches of intervening HTML code, the web log will be much more efficient at optimizing this kind of associative connection among individuals and organizations—and within organizations than anything we have experienced before.
The universe of the internet and the growing nebula of web logs must ultimately reflect the form and process of our brains and our social processes. We have no alternatives—for that is who and what we are—it is all that we know or can know—these are the event horizons of our subjective limitation. As within the brain, any reasoning, be it linear reasoning or associative reasoning (syncretic reasoning), must employ some sort of constant, process-intensive algorithms, or the information it holds and moves will become ever more chaotic and useless. The internet has succeeded on the basis of linear reasoning and linear process algorithms. This bright new nova, the nebula of the web-log space, will be founded on associative algorithms.