Tuesday, September 28, 2004


An afterthought

I'm afraid I've been too busy this evening to write a full post, which means, unfortunately, that there won't be any "edumacated ponterificatin'" tonight. One benefit of this, at least for me, is that I won't carelessly commit myself to arguing for Platonic ideals, as I seem to have done below. But fear not: full-blown pontification will resume tomorrow.

In the meantime, I had an afterthought about my earlier post on climates of opinion, which I've argued might be worth dusting off and using again as a literary device in intellectual history. Here's the thought: The world of blogging might indicate that "climates of opinion" are on their way back in, or at least that using the metaphor can be more palatable than it once was. What I'm referring to, of course, is the neologism "blogosphere."

It would be interesting to trace the evolution of metaphors for the Internet, beginning with the image of a "net" itself, a linear network of connected nodes. Closely akin is the idea of a "world wide web," which can literally be represented visually as a web. The notion of "cyberspace" is distinct from this image of a "web"--both are spatial metaphors, but one focuses on connections between nodes while the other takes in both the silk and the interstices. The "blogosphere," on the other hand, is metaphorically more fluid than either "web" or "space": at least to me it suggests that there is now an online "atmosphere"--a "climate" of opinion.

An alternative etymology might prove that "blogosphere" is a cognate of "public sphere." But the Wiki entry on the word credits The BradLands for coining the term. Its jocular usage in the original post seems to have "atmosphere" in mind. I think it's likely this is the sense in which most bloggers mean "blogosphere." Although blogs do have the essential features of "the Web"--they are nodes in complex networks, connected by links--they also seem to have the unpredictable moodiness of weather. And those who breathe in the blogosphere each day are likely to be aware of certain opinions or news items by the end of the day, without being able to trace exactly where in the web those ideas began or ended. "Blogosphere" thus might serve some of the same metaphorical purposes that I've attributed to "climates of opinion." Perhaps we should also have a new word for meteorological events like the recent CBS memos incident ... May I suggest "bloggicane"?

Well, what do you know ... I've managed to do a little pontificating after all. Or maybe it's just (a) bull.

P.S. Apropos of this pontification on blogospheres, biospheres, and the like, is this post by Michael Berube.

Collective Improvisation:
I always thought--and I might be wrong--that blogosphere wasn't just related to atmosphere, but to noosphere, biosphere, heliosphere, etc.--but particularly to noosphere.

--Paul M.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous on 9/28/2004 04:04:00 AM : Permalink  

Paul -- You may well be right, judging from the Wiki entries on noosphere and ideosphere.

Posted by Blogger Caleb McDaniel on 9/28/2004 09:04:00 AM : Permalink  

Dear smart folk -

I believe you give hackers (and other early adopters of new technology) too much credit for this one. Geeks like to make up words. If you look at the original 1999 BradLands post, the process went something like this: "Goodbye, cyberspace! Hello, blogiverse! Blogosphere? Blogmos?"

The fact that certainly now "blogosphere" looks and acts as if were originally related to noosphere and ideosphere, that's just luck. If Fans of Brad were more astronomically-oriented, we'd be using "blogmos" now. Except maybe the academic folks would have come along with their etymologies and said "you know, 'blogosphere' really works better for this..." :)

Posted by Blogger JM on 9/28/2004 10:53:00 AM : Permalink  

Thanks for the reality check, Julie! So if "geeks like to make up words," then I guess my "bloggicane" suggestion is more proof (if more proof is needed) of my geekiness. I've been thinking today maybe "hurriblog" is better--geekier, too!

Posted by Blogger Caleb McDaniel on 9/28/2004 05:53:00 PM : Permalink  

Bloggicane is a good one! Stick with it.

Posted by Blogger JM on 9/28/2004 11:13:00 PM : Permalink  

it's catching on! :)

Posted by Blogger JM on 10/03/2004 12:55:00 PM : Permalink  

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