Live From GodBlogCon 2008

So I’m here at the 4th Annual GodBlog Convention (aka the Christian blogger convention) in Las Vegas, meeting and greeting and hobnobbing with a diverse assortment of Christian bloggers. It’s a total trip. There are mombloggers here, comedy bloggers, political bloggers, and one guy whose blog exclusively covers Mormons. Everyone is sitting with their laptops, Twittering away as the speakers speak, “liveblogging” their thoughts on what they are hearing.

It’s all very nerdy, and honestly the unsettling questions and concerns I had about blogging coming in have only been increased by what I’m hearing and seeing at this conference.

I increasingly wonder if the glory days of the individual blog are nearing an end… that perhaps it had its heyday maybe three years ago but has leveled off now. Maybe for the better.

Ken Myers (of Mars Hill Audio) spoke today about the unintended and problematic consequences of wholesale embrace of new technologies, and I resonated with every word of what he said (though I think many bloggers in the audience were less impressed). Myers brought up points about identity that I’ve been harping on for the last few years: namely that the Internet has rendered the human self a fluid, flexible, not-fixed amalgam of a multiplicity of heterogeneous “selves.” (I later told him about my I’m Not There paper that addressed these issues in their contemporary cinematic representation.) Myers also pointed out how technology has rendered books and reading largely obsolete… mainly because we are all too busy writing about ourselves to bother reading someone else’s work.

This is almost too much of a gut check for me on the weekend I not only joined Facebook but drove to Las Vegas to attend a blog convention, and two days after I composed a column for an upcoming issue of Relevant in which I slam the self-absorbed Twitter mentality.

When I drive home through the desert tonight, part of me wants to just veer off onto some sage-ridden state highway and find a monastery or something to join. I could read books all day, and try to forget about the technological pests I’m plagued by. I could make my own jam and just think about things. Mull them over. Keep them circling in my head instead of floating around in cyberspace.

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11 responses to “Live From GodBlogCon 2008

  1. “. . . we are all too busy writing about ourselves to bother reading someone else’s work.”

    Huh? I read way, way more blog posts than I write. I’d be surprised if that weren’t true of a lot of other people, too. Books may or may not be increasingly obsolete, but reading? We still do it as much as ever. (Quite frankly, I find I watch movies less than I used to, partly because of my compulsive need to keep up with all the stuff coming in to my Google Reader, etc. Though the fact that I’ve got kids now is certainly part of the reason, too.)

  2. Yeah I don’t know. In my own experience, it is all I can do to find time to write what I need to write (and then write on the blog in whatever extra time there is). Having a full time day job it is hard to use the scarce off-work hours to write and read to the extent I would like to… My sense is that most bloggers are not doing it professionally (i.e. they have other jobs that take most of their time) and thus, in the off-clock time that they previously used for reading (or movies, or whatever), people are increasingly using it to produce content rather than consume it.

  3. I’ve wanted the internet to implode ever since 1999.

    Sage is lovely. So is homemade jam. And mustard. I’ve also got a lovely recipe for homemade nutella. I long for a simple existence of reading, writing and harvesting my carrots. But alas, here we are. Do we retreat or advance?

  4. I second Peter’s “Huh?!” I just finished reading a novel by Bret Lott, I’m currently re-reading Moby Dick (seriously), and I’m half-way through Leif Enger’s latest. I read about 25 blogs a day, not to mention film reviews and news articles. And I still *prefer* to read stuff on paper. Maybe he’s making a generalization, but I don’t think even that is very accurate. Seattle bookstores are packed every day of the week.

  5. I don’t know, I’m still dubious about the overall state (and future) of reading. Sure, in the circles we run in there is still a heavy tendency toward books and the literary, but I’m skeptical about how widespread that is, especially with younger generations who’ve never known life outside of the Internet. Sure, we are maybe reading more words on any given day (given that we spend so much time reading Facebook and Twitter updates, etc), but how many people have the patience for reading long chunks of things? We’re all about reading little blurbs, updates, posts, newsfeeds, etc. Maybe this isn’t such a bad thing… but it is a different thing. Instead of focusing our attention and reading something slowly and deeply, we read whatever we can squeeze into our incremental free time segments, which typically means a blog post here, a twitter thought there… I’m not sure this is making us smarter. It’s not about the quantity of input we receive, after all, but the quality.

  6. You got a link to audio on that talk you cited? Sounds interesting–I’d love to give it a listen.

  7. Jake- you can listen to the podcast here.

  8. I think I tend to agree with Brett on this one. Many of us simply do not have the discipline neccessary to read high quality literature at a consistent and slow pace.

    Our lives seem to have been programmed to move at hyperspeed. And many people simply don’t find books “interesting” anymore. Often people relax by watching TV or sports or read People Magazine instead of in depth readings of quality literature.

    Its amazing to me to hear from fellow classmates in my University classes (even from English majors!) who simply don’t read aside from school work – they claim to even dislike it!

    What happened to the notion that learning is a leisure activity?

    I think too often we want to be spoon fed knowledge and information rather than to discover it through the subtly and nuances of good literature – academic or otherwise. Or at least today’s younger generations do.

    Here in Charlotte book stores are not packed, and certainly not with the 30 and younger crowd – except the Barnes and Noble stores where there is a Starbucks.

    Its ironic, i think, that we worry so seriously that our children learn to read by age five or six and now we have this…Meanwhile, my little brother came along slowly and didn’t learn to read well until he was 8 or so, when suddenly he was teaching himself to read by reading the LOTR series. Now, while the family is sweating through a Green Bay Packers game he is curled up on the couch with his favorite book – only partially interested in the game. And of course his friends at school and church make fun of him. I only bring this up because i think it may speak to where our culture’s values lie.

  9. “Many of us simply do not have the discipline neccessary to read high quality literature at a consistent and slow pace.”

    Well, I’m not going to argue with *that*. Many of us also do not have the discipline — or the opportunity — necessary to watch high quality films at a consistent and slow pace.

    But the idea that we all somehow spend more time writing than reading, just because we increasingly prefer one medium to another, kind of boggles the mind.

  10. Being involved in youth culture as my vocation, my experience has been both/and in terms of reading. On one hand, many in the youth culture seem increasingly bored with books yet fascinated with MySpace and Facebook updates.

    On the other hand, despite saying they’re bored with literature, they’ve read every single Twilight, Harry Potter, and LoTR books by age 14. While it can be debated as to the quality of the literature, many in the emerging generation are still very into reading.

    In fact, in my experience, it’s the writing that seems to be going by the wayside. Having a 16 year old hand me a written application with words like “ur,” “j/k,” and “:-)” with a look of absolute seriousness made me cringe.

  11. Wow I would be horrified to get emoticons in all seriousness from a student… I wonder if this is the future of language? “Short cut” and efficient like everything else. I despair if so…

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