Among the many signs of spring around here is South by Southwest, which begins this Friday in Austin. Blogs have been an increasing focus of SXSW in recent years, and so with the background of the Presidential race, the Austin Chronicle has an article on the impact of political blogs.
Napster is history. And when was the last time someone enthused about WebTV? But blogs have entered the mainstream big time. Web diaries have become a must-have high school accessory. Current-event blogs are everywhere, and have even generated a blog oligarchy: webloggers like Andrew Sullivan, Josh Marshall (of Talking Points Memo), and Glenn Reynolds (of InstaPundit).
Interestingly, the blog seems to be resurrecting a form that was invented on March 1, 1711, when Joseph Addison and Richard Steele started The Spectator. The authors called The Spectator a "diurnal essay" – in other words, a daily that covered politics, culture, and lifestyle issues from a personal POV. The current environment in which blogs have flourished is oddly similar to the London landscape of Addison and Steele's time, when England's first stock market bubble coincided with a fad for coffeehouses to produce a constituency for a new, disposable kind of text. The Spectator provided perfect reading matter to bond this community of coffeehouse goers.
What blogs add to Addison and Steele's primitive print format are links and interactivity. Blogs can accommodate comments, which have become the most fascinating parts of some of them. And links allow the reader to segue seamlessly from text to reference – or to another blog – in one reading session.
The author goes on to get a few quotes from Matt Welch, Juan Cole (whose URL they bungled at the bottom of the story), and Carl Zimmer about this whole blogging thing. Conspicuously absent is any mention of bloggers in Texas, a somewhat insulting oversight given the very large number of good Austin political blogs, including the state Democratic Party, the AusChron's own Jim Hightower, and of course Rick Perry's favorite blog, the Burnt Orange Report. C'mon, guys, try a little Google search next time.
After all that, it seems almost gratuitous to note their excessively short interviews with Eli Pariser of MoveOn and SXSW presenter Virginia Postrel, whose bloging and blog URL go completely unmentioned. The latter article begins, right next to Postrel's smiling face, with this:
In 1999, Vanity Fair did a photo spread on the new generation of conservative babes. The group included Wendy Shalit, Amity Shlaes (sic), and Virginia Postrel. If this was Vanity Fair's idea of a right-wing Charlie's Angels, then surely the smart one was Postrel.