Friday, August 04, 2006

The Future of Writing: Blog extensibility

Software and web applications - wikis, blogs, photo-sharing, bookmarking, tagging and open content management platforms like drupal have revolutionized Internet communication. These new applications create an alive and interactive web as they allow commenting, profiles, links, rating and editing. This transformational wave is still accelerating, but it is clear that how we conceptualize and engage in communication and content creation in all contexts of our lives is being reshaped.

This alive and interactive web has two principal benefits: serving as a self-expression mechanism (see "The Real Killer App: Personal Expression") and socialization facilitator and, more importantly, leading to better content. Some comments are like cocktail conversation, language niceties, essentially another human analog to the communal grooming of apes. Some comments extend the conversation which creates more information. Tags, links, comments and trackbacks build an information-plex much greater than the views of one person around the original post and more information (less entropy) is always desirable as astrophysicists attest. Content is better and creates more information because it is alive and interactive.

Blog Books
Now there is a trend to take online content back to traditional print content. Lulu and Blurb are publishing platforms where blogs or any other content can be uploaded (free) and printed as a book (charges vary). Which points up the question, what is the role of books and other traditional print media in this new era of increasingly alive, interactive, connected content? Circulations for newspapers and magazines have plummeted; what is the future of books?

Essence of Blogposts
Blogging is quite a new form of expression. The essence of a blogpost is often drawing attention to one or many ideas, happenings or news items and then commenting on them or deriving additional analysis and ideas from them. Even personal narrative posts are likely to draw in outside ideas, technologies and influences. A blogpost can be much denser and less linear than a page of text from a book.

What is reading a Blog Book like?
Blogs as a distinct form of writing leads to the blog as a book being an interesting concept. Unsurprisingly, reading a book of blogposts is different than reading a regular book. Blogposts are dense, non-linear, discrete entries complete unto themselves. The reader must create the connection between posts in the absence of flow across pages the way a fictional story or non-fictional argument slowly builds and develops. The reader performs the higher cognition of connecting themes and meta-messages from the blogposts.

Blog extensibility tools
A useful tool, an extension of Lulu and Blurb, which I thought both were at first, would be to take the text in a blog and pull it into one cohesive whole. From the body of disparate blogposts over time, themes, progressions in thinking and multi-dimensionality arise which could be further developed via a tool organizing a blog (by tags, categories, keywords, etc.) into the basis for chapters which the author could develop into a more complex analysis and comprehensive work such as a traditional essay or book.

Making books more alive
In addition to tools for aggregating blogs into more comprehensive wholes like books, making books more like blogs would also be useful. After blogging, writing in MS Word, etc. is hopelessly old world - linear, static and non-interactive. Tools are also needed for re-creating the traditional essay or book format in the non-linear, interactive, connected style of less formal web writing. This could be achieved easily by adding functionality to blogging software.

Information is Alive!
Imagine a future where all information is alive, interactive and linked: books, essays, academic papers, blogs, vlogs, photos, videos, music, email, etc. As the world's information is increasingly digitized and available and searchable in a single or linked repository, there will be more tools for knitting different formats of content on the same topics together. BlogSearches and regular searches will probably not be disjoint for much longer and will start to incorporate more media types. It would be great to have a universal information file with user-set parameters that continuously updates and auto-searches, auto-organizes and auto-summarizes all available information (from academic papers, books, press articles, blogs, etc.) on selected topics and could be viewed online, downloaded to an electronic or print book or directly into the brain.

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