I am teaching a unit on media to my Grade 12 English students. We have been looking at a number of media-related topics, including “blogging”. On Friday, I came across this article in the Hamilton Spectator about the influence one blogger had on AOL. (Click here for “Got a beef? Your blog can make a company tremble.”)
According to the article, there are 35 million blogs on the Internet; there are even more blog readers. As a blogger myself, I wonder how useful, illuminating or informative my blog actually is. In the past month and a half, my blog has been viewed over 600 times. A handful of those visitors are friends and family; the bulk of visitors are people looking for information on a range of topics posted on my blog. Most of those visitors come from Google searches; for example, type in “Why study Shakespeare” in the Google search window. Today (March 31st, 2008) , my blog, galumphing, is the sixth hit on the Google search out of 449,000 hits. I think what I have to say about Shakespeare is worth saying, and worth reading. I am a professional educator, so my ideas about literature are peer reviewed by my department as well as by my colleagues and substantiated by my formal education. However, when someone blogs, there is no guarantee that he really know what he is talking about. I also blog with distinctly Christian worldview and perspective; to some, that would undermine what I have to say.
The daunting reality is that anyone (and their dog, it seems) can create a blog. There is no peer review, there is no formal training required, and there is no overt ethical screening. The individual “blogger” is the only one who reviews, sensors and ultimately decides what appears online to the thousands of Internet surfers. The individual reader is left to discern truth from fiction, detect bias and evaluate the relevance of the posts. This is disconcerting, given the steadily declining level of analytical literacy among average university undergraduates, much less the average reader.
Twenty years ago, the hot-under-the-collar, ranting person found an audience with a handful of friends at the local Tim Horton’s. If the rant turned ugly, then the manager would probably turn you out. Today, that hot-under-the-collar rant is published worldwide.
Ultimately, people need to be extra cautious what they say: we need to think before we “write.” The irony is, this caution comes at a time when people rarely think before they do anything.