Acton Institute Powerblog

The Blog Renaissance

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C.S. Lewis identifies the development of "the machine" as the most drastic change in both technology and philosophy in all of history (he pinpoints the machine age as generally beginning around the time of the Industrial Revolution). While Lewis’ context is directed more towards a realistic understanding of the interval of time separating the "dark ages" and the Renaissance, the continued developments in technology in the last century, and in particular the last five years, have led us out of a sort of "dark age" by providing us with overwhelming sources of information about everything imaginable. While there is still skepticism about the proper role and niche that blogging fulfills in the neo-renaissance, the realm has now officially expanded to first-hand reporting – a role that has traditionally been reserved for news agencies.

An article from the Wall Street Journal on the expanding role of blogging says this:

Already we’re seeing a lot of reporting from non-journalists, where the "reporter" is just whoever happens to be on the scene, and online, when news happens. Given the ubiquity of digital cameras, cellphones, and wireless Internet access, that’s likely to become more common, making the kind of distributed newsgathering seen during the Indian Ocean tsunami the norm not the exception.

Reporting through a blog sidesteps editorial processes and can provide a very quick means of communication – publishing to the world requires only an Internet connection, a few minutes to type, and the push of a button. The more people who blog about something they’ve seen, the better the picture becomes of that event. Direct and unfiltered.

Other online resources use the general public to populate their pages. As an example, look at Wikipedia. Wikipedia is an "open source" encyclopedia, edited by the public. It is edited and checked for accuracy by a sort of "distributed intelligence" – people who know about something write. People add to it; other people remove from it. A record is kept of all changes (all visible to the public) and its accuracy is assured by the general consensus of the readers. People who disagree will change an article to reflect what they believe to be accurate, others will view the changes and make their own. This distributed intelligence also works as a self-checking mechanism in the blogging world, something we will see more of no doubt.

The invention of the printing press was revolutionary in the distribution of information. Perhaps the Internet has finally found an efficient means of reforming the now "traditional" method of information creation, shifting away from singular (or close to) news sources to larger distributed networks of redundant and peer reviewed information.

Jonathan Spalink