Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Monday, May 30, 2005

More on the Balkanization of the blogosphere

In several places, most recently in his request for new members of the Alberta Bloggers blogroll, The Grandinite has put forth a theory that geography should be a more meaningful uniting force in the blogosphere than political alignment:

Some potential members have expressed concerns that the blogroll would be dominated by right-wing bloggers, and have stated that they would prefer not to link to blogs of the opposite end of the political spectrum. I say that this is precisely the divisiveness that Alberta Blogs hopes to overcome. Instead of focusing on where people are divided politically, I think it is imperative that we focus on common ground. Everybody has something in common, and by sharing that we can be engaged in more civilized and enlightening blogosphere communication.
While I did, in fact, join the Alberta bloggers, I don't quite buy into this theory, and there are two reasons for this. The first is based in the very nature of the Internet, which serves to break down geographic boundaries rather than reinforcing them. The many advantages of Internet-based communication include the ability to exchange information quickly across great distances and the ability to do this without the need to coordinate where geographically the communication occurs. If we were primarily interested in joining forces with people based on physical location, we'd be meeting up at a local bar or joining a club; we wouldn't be broadcasting our thoughts into the big, wide world. If anything, I think there is too much geography in the blogging world--Canadians, for example, will tend to read only other Canadian blogs with the occasional American one thrown in, but most would never think of reading a British or German or South African one. Americans are, if anything, even more provincialist than that (rendering the analysis that even otherwise excellent bloggers try to offer about other places embarrassingly superficial). Really, we'd all learn a lot more if we looked beyond geography to broader horizons.

My second reason is that classic forms of patriotism, whether they be national or regional, have never made much sense to me. I can feel lucky that I get to live in a particular place, I can feel appreciation toward it or even a sense of duty, but I can't feel loyalty. Oh, I'm all for the attitude that if the government of a province (or a larger jurisdiction such as a country) has done great things for the people who live within it, those people should try to give something back. But the fact remains that jurisdictions such as provinces and countries are pretty mutable (if you don't believe that, just ask a former resident of East Germany or Yugoslavia). If the place I live turns out to stand through and through for things I can't support or respect, I need to reserve the right to reject it and consider the alternatives. I chose Canada because its political culture encompasses values I felt I could support and contribute to, but if that were to change irrevocably, I would absolutely consider going somewhere else, just as I did when I moved here in the first place. Call it treason, but I call it a reasoned and sensible response.

So essentially, I think geography is fairly meaningless in the blogosphere, and my loyalty to any geographic location is always going to be circumspect at best anyway. But that doesn't mean that I think surrounding yourself with political clones of yourself is the answer, either. I've argued against the Balkanization of the Canadian blogosphere before, and as the eclectic mixture of names on my blogroll will indicate, I do regularly read people whose political opinions differ from my own. Since the Grandinite's challenge, I have been making an effort to expand my horizons even more. And really, what I'm looking for in a blog is a smart, thoughtful blogger who has interesting things to say and can write about them well. While it can in fact be gratifying to read a post where someone puts his finger on a viewpoint I've been trying to express myself, that's quite secondary.

If anyone wanted to start a blogroll called "Smart, Thoughtful Bloggers With Interesting Things to Say," well ... I don't know if I'd quite qualify, but I'd still try to comply with the rules!

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