It was 1977 and my friend Todd had saved for six months until he
finally had what every 11-year-old wanted – a communications
device used by the haulage industry to co-ordinate stock chain delivery
management. Yes! A CB radio! Technological advance – better frequency
control I think – and deregulation meant everyone had these suckers.
We could connect with people miles away and say “10-4” and ask them
where they were headed and say “10-4”, and well, um…

A year after he got it, we would tune in and roam the frequencies. Airy
nothingness. I was reminded of this recently while trawling the
blogosphere – which is increasingly taken up with blogs that appear to
be dead, dying from neglect or stillborn, with one or two initial
entries, now years old.

It’s eerie and suggests to me that we are entering the next stage of
the online revolution, in which the mass expansion of blogs will begin
to contract – especially those which are publishing out towards a
putative audience, rather than simply being an online diary.

As with CBs, what thrilled people with blogs was “the ecstasy of
communication”, the pure fact of being out there in the wide
cyberworld – in other words, the form rather than the content. What stales the
experience is what some have thought was its greatest attraction – its
networked capacity, which makes everyone producer and consumer, and
hence collapses the notion of an audience (since time does not expand,
while blog numbers do).

What most realise is that blogging is the illusion of connection,
publishing into a void and thus doubly isolating. Those blogs that
survive will and are evolv(ing) into multi-person sites, some with
collective and decentred ways of uploading, others with hierarchies
essentially identical to paper editing.

This repeats the birth of newspapers out of the “pamphlet wars” of the
17th century – the latter a product of the creation of a cheap, single
operator platen press. This may be the necessary stage of development
required to create a media sphere which genuinely overturns the mass
media model – one in which a range of well-edited moderate circulation
outlets can charge and get subscriptions. Whether they could turn into
full newsgathering organisations remains to be seen.

However, I think the era of commentary done by interlaced single blogs
may come to be seen as being as much part of an era as a time when talking to
a load of frozen fish barrelling down the Hume seemed like a really neat
thing to do.