June 12, 2009

Work and Blogging

I worked for the BBC back in the day as a researcher on a documentary about the civil war. One of the things that frustrated me about that documentary and historical documentaries in general was how bad it was and they are. For a person who actually is interested in history and knows a little about it, the average historical documentary doesn't really seem to give you a good understanding of the history that it talks about. I was voicing this complaint to a friend of mine working with me at the time when she turned around and made me see the whole business of documentary making in a different way, she told me that people watch documentaries after they come home from work and that they could not cope with a deep and complex picture of the world at that point but wanted something to relax to. I know what she meant. Having done a job now for days on end, it is not easy to come back and immediately keep working on intellectual matters- the mind like the body needs a rest.

I am not writing this because it just struck me for no reason, but because of a post that Ashok wrote about blogging. Ashok has two complaints about blogging- one is that most blogs are stupid and the other is that most blogs are anti-social. I don't want to argue with his suggestion that the internet is much less sociable than it might seem- I have some durable relationships through the net but not that many. But I want to suggest that what Ashok diagnoses as stupid solipsism on the net- and there is much of it (this blog is not immune!)- is caused by something and something that may be of interest to us when we think about the general cultural levels of the population at large. If you as many people do spend between 9 and 5 working, or 9 and 6 or 9 and 7, then you'll know that one of the main conditions of modern life is tiredness. Not necessarily physical tiredness but mental tiredness. Much of what people do on the blogosphere is actually displacement activity- its an activity for their spare time and whilst they want their blogs to be good, they don't want to feel the pressure of being excellent and they don't want necessarily to be Newton on their blog when they have to be Boyle at work.

Work is the subject of our lives and so you would expect the internet, which is the activity of spare time, not to be as intense or powerful as working life. That is one of the many reasons I'm sceptical about net revolutions- not that I don't think the net has power (Amazon and Daily Kos in different ways demonstrate that) but that I do not think either a great truth or a great political movement will emerge purely from the internet. My scepticism arises from my sense that people's lives take place more off the internet than on it- and lack the leisure at present to engage fully all the time with what they read online. Ultimately the problem here is not necessarily a lack of engagement but could be a lack of spare leisure to spend on hard analysis or political engagement.


James Higham said...

How does he mean anti-social? I'm personally anti-social but I don't think my blog is.

Gracchi said...

Neither do I! No I think its more blogs like mine- I just don't have more time to do anything than write my own articles! You on the otehr hand Mr Higham sustain a universe of talents- and I'm not quite sure where the time comes from for you.... (I suspect you have a secret other five hours and actually live a 29 hour day!)

edmund said...

I think it's worth noting that people actualy work a lot less than they used to (admittely more true at the bottom than the top of the class system) so this has.

In fact I wondewr if it may even have contributed to the Flynn effect ( the way in whihc IQ scores keep going up) particulary in terms of intellecual development.

what annoys me most about documentaries is when simplicity crosses the line into inaccuracy-which is very common.

James Higham said...

I just get carried away.

John Midgley said...

Similar and not unrelated good points made by Andrew Sullivan in the Times the other week at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/andrew_sullivan/article6493002.ece