For some time now, critics have been comparing the emergence of blogging to the early pamphleteers, who set the world to rights between the 17th and 19th centuries, on every aspect of politics, society and religion.
Well, soon enough we’ll be able to see how today’s bloggers compare with their pre-web 2.0 ancestors, courtesy of a digitisation project run by the Consortium of Research Libraries, who plan to digitise various collections of 19th century pamphlets, and make them available via Google, and other search engines.
Having attended a screening of Blog Wars at The Frontline Club a couple of months ago, and a subsequent question and answer session with the makers of the film, I can recall a question from the floor asking for views on this comparison of pamphleteer and blogger. The main difference between the two, someone suggested, was the difference in quality of writing. A blogger with the rhetorical skills of Tom Paine is yet to emerge, it seems.
But of course in defence of today’s bloggers, we now live in an age where language and grammar are both simplifying, hand in hand with the emergence of new communications technologies. See the fate of the semi-colon in France.
Well, one other difference I would suggest, is that while the pamphleteers were essentially consigned to the dustbin of history by the emergence of national newspapers, today’s bloggers seem unlikely to suffer the same fate.