By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Blog Awards
RCBC Carlos P. Romulo Theater
December 11, 2010
We are, each of us, a product of our times. And our times have come to be defined by blogging.
But even the definition of blogging has changed. Or put another way, what constitutes blogging has changed, is changing, and by the time we see each other next year, will have changed some more.
So if each of us is a product of our times, we are, as bloggers, artifacts of the time we began blogging.
In my case I began as a writer in the papers and magazines who decided to take up blogging in search of new audiences and to expand my existing ones.
As an opinion writer, the transition was easy and in fact, quite natural. The only difference that required some getting used to, was the immediacy of feedback from the audience.
It was easier, for me, in a sense, because I have always been an opinion writer and never a reporter. It has been much tougher for reporters to take up blogging, and I’m not sure if they have ever reconciled themselves to the medium.
The debate between professional writers and professional bloggers can be summarized in three contrasting points of view.
Journalism at its finest is history written in a hurry. Blogging at its worst is history tweaked to maximize SEO.
Blogging at its best aspired to speak truth to power, but blogging at its worst has become the quest for the captive niche.
Blogging is about celebrating freedom but at its worst has become what Jaron Lanier has condemned as “Digital Maoism.”
Let me state, however, that blogging is one of the best things to have happened but let me also caution everyone that much as we know, and generally, like, each other, and even as we have celebrated the communities and sub-communities we have formed over the years in events such as this one, we are still a small –pitifully small, mind you- group of people.
Last year some of us were given silly hats and proclaimed some sort of tribal leaders of the blogging world, which was of course particularly silly because it betrayed a ridiculous conception of what tribes are. But the silly hats came with trophies and prizes so we all gamely posed for pictures and had a good time.
However, we can take stock of where we are and where we are is that blogging and bloggers have their own establishment, their own hierarchies, their own us against them mentalities and an increasingly feeble desire to celebrate the whole.
In simplest terms, the challenge confronting bloggers is, the novelty has worn off. How many bloggers do we know, who have dropped out of sight, disillusioned or burned out, or who have taken up other new media activities that are both more lucrative, and more peaceful?
Of course I am primarily talking about the kind of blogging I know, which concerns itself with politics and current events. Your tribe –and I say your, and not my, tribe, because at this point I have had to make the transition to work that requires me to say as little for myself as possible- has not increased.
To be sure there are new voices but the new has not kept up with the many other voices joining in the conversations going on concerning other topics. There is a generational aspect to this. There is an educational dimension, too. We are discovering the full implications of living in a society where the idea of a civic culture is dead.
At its most basic level what is gone is the sense that there is much more that unites us than divides us. To the extent that we can agree to disagree if only because there remains much more on what we should be able to agree on.
Some of us mourn this. Others do not regret its loss. And there are those proposing we start anew and build afresh. The very lack of a consensus on this is, to my mind, reveals the massive extent of the problem.
From being an active blogger to becoming more of a lurker, from being part of the conversation to more often than not, listening in and simply mulling over the buzz, I have very mixed feelings about where I am and where we are.
At the most basic level of things, what I think we can celebrate tonight is being together, in this room. Sharing stories, seeing old friends, making new ones. Among the most basic of human compulsions is that of communicating, of sharing. With all the give-and-take, the laughter and even anger that can cause: we are here because we are human and to borrow that old phrase, I blog therefore I am.
We used to blog by means of words. We can now blog by means of pictures and videos. We can be more ourselves, revealing the many facets each of us possesses.
I do not know if this means we are, necessarily, more open about ourselves; we have, I think, increasingly had to find ways to be selective about ourselves.
We have essentially come to learn that cyberspace is not detached from real life and that the real world has been recreated in cyberspace more than we thought it might, or should.
And yet, here we are. Some of us wiser, some of us richer, some of us craftier and most of us perhaps, still none the wiser. But here we are, and that is a good thing. Because we have to believe that the basic compulsion to communicate will bring out the best, not just in each of us, but among all of us.
Because each of us, in our heart of hearts wants to leave something tangible out there, to show we once were, and that as we were, so did we care: mightily, even daringly, to the best of our ability and for posterity.
That is what tonight is about. That is what it means to be a blogger.