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Previous | Next by ben 26 December, 2006 - 6:48 AM

I don't know if any of you 'naughts are socially minded, or really care about structures of society and where they take us, but I'm always interested. To that end, my question today deals with subjects brought up (either obliquely or directly) by John and Lauren... and discussed with many friends.

For some explanation of how I got here, you can read this paragraph, if you don't care, you can just skip ahead to the next paragraph, where I actually make a point. First off, John lent me a book, "Out of It: A Cultural History of Intoxication" - a great book, if you get the chance. There's a couple of points where I disagree with him, but overall, it's a good read. In it, Walton brings up the topic of the Bourgeois, and their coffee fueled debates in the coffee houses of France and England that helped bring about huge social changes in the 18th Century (say, things like the French Revolution). I don't know if coffee was the sole stimulus (perhaps deplorable social situations and the help of the printing press), but sure, it helped. Then, Lauren, in passing today, mentioned that she was reading up on Habermas. Not really knowing who he was, I went to wikipedia to look him up. He's interesting, very idealistic (I like that, they get the people leaning slightly in the direction all wound up), and also brings up the idea that coffee houses were part of what made the ideals of equality, human rights and justice (notice: still not for all back then) popular. One effect of the culture and technology of the time was that the people had much greater access to publications, and to publish their own thoughts and ideas. This got me thinking of an idea i'd had under different terminology...

Are blogs the modern version of 18th Century coffee houses? A quick search showed me that this isn't a new idea other people either. Now, the internet (like the printing press) isn't a place, it's a tool, it's technology, it can be used in an infinite number of ways and by anyone to make many things happen (i don't need to list them here, you get it). However, a website, like a publication, is designed to do one specific thing. A blog, for example, is designed to communicate one (or several) person's ideas to the public (or to whomever can view it), and usually to let people comment about this, creating a discussion. Now, like the cable news personalities, anyone can voice their political opinion and engender discussion, if they so please. this doesn't mean that everyone's voice is worth listening to, but there are those out there, with whom i don't necessarily agree politically, but whom I will read anyways, because they are adding to the debate, rather than the senseless prating of baboons, merely adding to the cacophony from which we must emerge to generate coherent thoughts.

To this end, what do you think... are blogs able to be the equivalent of the publications that came from the 18th Century Coffee Houses of the Bourgeois? I'm opening it up to the salon, as it were...

1/2/2007 >> muhgcee

Well, I don't know much about 18th century coffee houses (nice use of capitalization, by the way), but I do have one minor thing to add.

In coffee houses, you will speak and respond instantly. The person isn't going to wait there for 30 minutes while you formulate your response. On the web, you can respond to what someone says 24 hours later and still be in the discussion. Is this a good or a bad thing?

Of course, there are chat rooms too, but I don't think they have nearly the amount of discussion as on blogs, as a whole.

1/2/2007 >> ben

well, considering the fact that you posted your response a week after my initial query, and that I'm responding to you, and this is possibly the most dead discussion on the internet, I would have to say at least 1 person will wait, and this is good, in more cases than it is bad, i think. This way, people can (and occasionally even will spend some time thinking about their response, rather than blurting out the first thing that's in their heads.

of course, there are WAY more flame wars on the internet than there were duels as a result of coffee house discussions, i'd wager...

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