Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Blog Diaspora

The wacky world of Web 2.0 is the opening of one Pandora's box after another. I can't count the number of times I've kicked myself for publishing a post that I didn't fully proofread. Sure, I can fix my mistakes, but once you put your words out there you can't take them back. For the most part, the blog post author does not control her own content.

The same goes for journalists, whose work we can read online. You can change misinformation and set the record straight, but your first gaffe often lives on in infamy on message boards and blogs. There is no glossing over what was written. That's a boon to some, but most people are either threatened by this dynamic or they fail to understand it.

Mike Madison cleverly provides us with an example of the latter. I think Mike knows full well the uneven ground where this clumsy lawyer is trying to tread. My point is that you can't keep a good discussion down, particularly one that has such a clear public benefit:

Neighborhood chatter being what it is, there's an interesting little drama unfolding nearby: A neighbor is re-landscaping a back yard, apparently with the permission of the Municipality, in a way that blocks one of the paved paths that Mt. Lebanites have used for decades as short-cuts between blocks of homes, as devices to sustain Lebo's walkable character, and as routes to our walkable schools.

I don't know the legal ins-and-outs of this situation. But Lebo has been down this path before, so to speak, and we've even talked about it on this blog -- not once, but twice!

Whatever the "right" resolution in any particular case -- and under some circumstances, I can imagine that blocking the path is the right thing to do -- I'd argue that most of these paved paths are *community* resources, not mere conveniences. They are there for a purpose, and they have been used for a long time for a reason. Both the neighborhood and the Municipality would be right to say so, and any particular homeowner who wants to throw up a gate or a fence or otherwise interfere with access should bear a very high burden of proving that use of the path causes some specific injury that can't be redressed in a different way.

Read all the comments if you like. They are still there. I'm not interested in archiving them here, but you can if you want to do so;)

But why should I care? First, I consider Mike to be part of my blogging community, which I highly value. He didn't ask me to do anything. I merely read his post at Pittsblog and I felt compelled to act. Second, I want to defend the kind of communal discourse that blogging generates. To help you understand what I mean, I quote a part of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Nobel Lecture:

More important, much more important: countries and whole continents belatedly repeat each other's mistakes, sometimes after centuries when, it would seem, everything should be so clear! No: what some nations have gone through, thought through, and rejected, suddenly seems to be the latest word in other nations. Here too the only substitute for what we ourselves have not experienced is art and literature. They have the marvelous capacity of transmitting from one nation to another despite differences in language, customs, and social structure--practical experience, the harsh national experience of many decades never tasted by the other nation. Sometimes this may save a whole nation from what is a dangerous or mistaken or plainly disastrous path, thus lessening the twists and turns of human history.

I'm serious when I write that to art and literature we can add blogging. For the lie cannot survive in the light of transparency. What I hope my post demonstrates is that no one can sweep the truth under the rug in the blogosphere.

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