I've spent the past few days pondering Luke's ideas about writing and the web. I wanted to reply thoughtfully, and given the hard time I've given another friend recently about impassioned blog posts, I figured I better walk the walk. I don't pretend to have it figured out; but I do believe that he has wrongfully labeled the web as fast when it is merely an unfinished discussion in mid-pause awaiting a response.
He begins with the idea that "writing for the web is driven primarily by the need for speed and currency." To quote Derrida:
The least acceptable thing on television, on the radio, or in the newspapers today is for intellectuals to take their time, or to waste other people’s time there.
This put me in mind of Chomsky, and his discussion of concision in the US media:
So far I'm with him. And then:
I want to write slowly and lengthily, so that what I write requests that you read slowly and lengthily, so that perhaps together we can begin to ask what we have lost by acceding to the demand that writing be always in haste, in brief, and in utility...I do so, not only because it pleases me to do so, but because I want to raise for others the question of how writing for the web has perhaps prevented us from being writers at all.
'requests,' 'perhaps,' 'together'--these are amazing words, and I'll return to them in a moment. But first notice the rebellion in his tone. This is something to which I relate. For me, writing on the web is always an act of rebellion, an explicit subversion of the more writerly ways I could share my thoughts, an engagement with the temporal and unarchivable nature of the present. I believe that his rejection of the web is simply one more way it reveals itself: the rules governing what is published and unpublished, what is said and unsaid are not controlled by the few.
I also don't believe him when he says: "It is possible but not likely that a famous figure’s collected emails will ever be published in the way that collected letters were published in the past." Together we share the model of the one who left His legacy for illiterate fishermen to record. This is one of the main reasons I engage with the web over other forms of discourse: I want the words to lose their value, and be replaced with relationships.
Back to those three words: requests, perhaps, together. Implicit in these choices is what characterizes the web for me. It is always an invitation to collaborate, a tentative and dangerous risk I take that has no guarantee of reciprocation. I long for togetherness, and I purposely leave my thought incomplete in the hope that you will complete it. This is the foolishness of the web, and what keeps me humble.