16 December 2006

Blogging, Video Games, the Progression of Art & the Future of Politics

I saw a recent report that suggested that blogging has peaked. I'd like to suggest that the full influence of blogging has yet to be felt.

Renaissance art changed how people thought about reality. The art went from iconic to realistic, from celebrating divinity that merely happened to take a human form to celebrating the human form. The Renaissance, with its emphasis on secular issues and response to market forces, represented a shift from heaven to earth. How people perceive the world through their art makes a huge difference in their expectations about how the world ought to be.

In the last generation, video games have become a huge market. It is not just true that the video game industry has become bigger than movie videos, but I would strongly suspect that time spent with any one video game is a multiple of the time spent with any one video; gamers play for hours and movie fans watch for about 100 minutes. Hence, the time spent on video games is even greater than the money spent on video games. These games have changed the consciousness of a generation of youth.

What makes video games unique in the progression of dominant art forms?

Through the history of the West, the dominant art has arguably progressed from the painting and sculptures of the Renaissance (think DaVinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli) the classical music of the Enlightenment (think Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach), and the novels of the age of capitalism (think Dickens, Faulkner, and Twain) and, most recently, movies. In each of these past forms, the spectator is expected to admire. You are expected to gaze in awe at Michelangelo's David, to listen enraptured to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony or become engrossed in Faulkner's Sound & the Fury or sit in admiration of Benigni's film, Life is Beautiful. By contrast, I am expected to become a participant in the video games Civilization or Halo. Video games, although not yet the dominant art form, are different from any other “art” form in the history of the West.

Blogging is to news and commentary what video games are to entertainment; blogs thrust the spectator into the role (however briefly and for however small of an audience) of performer. Blogs blur the boundary between spectator and participant.

Has blogging peaked? I doubt it. Rather, I suspect that the real influence of blogging has only begun to be felt. Just as the orchestration and precision of classical music symphony presaged the factories of the industrial age and Renaissance art shifted focus to the here and now, video games and blogging have changed the definition of spectator and will change what it means to be consumers or voters. The generation that grows up blogging and playing video games is going to scoff at being excluded from participation in formulating policy or having to choose options that have been defined by others. Rather, the politics of this generation will be a politics of participation.

The successful politicians and parties won't pretend to offer a tightly plotted narrative like a filmmaker; rather, they will offer a context and platform for participation, like the designer of a video game. The successful policy makers won’t be those who craft the most admirable policy; they’ll be the policy-makers who are best able to create mechanisms for policy formulation that engage the average citizen.

Whoever first makes this shift will win over a new generation of voters. Has blogging peaked? No. Rather, the medium of blogging has only just begun to change our expectations of politics, policy, and community. As with all technology, the really interesting stage of adoption occurs when new technological inventions trigger new social inventions. This is the dance of social evolution and the popularity of blogging is just the first step in that dance. Get ready. Soon the floor will begin shaking.


Anonymous said...

I think the number of bloggers will increase, but their impact will decrease.

Like everything else in America, the web is becoming more and more a corporate medium. Most blogs are hosted by a relative handful of companies, and when those companies start clamping down on content- and I believe they will- there won't be anyplace left for nonconformists to speak and be heard.

I'm afraid that in another ten years the web will be about as significant as a shopping mall.

bob said...

Being that I am brand new to this whole blog thing I have something that might be usefull. An unbias, first impression. So, what do I think? Blogging is a short way to express ideas, opinions and speculations. Rather then picking up a 300 page text book, you can recieve a concise paragraph expressing the most important points the author wants to portray. So I agree with Ron on this one that blogging does have the potential to take lengthy subjects and condense them into managable material for even the most simple minded person who I can identify with. However, as in many other matters, the barrier for blogging is education. I am 21 and this is the first time I have ever read a blog entry. This meens that no attempt has been successful to capture my intrest and get me to click on a link provided in some non-discript email. (jk Ron, I loved it) Are blogs going to succeed as an independent information highway? Yes, but only if blog authors put out the effort to educate their audiences.