Sunday, July 30, 2006


BLOGOLOGY 101


The term 'blog' is on everyone's tongue nowadays, where some find it not very tasteful, mistakenly believing that blogs are rank upstarts without tradition. Neither is the case, as the following brief history - organically commencing with what will one day be known among blogologists as paleoblogging - makes perfectly clear.

The earliest known examples of blogging, apart from the network of cave paintings - oldest evidence of the human need to blog - are probably the Sumerian clay tablets: early prototypes of the hard disk, but with data impressed by wooden stylus, in lieu of a keyboard. The tablets were then stacked up in rooms where, for want of a decent search engine and complete lack of RAM they weren't accessed for thousands of years, until some specialists at last extracted them by pick and shovel, an early form of data mining. Pharaonic tomb walls are another example of paleoblogging technology, which even had a virtual hypertext, afterlifewise.

Other early attempts at virtual hypertext include the Bible, widely acknowledged as the first multiple-author blog. Things then got a bit more authorially organized and along came personal quill-and-parchment efforts, historically notable among them Caesar's records of the conquest of Gaul, one of the early political blogs.

Surfing ahead a bit among the highlights of blogging history we come to Samuel Pepys, an early pioneer in cryptosecurity who, for reasons of personal privacy, blogged in an early version of SHTTP, which, unlike the top-notch security systems of today, wasn't successfully hacked for nearly 300 years. Another notable protoblogger was Henry Thoreau, who cut-and-pasted his earlier handwritten blogs into the dead-tree version those who still read books know as Walden.

And now that there are said to be three million blogs in Japan and climbing fast, we must mention from among many others the Japanese protobloggers Murasaki Shikibu (Genji blog), Sei Shonagon (Pillowbook blog) and of course Basho, the grandfather of the travel blog, who wandered wireless around Japan for decades, recording his many experiences in poetic fashion using unlinkable ink, which nevertheless links directly to today, and the magazine you are now holding.

Thus, as this brief historical purview indicates, blogging is but one tiny blossom on the big, ancient and well-rooted tree that flowers with human expression. As one of those multiple authors mentioned above might have put it, were he alive today, "There is nothing new under the sun, and that includes blogs." For hands-on realization of one small difference between Sumerian blogging and the modern version, click here.

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[As published in Kyoto Journal #61 and Ode Magazine]

5 comments:

Maya's Granny said...

Expression. That's it. To be able to express yourself, to be read, to see it written down. Ah, it is almost magic. It is absolutely addictive.

Winston said...

I have long thought that blogging was nothing really new, but just a new way to do something old. Yes it does have some attiributes which are new, like the instantanaeous presentation of our written words to an audience of millions. But underneath it all, it is nothing but scratchings on our cave walls that express out ideas.

Well done, Robert...

btw, the ending link doesn't...

Robert Brady said...

Winston, that's the way it was published in dead-tree form, causing mag readers to reflexively reach for their mice and realize...
But then maybe you're joking too...

Tabor said...

Blogging and cave painting...one and the same? Where does writing on napkins in bars fit? Or does it?

Robert Brady said...

Bars are a lot like caves where you can't write on the wall, except anonymously in the bathroom, so napkins are a necessary substitute. One of the poorer aspects of progress...