9 September 2007

Spectral Ephemerality

Filed under: Reflections — ktismatics @ 9:48 am

…But most of my posts just sort of disappear, drifting out of memory altogether. The blogging format is built around a presumption of ephemerality, with dated posts that scroll down the page, out of view, eventually off the page altogether. Sure, they’re still there in the archives if anybody wants to look at them, and in fact every day a few visitors are transported by search engines back to one or another of the old Ktismatics posts. Maybe some of these haphazard travelers find something of value here, though I usually assume not. For the most part the old posts languish in an abandoned past.

I believe I made my first visit to a blog about a week before I started writing my own. At the time I didn’t understand the protocols and the traffic patterns. For me Ktismatics’ pages were its most important feature, the texts to which I wanted to draw readers’ attention. I used the posts to note passing thoughts and observations, or to highlight some feature or other of the more significant and timeless stuff to be found on the pages. It didn’t work out that way: visitors would read the posts and never click through to the pages, even though the links were right there on the top of the page every day. The blog structure affords page-oriented writings, just as television affords education and film affords art. But ultimately the audience shapes the medium. I began concentrating on the posts, eventually taking down some and eventually all of the pages around which I’d originally built the blog. Now only one page remains — it’s a new page, but I expect it will meet the same fate as the old pages.

It’s the intermediate nature of the blog that makes it hard for me to decide whether I’m writing a personal journal, a series of magazine articles, or installments in a book. When I look back on some of my old posts, which after all aren’t really all that old, I sometimes don’t remember having written them. If I don’t remember them, it’s almost certain that the readers don’t either. I could probably start putting them up again as reruns and no one would be the wiser. Maybe a hint of subliminal memory would haunt the reader, triggering not actual recall but some vague emotional overlay — a sense of deja vu perhaps, or of tedium, or perhaps the illusion of permanence that comes with repetition. Alternatively, I could just as easily delete every post in the archives and nobody would know the difference. Thereafter the blog would be haunted by the ghosts of words that, while they lived, had craved immortality…



  1. It sounds like you have the oppozitu (French accent) problem to someone who is good at marketting, they get many visitors, but there is no content to offer them.
    You might want to know that sometimes I reread your old posts, so will other people.
    Your posts keep interesting, even after rereading. If you ever publish them, please write me down on your list of buyers.
    I’ve put up some of the things I did to get 120 hits on one post over at my blog.


    Comment by Odile — 9 September 2007 @ 12:03 pm

  2. It does sound as though the reality of postmodern thinking is sinking in! But you are overly skeptical. Yes the blogworld is all about new info, but what’s new is also what the person happens to be searching for at the time and may be something actually quite ‘old’ chronistically.

    Once your posts have interacted with the readers of that time, the effects of that interaction certainly do linger in a quite permanent way and will continue to have an effect and it’s one that you have no way of keeping tabs on.

    I’d be happy to know that the ‘pages’ that you removed do continue to exist somewhere, for me and others to access when we need to, even though they have ceased to accomplish whatever purposes you had originally intended for them!


    Comment by samlcarr — 9 September 2007 @ 11:08 pm

  3. Thanks Odile and Sam. It’s hard to say what is the lasting impact on readers of anything they’ve read. Rarely can I remember specifics even of books that I liked, or that moved me, or that I thought were excellent. When I’ve written books my intentions were more far-reaching than when I write blog posts. I suppose one could accuse me of arrogance or pretentiousness, but as I was writing them I intended for the books to have a lasting impact on the world. And yet the books exist only on my computer, whereas the blog posts are available all the time to anyone in the world.


    Comment by ktismatics — 10 September 2007 @ 6:23 am

  4. It’s the intermediate nature of the blog that makes it hard for me to decide whether I’m writing a personal journal, a series of magazine articles, or installments in a book.

    Welcome to the brave new world of postmodern literature. Derrida was just the precursor – he was only our prophet – the voice that cried out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for endless electronic traces!”


    Comment by Erdman — 10 September 2007 @ 8:20 am

  5. So do you think that “hard drive” literature is on the way out? For years the postmodern novelist Robert Coover has been working on an electronic hypertext project at Brown. He said this in 1999: Reading off the screen is an overrated problem. I have found that the current generation of students, many of them, has trouble actually reading in books, that the page is an alien space. I think, though, that Coover expects linear texts to survive even if the paper format disappears. Hopefully internet-based writing will in the long run open up additional options rather than replacing what’s been around for awhile. Still, the novel is almost exclusively a modern literary form, which means it’s not that old and it might prove in the long run to be a historical phase.


    Comment by ktismatics — 10 September 2007 @ 11:53 am

  6. That is a fascinating discussion.

    Books, I believe, will always be around. But whether they will be the primary literary medium or just a novelty item (like vinyl records are becoming) is yet to be scene. My guess is that most everything will go to the screen.


    Comment by Erdman — 10 September 2007 @ 12:48 pm

  7. My guess is that after a while, we will see stratification. There will be readerships on multiple levels with authors on different levels. I see this happening at schools, but it will become more generalized. There will be more young people, no majority, that read more difficult literature. Books will stay because they’re practical and easy to carry and for ergonomic reasons.
    Books will be collected and kept as reminders or personality definers.
    To find books we’ll use internet, to search internet, we’ll use books.


    Comment by Odile — 13 September 2007 @ 12:40 pm

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