Is Blogging Replacing Oral History?
Blogging is becoming more and more a part of our culture as people of my generation are spending more and more of their lives online, practically living online. In many ways, this is what the Internet is about - empowering the average person to broadcast their message in the same way Mass Media does.
I Don't Read Blogs
Web logs actually bore me. Very few people, even the elite in the Blogosphere are interesting enough to me to want to keep track of. The one exception was the Mixerman Chronicles , the diary of a recording engineer on a major label project. I devoured that thing on a daily basis until it dissolved.
Another similar web log for software developers is CAMEL . It chronicles a doomed software project from a developer's point of view.
Recently I learned of The Flight Risk , the web log of an international fugitive that's captured the nation's imagination. This is reality TV for the Internet. But is it something more as well?
Oral Traditions v. Written History
Before the written word, our history was told to us by the elders in our clan. In many ways, we're losing quite a bit of our history. My grandmother told us stories of World War II, but not often. That's a lot of personal, family history we're losing. A lot of experiences.
I don't even have my parents stories from when they were growing up in the 50's and 60's. Today we have mass media. Everyone in the nation now has a similar background as taught by the public education system. Our oral histories have been replaced by official written histories. Even worse, one school is attempting to introduce textbooks that replace terms like "The Founding Fathers" with "The Framers," and will remove mentions of Mount Rushmore entirely because it offends some American-Indian Groups. 
The official written histories too are often made up. History is a fiction told by the winning side. If German was victorious in WWII, our history books may be filled with information on how the world was cleansed for the Arian race, there would certainly be no mention of a Holocaust. After all, who coined the term Holocaust? Certainly not the Nazi's.
I take this extreme example to illustrate that history is often a selective editing of facts. Even our personal histories involve quite a bit of selective memory. Police know that every person who witnesses an incident will have a different version of the story.
A recent article in the NY times reveals that one of it's reporters made up many of his stories. He claimed to be on location in Virginia, or Maryland when in fact he was in his apartment in New York. 
Where Web Logs Come In
Web Logs are typically one person's opinion or experience. They fly in the face of the official sanitized versions of reality presented to us by the mass media and textbook writers. They put is in one person's world and let us experience it as they do.
The Diary of Anne Frank is an amazing account of one person's experience in Nazi Germany. Now, thanks to web logs, many people throughout the world have the opportunity share their own experiences in a similar way.
Oral histories are important for several reasons. In addition to giving us a sense of where we came from, and entertaining, they also teach important lessons. Storytelling is an important teaching tool, and one of the most powerful available to us. Rather than laundry listing details, like which berries you can eat and which you can't, by putting it into story format, we can absorb the information almost as if what's being told happened to us.
So now if I'm ever in a situation where I'm engineering a major label band and things start to go awry, it will almost be a familiar situation. Certainly much more so than if I had never read the Mixerman Chronicles. Isn't that one of the most important goals of teaching?
- The Mixerman Chronicles (Mixerman linked to me from his new site. Check out his book.)
- She's a Flight Risk
- Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception
- Textbook Changes Draw Charges of Political Correctness
page first created on Sunday, May 11, 2003
© Mark Wieczorek