Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Book Reviews, Part III (Blog).

Here's another review of Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World (2005) by Hugh Hewitt. (Disclosure: I'll admit a potential bias; I attend the same church as Mr. Hewitt and launched my own blog--the one you're reading--in part due to his influence.)

Perhaps the most common question a blogger receives from a nonblogger is, "What is a blog?" Instead of just providing the definition, consider handing or, at the very least, recommending Blog to such questioners. The book provides the quintessential definition: "Blog is short for weblog. Log means 'diary', as in a captain's log on a ship. Weblog means a diary of sorts maintained on the internet by one or more regular contributors." (Blog, p. ix.)

Better still, this timely book goes far beyond the mere definition to provide history, context, influence, examples, present and future uses of blogs, among other things.

I believe the book's greatest innovation is its comparison of the blogosphere with the Protestant Reformation. (Chapter 2; note: my theological training may have influenced this conclusion.) Humanly speaking, what loosed both the Reformation and the blogosphere was the "democritization" of information. In the case of the Reformation, the printing press and wide dissemination of scriptures in common language empowered the masses. By the same token, the breakdown of barriers to publish and distribute information and ideas, such as through the 'net and blogs, has a similar empowering effect.

Mr. Hewitt warmly references an Orange County basketball coach, Jerry Tardie. He noted that Coach Tardie "speaks in coach talk, the repetitive, specific, motivational, and tutorial style that all good coaches use." (p. xiv.) Mr. Hewitt's writing style in Blog does not stray far from this description. As a result, the book assumes a "cheerleading" cant. This approach leads Mr. Hewitt to emphasize the positives, and deemphasize or ignore the negatives that blogs may present.

While Mr. Hewitt does make a passing reference to misuses of the web/blogs for terrorist purposes, he does not duly address some other areas of concern. For example, the lack of any gatekeepers, such as editors, is both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing for the reasons stated above. Elites or oligarchies can no longer dictate or influence opinions by controlling or manipulating information flows. Conversely, information or text can be immediately published without any vetting or questioning. Moreover, as recent examples attest, there is no known or commonly accepted ethical standards to govern blogs which can lead to some deleterious effects. (This is not to say that newspapers or other media are immune to these problems either).

In any event, this book is a fine read and well-worth the time and dime for bloggers and nonbloggers.