November 29, 2003

Anarchy? Kosmos? Commonwealth?

Posted by shonk at 11:26 AM in Blogging | TrackBack

Jonathan Wilde at Catallarchy makes a strong case for the blogosphere being a kosmos:

Last week I wrote about how the blogosphere is a free market anarchy - a system without any top-down command authority, where property rights are fully secured, coercion is nowhere to be found, and all relations are voluntary. At first blush, if you did not know I was taking about the blogosphere, a picture of an entropic free-for-all would have likely entired your mind upon reading everything after the hyphen in the previous sentence. No leader? Pandemonium! No design? Chaos! No control? Bedlam!

Yet, the as any denizen of the blogosphere knows, it is not chaotic. Why not?

The answer given by Wilde is that individuals like James Sifry and their inventions, like Technorati, Blogrolling, Trackback, RSS and many others give the blogosphere a structure. As Wilde says,

Each of these implementations [Technorati, Blogrolling, Trackback, etc.] were created by different individuals, such as Sifry, pursuing their own ends. There was no central authority barking out orders or making grand designs. The inception of a solid anatomy to the blogosphere was an entirely peripheral phenomenon.
Now, I like Wilde's analysis, but I think he makes a much stronger case for the blogosphere being a kosmos than a free-market anarchy. After all, no matter how much some people seem to live their whole lives in the blogosphere, nobody really lives there and the potential for causing damages is relatively minimal. You can't shoot someone through their blog.

However, this is by no means an attempt to discredit the importance of the blogosphere (and other online phenomena) as a counter-example to institutional or authoritarian thinking. Again to quote Wilde:

One of the biggest obstacles to overcome in convincing authoritarians about the benefits of a free society is their inability to accept the fact that order can can be an emergent property of individual action. For them, all facets of life have to have some sort of grand blueprint implemented by expert soverigns. The cannot conceive of the economy, culture, infrastructure, morality, or society itself as a bottom-up result of billions of autonomous individual actions. Yet, the blogosphere is a vivid example of how wrong they are.
This notion of emergent order is one that is receiving more academic attention of late, hopefully to the detriment of those who think order can only come from dictates from on high or "democratic" legislation.

That all having been said, I think Politburo Diktat's map of the Commonwealth of Blogosphere is excellent.