Since I think I’m onto something good with this linguistic-drift-across-generations idea, I’ll follow classic Hollywood logic and immediately crank out a sequel replete with car chases, gratuitous pyrotechnics, lightning-fast repartee, and a talking Saint Bernard whose droll, ironic observations underscore the cynicism of the whole enterprise.

Or not. No promises on the car chases. On with the sequel. . .

THESIS: Underlying the accelerating changes in the lexicon associated with Web 2.0—which complexity is already plenty to get our heads around, thank you very much—there may be a deeper kind of drift occuring. Call it conceptual drift. Provocative bits of evidence keep cropping up in my feeds that suggest a whole new relational pattern of organizing and interacting with information is spontaneously materializing right in front of us.

PROVOCATIVE BIT 1: An early January riff on whether blogging restructures consciousness from if:book earlier this month, discussing a recent "existential crisis" suffered by Chris Bowers of the blog MyDD. Bowers has some heady things to say:

Blogging has not just changed the activities in which I engage–the activities in which I engage in order to be a successful blogger have profoundly altered the way my mind operates and the way I conceptualize my agency in relation to others. In effect, I do not exist in the same way I once existed.

And if:book goes on to comment:

The kind of communication that he and his fellow rhetoriticians have been orchestrating in recent years in the blogosphere — not to mention parallel developments elsewhere with wikis, message boards, social media, games and other inchoate forms that feel as much like public spaces as documents — has a speed and plasticity that approaches oral communication. A blog post isn’t so much a finished opus as a lump of clay that readers and other bloggers collectively shape through comments and discussion. Are these new technologies of the word (and beyond the word) restructuring consciousness?

PROVOCATIVE BIT 2: Will Richardson has recently been documenting some of the ways blogging is changing his outlook and thinking:

There’s no doubt that my own reading skills and habits have changed
drastically since I started consuming so much more online content. And
the biggest difference is that I am more of an active reader online
than when reading in print. And for me, the biggest reason my reading
has changed is because of blogging. I now read with an intent to write,
and my writing (or blogging) is an attempt to synthesize and connect
ideas, not simply summarize or paraphrase what I’ve been reading (if I
even get to that.)

He brings it full circle with a practical syllogism suggesting what we should do with the kinds of changes in consciousness blogging is effecting in students.

FACT: Students are and will be doing more reading in hypertext environments.
FACT: Reading in hypertext environments requires different literacies than in print environments.
FACT: Teachers need to teach their students how to read effectively in hypertext environments.
FACT: In order to teach these literacies effectively, teachers must also model their use.
CONCLUSION: Teachers should be reading and writing online (blogging).

Let’s distill the the salient points so far:

  • Blogging changes the blogger’s behaviors (e.g. reading, writing).
  • Blogging changes the blogger’s sense of relationship to others.
  • Blogging changes how the blogger organizes his/her sense of the world.

More provocations to come, particularly on the last point.