So, what the hell is 'blogging' all about?

If you build it they will come
Tim Dunlop

There's an old joke where two kids are sitting in a room and one says to the other, "There's an aphrodisiac behind that radiator." And the other says, "What's a radiator?"

The valuable lesson to learn from this piece of frippery is to define all your key terms, so that when I say, bloggers are the new public intellectuals, I will go on to give a definition of both public intellectual and blogger. And I'll begin with the latter because it is easier.

A blogger is somebody who writes a weblog. A weblog is a website where a person logs, often on a daily basis, his or her thoughts on a range of topics.

The beauty of such sites is that the software is pretty simple to use and it is freely available from providers like Blogger.com. Once you sign up with such a company, you can easily add entries via your home or work or local library computer.

In one form or another weblogs have been around for a number of years now, but it is in the last year especially that the practice has really taken off.

Once you have your site, it is available for all and sundry to see and, if you wish, you can set it up so that readers can leave comments about individual posts.

There are now a large number of reasonably well-established weblogs that attract anywhere up to several hundred thousand readers a week each, and though this is small potatoes compared to mainstream networks and traditional media it does represent something of a phenomenon.

To some people, weblogs (blogs, as the word is almost universally abbreviated to) are a geek hula-hoop, a fad that will pass once the novelty wears off; a bit of fun, but not something to get too excited about. To others they represent a rebirth of participatory democracy, a new form of journalism, and even the home of the new public intellectuals.

It would be dull to simply declare that blogs are something in between these extremes, so let me tilt towards the argument that says they are, at least potentially, the home of a new type of public intellectual; a type that breaks down the usual images of the detached wise person or topical expert explaining things to an uninformed public, and that blogging brings public debate back within coo-ee of those to whom it should belong anyway, the ordinary citizens.

Blogging, potentially on a large scale, puts the public in public intellectual.

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