Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Me and My Demographic

There are few things more likely to make me change course than to discover I'm part of a trend. Some would say this is typical of an Aquarian with a Scorpio ascendant (the trait of resisting traits?), and some would say this is just typical Awkward Squad behaviour. It's that Groucho Club thing again. So it was with mixed feelings I read this post by Doug Plummer in his blog Dispatches, which points to a New York Times feature on the phenomenon of "slow blogging."

Of course, there's a big difference between identifying a new behaviour and prescribing it as next season's thing; getting in step with a different, slower drum is not everybody's thing. A nice new counter-intuitive truth will always appeal to those who instinctively resist the hive mind ("The earth is going round the sun, you deluded fools!") -- hence the success of books like Freakonomics and Outliers -- but, in the end, humans are social creatures: it's nice to feel part of a collective, and not nice to be burned at the stake for heresy. Although I can see how that might happen to you...

So, is this "slow blogging"? Maybe yes, maybe no. It's certainly being read by such a small constituency that I could pull the plug at any time and barely hear the gurgle. My idea of a blog was formed by the one the photographer Alec Soth ran for a year until he felt it had started running him. It was a delightfully creative interaction between Alec and his commentors -- like the best postgraduate class you ever sat in. Of course, it made quite a difference that Mr. Soth was HOT after the success of his book Sleeping By The Mississippi -- everyone wants to be where the action is. To use the NYT comparison with "slow cooking," that was not so much slow blogging as bravura next-to-your-table blogging, with flaming brandy. Not something you can keep up for long.

Well, of course, I'd like to think that this blog is a bit different, in that you get some of the quality of slow cooking but at a somewhat faster pace -- like an upmarket stock cube, perhaps. And if you want to add to the mix, you can comment -- anonymously if you like -- by clicking on the "Comments" count below each post.

Oh, and talking of idiotic hats and trends, is the outbreak here of woolly caps worn baggily dangling from the back of the head (like a Smurf) a purely local thing, or is it a global phenomenon? This kind of "street" fashion trend has a lot in common with the idea of "morphic resonance" -- you know, the way that new behaviours seem to spread in a mysteriously simultaneous way (Rupert Sheldrake). The classic example is blue tits learning to attack milk bottles. And that started in Southampton, too.

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