Sunday, 16 August 2009

A note on lists and blogging

Here’s an interesting observation that I thought about developing (but ended up excising) from my paper on blogging. Walter Ong refers to “the noetic significance of tables and lists, of which the calendar is one example. Writing makes such apparatus possible. Indeed, writing was in a sense invented largely to make something like lists: by far most of the earliest writing we know” serves this purpose (Orality and Literacy, 98-99).

Lists are an important part of blogging discourse. Before I began blogging, I never used to compile lists of any kind. Nowadays, blogging has shaped my thought-patterns in such a way that I often catch myself (almost unintentionally) creating all sorts of mental lists and categorisations. I usually resist the temptation to blog such lists, since I tend to feel that mere list-making represents a regrettable trivialisation of language. But it’s interesting to reflect that technologies of writing may have originally been developed for the express purpose of making lists.

3 Comments:

Ched said...

1. Good point.
2. I will have a think on this.
3. And attempt to rectify my dereliction of enumeration.

James said...

It's certainly true to say that scholars' best guess as to what prompted the emergence of the Greek alphabet - and therefore our own - after the loss of Linear A & B in the Mycenaean Age (circa 1000) was the increasing need for stock inventories and order logs as commerce took off halfway through the 8thC between the young colonies of Magna Graecia and the mighty seafaring empire of the Phoenicians.

This, for instance, is the reason why you can turn our letter "A" upside down to reveal the Phoenician or, more precisely, Proto-Canaanite ideogram for an ox (well, you need to put a couple of dots in for the eyes), known to them as an "aleph".

Brad said...

For my part, I was preconditioned pre-blogging to make everything into a list partly by nature, but partly by film criticism, which loves its lists. And so, therefore, do I. I think lists, when playful and communal (and not tools for bludgeoning), are harmless, helpful, and fun, and often are the medium through which people discover things they eventually love. So they always have my vote.

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