Dem Bones

Dammit, Jim. I'm a blogger, not a journalist.If you haven't dosed yourself with sarcasm lately, you might have a look at an article whose title pretty much says it all. Tony Long's comically venomous The Blogosphere, Where a Tawdry Culture Goes to Die was a response to Tim O'Reilly's blogospheric code of conduct proposal, which resulted in the Blogger Registry Versus Free Speech brawl, which isn't really news anymore, so no worries. But there's a touch of irony here that may not be immediately apparent, and in fact may go unnoticed for the next 200 years, give or take.

I'm referring, of course, to the blogosphere's natural utility as a time capsule for future anthropologists. The sheer volume of stuff that has already been pumped into the blogosphere ought to supply ample material for a whole gang of future historians' theses, and it's still early in the game. Give us another 50 years, and Google's perpetually updated cache of blogomatter will be bursting at the seams, or whatever pass for seams in their storage media. Fifty years beyond that, and . . . well, we probably won't be interested in much of anything by then, but you get the idea.

The benefits of this are often overlooked, but they're huge. It will be like discovering an enormous graveyard containing not just bones, but the personal diaries of millions of ordinary citizens. Snapshots—literally so, in some cases—of daily doings and undoings, wise and unwise musings, and personal perceptions of the weighty and irrelevant events that shape and define a culture, all just lying there waiting for someone to come along and dig them up. You can almost taste the anthropological excitement of that future day.

After the mouthwash has taken effect, it might be fun to take an imaginary walk through those cultural catacombs, as seen through the eyes of a civilization yet to come. In a cave illuminated by flickering torchlight, a tribe of hominids huddle around the glowing screen of the last known video device. The Stern speaks, and then The Imus. The creatures beat their naked chests, howling in delight. In a corner of the cave, a young member of the tribe examines a piece of cardboard on which are printed images from an ancient electronic game. Machine guns, exploding cars and bloodied body parts entice him, but the game has long since disappeared from his world. In the darkness outside the cave, a satellite dish points at a silent sky.


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