When a journal—which attempts to redefine and reinvent the concept of place—decides to enter the blogosphere, what should happen?
Sitting around the table, discussing this very question, the immediate answer amongst our editors was clear: We'll do exactly what the journal does, except edgier. With cameras and lights and reckless abandon.
And I agreed—couldn't wait to enter the Wilmington, NC environs with pad and camera and analytical mind ready to observe the ideas of place that exist around us which have been constructed out of thin air: the contemporary, main street mall with apartments located above the Banana Republic; the streets that run up to Wrightsville Beach, upon which city workers regularly attack the sand with leaf blowers; the airport terminals where nobody is meant to be for any period of time, and so find ways to escape even while there.
But then I thought, Is the blogosphere, this ethereal landscape we've now entered, a place? And if so, how would it look on a map, or in a photograph, or roughly etched into the grain of gypsum?
The idea of the blogosphere as place—this virtual landscape in which physical landmarks are connected by thematic, relational or irrational links—is not a difficult one to enter. But consider this: the screen, two dimensional, flat, pixilated, contains the idea of three dimensions, reflections of three dimensional lives digested mostly through text. And the text contains multitudes, contains regional cross-sections of lives pulsating upon a three dimensional globe spinning wildly, contains the daily struggles and milestones and rants and musings of people plugged in, sitting in an office or living room or coffee shop, plugging all of this into—where exactly?
Try stuffing a basketball into a business-sized envelope. And when you cannot, instead produce a paring knife and peel off a small sliver of orange-tinged leather. Slide it into the envelope. Seal it.
Now call that envelope a place, disconnected from the vandalized, publicly exposed ball. It seems to me all that can be said about the envelope is this: it's nothing and everything. Nowhere and everywhere.
And if this is true, then the blogosphere, like God, exists independent of us, but cannot exist without us. In other words, it is the absence of physicality. A body without form.
Is that a place?