Calling the Blogosphere

The P-G's Bill Toland is wrestling with what to call Pittsburgh bloggers. The blurghosphere? burghosphere? yinzosphere? I'm following Bill's lead. These are his words, not mine. I'm not going to touch that last one, but I wonder about the need for a name in the first place. Isn't Pittsburgh parochial enough without naming and claiming its own corner of the blogosphere? Isn't the whole point of the Net *not* to think only in RL geographic terms? Come to think of it, I'm not even a big fan of "blogosphere." Enough with the new words to describe life with digital technology! No more new words until everyone can use "fangirl" in a sentence. As a verb.


11 Responses to "Calling the Blogosphere"

Rob said... 5/31/2006 10:16 PM

The thing is, Pittsburgh is unique in having a fairly united blogging group. I think of it as an advantage, not a problem.

Perhaps the trick is, we need a term that reflects us being united as a group in the larger world-wide blogosphere -- a force to be reconed with.

Ok, how do you spell "reconed? That doesn't look right.


Rob of UnSpace

Mike Madison said... 6/01/2006 7:26 AM

I enjoy the local group as much as anyone. I'm *not* against getting together and knowing each other. Connectivity is great. But what's the advantage of being united -- beyond the fact that everyone is linked to at Who's going to reckon with us, and why?

Anonymous said... 6/01/2006 7:27 AM



The great thing about internet technologies is that they collapse the boundaries around space and time. One party can be in Japan and write something and a second party in Pittsburgh can respond a day or so later. There is still, however, a sense of a conversation taking place.

The drawback is that these same technologies alienate us from a sense of time and place.

Defining some of these web conversations as "Pittsburgh" in some ways gives readers a sense of geography and community.

I favor "Pittsblogs," if in fact Mike hasn't already registered that as a trademark.

Mike Madison said... 6/01/2006 10:20 AM

Go ahead and use "Pittsblogs" if you like; I haven't registered "Pittsblog" as a mark and don't have plans to. But do me the favor of making sure that there's a distinction between this blog and some group of blogs with a similar name. The absence of a registration doesn't mean that I wouldn't like to preserve the distinctiveness of "Pittsblog means *this* blog."

On the broader and more metaphysical point, I think I disagree that network technologies alienate us from senses of time and place. I don't know of any way to test the proposition, so we're all feeling our way with anecdotes, but when I'm posting here or elsewhere, I'm acutely aware of being in Pittsburgh -- or wherever my body happens to be. And I know that I'm also trying to have a conversation with a lot of people who are physically located all over the place. Networks extend our senses of what community and narrative (proxy for time) mean. I think that they don't diminish them. In other words, in this respect the Internet is a change of degree, not character. "Pittsburgh" has always been partly physical geography, partly concept, partly virtual space and time. I don't know that Pittsburgh bloggers need a new name to recognize that. Just ask Steeler Nation.

Rob said... 6/01/2006 11:24 AM

Thanks for the help on "reckoned." I'm not sure, but I think some important spelling neurons got reused, leaving a gaping hole in my spelling. The worst thing is, I suspect the neurons went to store information about something I don't care about, like Britney Spears -- whose last name doesn't look correctly spelled, either.

Anyway, I've found strength from having other Pittsburgh bloggers to learn from and exchange info -- both in virtual and real-time universes. There's a concept of support that at least I find useful.

As always, your mileage may vary.

Tim Murray said... 6/01/2006 11:33 AM

Perhaps the Professor could call his site, "The blog formerly known as Pittsblog." Actually, he was clever enough to come up with this name, and we shouldn't try to borrow it from him -- the way "Microsoft" borrowed its name from me, but that's a whole other topic.

"Pittsburgh" is, of course, more a state of mind (as the Professor calls, a "concept") than a place. By analogy, the fact that only one movie studio remains in the physical confines of "Hollywood" doesn't stop people from using that word as a reference to the movie industry in general. We Pittsburghers should stop wanting to be something we're not and embrace persons from elsewhere who use "Pittsburgh" as a code word for the gritty, smoky, unpleasant rustbelt. It's nice to have an identity.

Mike Madison said... 6/01/2006 11:46 AM

I'm with you on that.

Your Honor,
Borrow away. Heck, call the city "Pittsblog" instead of "Pittsburgh" (and see how much my nifty slogan helps the economy pick up!). The Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau is welcome to climb on board the Pittsblog bandwagon, but it looks like they have other plans.
Just getting in the spirit of things,

Anonymous said... 6/01/2006 2:39 PM

An issue such as this can only be addressed in one way (the same way that the GPVCB did it) - commission an expensive study on the name change.

Anonymous said... 6/01/2006 4:57 PM

Actually, I was kidding about "Pittsblogs". I prefer "Blurgher" because it sounds the worst.

I also feel it's hard to classify a Pittsburgh blog as a Pittsburgh blog. Lots of threads run through all the different blogs -- sports, national politics, spirituality, Mary Worth, eating, drinking, etc. -- that aren't necessarily Pittsburgh oriented.

I'll stand by my assertion that computers and the internet are alienating. Not to say that humans aren't robust enough to handle some alienation. I don't think it's a metaphysical issue, so much as a physical issue.

Staring at a 12-inch screen and tapping on a plastic keyboard are actual phenomena. The computer itself says little about us, yet its constraints dictate our actions. Is there a Pittsburgh computer, a Pittsburgh method of typing, a Pittsburgh browser? Ever been frustrated by a spreadsheet program? Was your reaction a typical Pittsburgher's reaction?

Much the same can be considered for the rest of our material world. We're surrounded by homogenized objects that have more to do with the operation of highly-capitalized, vertically-integrated economies than with personal taste or regional handicraft.

Perhaps you're right that the internet is a change of degree and not character. But Marx might have said in this case that quantitative change begets qualitative change.

Perhaps there is a positive correlation between time spent in front of a computer, the consumption of Doritos, stress indicators, and body mass index. But what does it tell us about ourselves that we need a scientist to tell us that these machines, this connectivity, makes us nervous? Do I need a weatherman to tell me which way the wind blows?

What about conversation? When people write things for the internet, do we get a sense of gesture, cadence, and expression that's particularly Pittsburgh?

As for the Steeler Nation, I couldn't help but feeling a certain amount of community among Steelers fans, even though I can't shake the Jerry Seinfeld quote that we're rooting for laundry.

So where do I stand, "yea" or "nay"?

What we call Pittsburgh bloggers is probably not so important but the opportunity for hundreds to write about and share their sense of place, their sense of Nature, has a tonic effect on me. We live in a town that still has some texture, variety, character, things that once you try to quantify will be cloned and corporatized faster than you can say Quaker Steak and Lube.

I might sound like a luddite, but I'm intrigued by the possibilities of internet publishing, of feeds, of tags, of rating systems, etc. That we can use these machines to increase contact sounds tricky but possible.

It's Pittsburgh. It's raining in sheets. I think I'll step outside for a while.

Mark Rauterkus said... 6/01/2006 8:17 PM

Does he need a name, or a domain? Or, is the goal just to have a jingle for marketing blitz -- fellow black & gold bloggers -- Blitzblogs. Steeler nation an 'at.

But, I'm less into football -- and more for participation -- "running mates." On the go an 'at, as we are.

But, the blogs are sorta like Common Life Opinion Hundles., my hobby site. There one could boast, "come live over here" or present some "candidate lessons of humility" and build a 'community learning outreach hub.'

But, the tune "think again" works well as a core concept, as in the Blog Realm -- we are able to constantly think again -- and deposit comments -- so as to re-perk on the day's news and lives we lead.

Amos_thePokerCat said... 6/01/2006 10:50 PM

Isn't Pittsburgh parochial enough without naming and claiming its own corner of the blogosphere?

Slow, hanging pitch right over the plate.

No, Pittsburgh isn't. If anything we take pride in is our parochialism. Is there any other city with such a high percentage of residents born here?

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About Pittsblog

Updated September 2020:

Pittsblog 2.0 was written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, from January 2004 through December 2011.

Since then, Pittsburgh-themed essays have appeared from time to time at, on law and technology, and in some of Pittsburgh's classier professional media venues.

Chris Briem of Null Space drops by Pittsblog from time to time.

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

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