Monday, 31 March 2008

Blogs are Old Hat, Young Chap?

Reading the biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and among the many interesting insights (e.g. there was no big clamour for him to bring Sherlock Holmes from the dead and he kept writing Sherlock Holmes stories well into the 1920s) was how much Conan Doyle was a bit of a blogger in the (of course) pre-blogging, pre-Internet, pre-computer, pretty much pre-electricity etc. age.

What made me think of a parallel or two was the huge amount of work and energy that he put into contributing articles, firing off letters commenting on other people's articles (and then firing back counter-replies and counter-counter replies) and joining and being an active member of countless clubs and a spinning kaleidoscope of special interest groups. This was in addition to writing hundreds of short stories, novels and poetry. The late nineties and Edwardian period saw tremendous activity in the publishing industry with new magazines being launched and heavy pamphleting about a plethora of issues. Much of this was self-publishing akin to today's social media movement - albeit done by the upper middle classes and in print.

Faced with all these opportunities to see his words in print Conan Doyle simply could not stop himself. The blizzard of activity is overwhelming and even more impressive because all he had was a pen and paper and later a wonky second hand typewriter rather than a laptop and an Internet connection.

I suspect his attitude to information technology would have been warped by his well-known obsession with spiritualism - the belief in the afterlife, which Conan Doyle and others saw as a basis for a new all-unifying super-religion. Spiritualists regarded key technologies like electricity, radio and photography as revealing the spirit world - e.g. unexplained (actually often faked) ghostly auras on photographs or radio waves being the same method the dead communicated to the living. The movement got a huge boost by the First World War because so many people died so young so suddenly and many times with no information about what happened or even if they were dead. Their bereaved friends and families were desperate for closure and the idea of making contact with the dead held huge appeal.

The Internet as a means of universal connectivity certainly would have excited Conan Doyle's mind and - as we all know - is very much a tool for all sorts of wild n wacky obsessions of the kind that appealed to him.

So Conan Doyle, a blogger? Elementarily not because he went over to the Other Side in 1930. But potentially he could have been the world' s greatest blogger. And given his beliefs is desperately trying to get through to get a broadband account and pump out his reports from

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