Blogger Existentialism

Matt Yglesias argues that the question “Are you a blogger?” is inapt because the vast majority of people who blog spend most of their time doing something else.

Nobody thinks of the miscellaneous class of people who have written books (say, Barnett, Samantha Powers, James Joyce, Robert Putnam, and Michael Crichton) as “book writers.” Rather, these are all people from different fields who all happen to have written books. This isn’t to say that blogging is somehow trivial (certainly the printing press was not a trivial invention) but simply that it’s an additional mode of presentation not an additional kind of thing to be presented.

This is true in one sense, although I actually do tend to think of most of these people as “authors” (“book writers” is rather awkward). One can be many things based on the context of a discussion. Mark Cuban is a highly successful entrepreneur, an NBA team owner, and a blogger.

In terms of his presentation to the world at large, Glenn Reynolds is primarily a blogger. He’s got a degree from the most prestigious law school in the country and is, I have on good authority, a superb teacher. Even though he generates significant ad revenue from InstaPundit, he’s a “law professor” by profession. But, outside a very select circle, he would be unknown to the world at large without the blog. Depending on what hat he’s wearing, Glenn is a “blogger,” “law professor,” “space law expert,” “musician,” “Mazda driver,” “husband,” or “father.” That he is all those things–often, several at once–doesn’t mean he isn’t any one of those.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Attila Girl says:

    I despise “author” as shorthand for “book writer.” Author means “originator,” so I don’t like it when that word is used without specifying what that person “originated”–wrote. I also feel that not simply using the term “writer” somehow implies that the book (or books) in question was (were) actually written by someone else (that is, they used a ghost).

    I really do prefer the term “writer.”

  2. Joe Carter says:

    This isn’t to say that blogging is somehow trivial…but simply that it’s an additional mode of presentation not an additional kind of thing to be presented.

    What Matt is essentially saying is, “I’m a serious writer dammit! I have a degree from Harvard and write for TAP so stop lumping me in with the unwashed masses who are nothing but wannabe-pundits-with-Internet-connections.”