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This report is taken from PN Review 171, Volume 33 Number 1, September - October 2006.

The Web We Weave Mark Thwaite

 Ten years ago web-pages were pretty static and lifeless; now, internet sites are capable of recognising who we are, predicting our interests, and automatically generating targeted content and advertising. We can share photos, view videos and create podcasts. Over the course of its short life, the internet has already changed beyond recognition, and trends have come and gone, as much due to the vicissitudes of fashion as to changing technologies.

 ‘ Blogging’ has been around on the inter-net, in one form or another, since the early days of the web. Back in 1994, Justin Hall, a student at Swarthmore College, began an online diary. At that time, such writers called themselves diarists or journalists or journallers; some even called themselves escribitionists. Fortunately, that particular neologism never caught on. But, since about 2003, blogs (from ‘weblog’, a website compromised of daily, dated entries) have become increasingly important for their role in commenting on current events and, crucially, in breaking news stories. Salam Pax, an Iraqi who blogged about the Iraq war, became something of a phenomenon and an important source of information on the conflict as it was occurring. Subsequently, a successful book of his blog was published. His and many other blogs, from serving soldiers, Iraqi civilians, from left-wingers, right-wingers and those of no discernible political persuasion, created new channels by which we could hear about the world and help negotiate a way through it.

 While political blogs had themselves become news for the mainstream ...

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