Orson Scott Card on the Blogosphere (in 1985)

Yesterday, Glenn and Helen Reynolds posted an interview with science fiction author and columnist Orson Scott Card. I’ve been meaning to note that in his best-known work, the anti-war novel Ender’s Game, Mr. Card described a proto-blogosphere with erie prescience:

As soon as Father got them both onto his citizen’s access, they began testing the waters. They stayed away from the nets that required use of a real name. That wasn’t hard because real names only had to do with money. They didn’t need money. They needed respect, and that they could earn. With false names, on the right nets, they could be anybody. Old men, middle-aged women, anybody, as long as they were careful about the way they wrote. All that anyone would see were their words, their ideas. Every citizen started equal, on the nets.

They used throwaway names with their early efforts, not the identities that Peter planned to make famous and influential. Of course they were not invited to take part in the great national and international political forums – they could only be audiences there until they were invited or elected to take part. But they signed on and watched, reading some of the essays published by the great names, witnessing the debates that played across their desks.

And in the lesser conferences, where common people commented about the great debates, they began to insert their comments. At first Peter insisted that they be deliberately inflammatory. “We can’t learn how our style of writing is working unless we get responses – and if we’re bland, no one will answer.”

They were not bland, and people answered. The responses that got published on the public nets were vinegar; the responses that were sent as mail, for Peter and Valentine to read privately, were poisonous [careful – some offensive content here]. But they did learn what attributes of their writing were seized upon as childish and immature. And they got better.

… Peter took note of all their most memorable phrases and then did searches from time to time to find those phrases cropping up in other places. Not all of them did, but most of them were repeated here and there, and some of them even showed up in the major debates on the prestige nets.

Naturally, I’m not the first to notice this.

UPDATE: Chris Anderson picks up on this too.


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