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CHAPTER TEN LATE MODERN BLOG: AFFECT, CONTAGION AND FLOW FROM THE PICTURE POSTCARD TO THE BLOGOSPHERE MELISSA JANE HARDIE Nobody need fear that there is any spot on the earth which is not depicted on this wonderful oblong. —James Douglas, 1907 Precipitated by increasingly urgent literacies in the West; facilitated by the proliferating forms of cheap lithographic reproduction; mandated by the postal system's expansion from parochial reach to “World Wide Postage”: although the possibility of the postcard preceded its adoption as a means of democratic and decentralised interaction and reportage, these particular proximities of technology, aesthetics and rhetorical franchise allowed the craze to bloom until the end of the First World War, when the vicissitudes of international conflict enervated the form1. And so it is with the “blogosphere.” Although the possibility of such a “revolution” in online publishing has existed for nearly a decade, a number of factors enabled the formation of “blogging” as a distinct, and distinctly familiar activity. How do we gauge propinquity in the formerly undiscursive “space” of the blogosphere, now that it approaches a plenum? One way, I argue, is to find an appropriately informal analogue for blogging in the mania of “postcarding” – a closeness of acts rather than in time. In particular, I am interested in what I am calling the “late modern blog,” a recapitulation of modernity's fascination with the unidirectional and performative act of one-way communication. Picture postcards may bear the image of their point of origin, but unlike letters or other mail they have no return address. Their contents, sent out into the world on their “wonderful oblong,” are persistently public: The postcard spread the news everywhere that subjectivity, as a product of the letter’s confidentiality, had been addressed to a public audience, and it did so What is the New Rhetoric? precisely for the reason that it lacked the confidentiality of the letter. (Siegert 147) 141 This lack of confidentiality, the dissolution of a private subject, offers a remarkable forecast of the blog, particularly in its more intimate formations, and this chapter is concerned with blogging not as an adjunct or ancillary version of journalism but as a form of public personal expression. I. This Wonderful Oblong The postcard as we know it originated in Austria in 1869, as a result of concern over the burden letter writing placed on the postal system (Staff 46, 83), and to provide a venue for short comments, greetings, and other brief messages. The postcard obviated the need to write prolix messages in favour of short ones guided by the inherent limits of its shape and size, and modifications of its design saw the different elements of the communication – address, message, decoration – disposed on the two sides of the card in various ways. It wasn’t until 1903 that postcard standards were revised to authorise the use of the back of the postcard to bear a message, as well as the address, leading to the so-called “divided back” with which we are all familiar (Staff 36). This determination lead to the blossoming of pictorial art on the front of the postcard and the dominance of the picture postcard over other forms of postal card, a dominance that re-asserted itself in the field of collection. Not surprisingly the art most usually displayed on the postcard was photographic and lithographic, technologies of reproduction, which married well with the postcard’s seriality and ubiquity. The ubiquity of the postcard can be gauged by the ways in which it came to represent a portal onto the variety of landscapes it depicted. Writing in 1907, James Douglas described the picture postcard as “a candid revelation of our pursuits and pastimes, our customs and costumes, our morals and manners” (Staff 79). “Nobody need fear,” he continued: that there is any spot on the earth which is not depicted on this wonderful oblong. The photographer has photographed everything between the poles. He has snapshotted the earth. No mountain and no wave has evaded his omnipresent lens. The click of his shutter has been heard on every Alp and in every desert . . . . Every pimple on the earth’s skin has been photographed, and wherever the human eye roves or roams it detects the self-conscious air of the reproduced. (Staff 79) 142 Chapter Ten Ironically, though the postcard was introduced to ease the burden of postal delivery, the exchange of postcards and the collection of postcards became popular practices: In the cafés and open-air restaurants and other public places, it was common to see a postman with a mailing box strapped to his back, going from one table to the next, selling picture postcards and postage stamps. Then and there, people could write their messages and mail their postcards while the postman was waiting. (Staff 59) Prolific exchanges of postcards were sufficiently common that an affliction, “postcarditis,” came to be named. In 1913, for example, “five billion” postcards were circulated in Europe alone (Vincent 425). Staff quotes an 1899 article from The Standard that describes the rise of interest in postcards through an assortment of pathologising metaphors: The illustrated postcard craze, like the influenza, has spread to these islands from the Continent, where it has been raging with considerable severity. Sporadic cases have occurred in Britain. Young ladies who have escaped the philatelic infection or wearied of collecting Christmas cards, have been known to fill albums with missives of this kind received from friends abroad . . . (60) The passage parodies international congress as a form of contagion, one that follows the tracks of the postcards itself as harbinger of the foreign: Hindu temples, pyramids, medieval castles, wild game, rattan baskets, and scantily clad peoples lay alongside the tea cozies in Victorian or Edwardian front rooms and parlors and were displayed and passed around, pasted randomly or categorically in a scrapbook or by themselves, evoking myriad responses from gasps to sighs, from giggles to outrage, from a brief comment to a less brief discussion – and, often enough, a complete lack of interest. (Wong 356) A “craze” for postcards is aligned with other afflictions, and occupies their place because alternative afflictions have been either avoided or exhausted; inherent in the notion of a “craze” is the notion of its exhaustion. Postcards, like stamps and Christmas cards, are the carriers of a metaphorical illness whose contagiousness is revealed in the behaviour of young ladies in particular, and particularly in young ladies who have “friends abroad.” The passage implies that the contagion is pronounced among those who are relatively well off, and one might assume that the acquisition, display, and appreciation of postcards were activities consonant with middle-class leisure. However, the distribution of this “craze” was certainly far wider than among the middle classes, young women, and far beyond the continent; by the time of this article it had certainly What is the New Rhetoric? 143 spread to the United States and Colonial Europe’s far reaches. The article’s description of its afflicted disguises one crucial aspect of the postcard, which was that it enfranchised readers, writers, and collectors across social classes, generations, and fixed geographical locations. Writing of his Berlin childhood the philosopher critic Walter Benjamin paused to remember the passion he felt for the postcards he received from his grandmother: There are people who think they find the key to their destinies in heredity, others in horoscopes, others again in education. For my part, I believe that I would gain numerous insights into my later life from my collection of picture postcards, if I were able to leaf through it again today. . . . [N]one of my boys’ adventure books kindled my love of travel as did the postcards. . . (Benjamin 620-21) For the young boy the postcards offer simultaneously a forecast and retrospection, pivoted around the contemplation of the collection. The postcard collection, bequeathed to the child by his grandmother not through an act of inheritance but through the mail, offers insight distinct from heredity, horoscopes, or education; it offer indices of affective connection and contagion, the incitement of feeling between generations and across geography. The love of travel incited by the postcards metaphorises the love between the two as a form of transport, and the transportation of affect, sentiment and engagement became the prime purpose of the postcard in its circumscribed contours and prolific production. The postcard heralded the phatic in serial, mediated and published enunciations, the exchange of postcards resembling the everydayness of speech acts. The movement of words between people came to travel the same groove, so to speak, as the movement of the artefacts themselves. That the messages carried on postcards were to be conventional and formulaic, as the phatic commonly is, only served to highlight the importance of their being conveyed. A 1906 commentary on “Postal Carditis and Some Allied Manias” in American Illustrated Magazine asserted that “the microbe postale universelle caused ‘faddy degeneration of the brain’” (Zenari). The breeding ground for such manic dissemination is commonly calculated as an account of these novel and progressive shifts in the structure of postal delivery in Europe and elsewhere, of an assortment of technological innovations in printing, and in the newly near-ubiquitous phenomenon of literacy. The sale of postcards was both for dispersal and collection — postcards were purchased either or both to be retained in private (the album) and to be sent forward into publication (the postal system). The affliction “postcarditis” could be understood as a euphoric response to the proliferation of communicative possibilities signaled by the sturdy simplicity of the picture postcard: a condition of contagious communicativeness, akin to graphomania. It represented, equally and contradictorily, the desire to write and send postcards and the desire to 144 Chapter Ten accumulate these miniature canvases in private archives, sometimes after their postal use, sometimes before they were ever published within the postal network. Picture postcards, which articulate and address, may be sent to distinctly dissimilar places: the collection, the archive, and the lost letter offices. Perhaps this accounts for the particular form the mania assumed; “postcarditis,” then, was a contagion which propelled itself in two apparently contradictory channels, toward and against communication, a token for contact and exchange or “dead-lettered” and unrealized artefacts withheld from the system. The first condition of possibility for the postcard craze was the internationalisation of the postal system. What modern sense we have of an international postal system was formally constituted when the Universal Postal Union was established in 1874 (Vincent 405). An “integrated postal community” in place of “a jumble of … postal treaties” (ibid), its establishment was heralded by the Times as “the most practical realization which human ingenuity has yet achieved of those floating aspirations towards universal brotherhood, regarded generally as of the nature of dreams, however decorative of the pages of poetic literature” (ibid). As Vincent notes, the Universal Postal Union “[facilitated] the use of reading and writing” (ibid) creating a world-wide information system in which, at least in theory, all parties and all places were implicated as potential interlocutors and potential sites within a newly devised written sphere of sociable interaction: “the peoples of the civilised world could now connect by means of their shared command of the written word” (ibid 4056).2 The Times’ comment offers an elaborate analogy to describe the postal community, understood as a “practical realization” of “floating aspirations,” that is, as a technical and physical instatement of a poetic or figurative possibility. Aspirations “float” on the back of the post; the postal system offers a vehicle for the metaphorisation of communicative instruments as affective, objects which elicit affective response (movement) through their own circulation. The quotation leaves unexamined precisely what the “shared command” of the “written word” might be – the postal system united those whose command of the written word was in important ways asymmetrical: postal objects negotiated not only different languages but even different writing systems. In fact, one might say that the “streamlining” implied by the universal system of postal exchange served precisely to adumbrate just how various and distinct were those precincts which it traversed; the “civilisation” it proposed (in the guise of representing) was constitutively colonial and Eurocentric. In other words, this “universal” and “civilised” system of communication served to create a membrane that would ideally contain, as well as communicate, the wide variety of potential communication it boded. What is the New Rhetoric? 145 These floating aspirations metaphorise the postal system as an updraft. Conceptualising the circulation as horizontal, paratactic, would limit the function of this membrane to encircling and containing communicative possibilities in a fashion that produced depth as a quality along with the distances covered by circulation. In distinctly Aeolian style, an aesthetic animation of the postal system draws it into currents that may approach “toward” the goal of communal integration among correspondents. Their nature is both dreamlike and poetic, and as such it’s “decorative” of the “pages of poetic literature,” with “decoration” not gesturing to specific ornaments but to the way in which the affective and aspirational both haunt the domain of the poetic, and in so doing display texture and dimensionality on the otherwise flat “pages” of poetry. In such a way the postal system creates a supplementary dimensionality of the realm of that which merely “decorates” the page; the flatness of writing is contrasted with the depth words attain once subject to the effects of post. This curious and striking set of analogies suggest that the very media of word transmission are subject to chance once the possibility of their automatic and global commerce is systematised. The delivery of letters, books, and other written artifacts of course far predated the establishment of “universal” postal service, but the notion of a systematic, universal post created the sense of a new formation of these familiar elements, one for which the Times’ writer’s metaphoric reach symptomatically moves the figurative into the territory of exploration, the finding of new spaces or dimensions for the written word released from the two-dimensional written page. The Times’ writer moves quickly to the decorative as a way of deepening the metaphors of circulation; what goes into circulation is not just a set of words but also floating “decoration.” Such a metaphor supplements the written with a visual artefact, understanding the decorative as supplementary to writing’s communicative exchanges. It’s probably no surprise, then, that a “key development” of this sphere was the picture postcard (Vincent 425). As an image with address affixed, the picture postcard was an emblematic “floating” realisation of the aspiration to universalism implied by the codification of standard postage; its images formed a kind of decoration consonant with those aspirations’ non-literal but “decorative” alignment with this new sphere of communication. This new sphere was equally engaged with, and by, images and text. The postcard allied the two in a fashion that anticipates by several years the association of words and images in film, that key new technology of the twentieth century. But while the experience of film inaugurated a century of public and mass mediation, the postcard deployed these same ingredients in a medium both less and more ephemeral. 146 Chapter Ten II. Diagnosis Blogitis A rhetorical prehistory exists for the weblog through an analogical rephrasing of the picture postcard's waxing and waning. While weblogs are certainly readable in terms of Manuel Castell's notion of the “dynamic networking” that structures 21st century sociality, an understanding of the “blogosphere” which speaks only of that dynamism, and only of those weblogs which function essentially as forms of informational media misses an opportunity to understand solitary, unidirectional, publicly enunciated but privately phrased intimacies and gifts within its discourse. It is no doubt clear from my description of the Universal Postal Union that I'm suggesting that it functioned for the late nineteenth century rather as the World Wide Web functioned for the late twentieth century as an unfamiliar new space of communication. A connection between the postcard and the blog, however, can be more specific. Whereas letters generally fold their communications in a protective envelope, postcards publish their messages. A postcard's message always exists, in some sense, in a “public,” open space. The postcard opened a public space for a constituency of readers and writers who had little prior access to any mode of publication, let alone one that potentially crossed continents. It's in that respect that the postcard can be considered as a “late modern blog,” a technology which arose as a consequence of, firstly, the general environment of cross-national, global innovations like the Universal Postal Union, and secondly through the creation of formal templates for writing entries on the surface of their “wonderful oblong.” These generic and formal constraints, as well as the global re-orientation of postage, permitted the rise of the postcard just as the progress of the web through the nineteen nineties, and the development of templates and publishing options such as those provided by blogger, moveable type, livejournal, and so on were the precipitating factors in the rise of the blog. It's something either more, or less, than a coincidence, then, that one hundred years after the diagnosis of “postcarditis” was made, a similarly-named condition emerges on the world-wide web: “blogitis.” “Blogitis” is variously defined as • • • as a blogger’s sickness: “[f]or those overtaken by Blogging. So much... it's making you sick. Journals, blogs, diaries, rants, raves and original writers welcome.” (“Blogitis Webring”); as a condition which afflicts a blog: “blogitis - (blog.itis) 1. Inflimation [sic] or irritation of the blog (“Blogitis”); as ennui: “I like spouting off, I like using it as a venue to put my thoughts into words, but I was getting that 'blogitis' where you wonder what the hell are you doing this for” (“Frenetic Minds: Politics What is the New Rhetoric? 147 • • • Archives”); as “a catch-all-phrase that means whatever you want it to mean in regards to so called web logs” (“Word Salad”); as a failure to blog: a poster writes “I have been suffering from a tragic condition known as blogitis. I haven't updated my blog in a while and I need some “medicine.” Please help me pay for this with the “honor” system. Thank you. (Rubush); as a failure of the system: “[by blogitis] I usually mean that the blogger software/site has sent my post somewhere into the ether or else I had too much last night” (“Word Salad”). “Blogitis,” in other words, can mean either or both too much blogging or too little; a surfeit or a deficit of communication; an “irrational exuberance” (Greenspan’s phrase for the internet-fueled stock market of the late nineties) as well as a deadening compulsion; it can refer both to communicative fervour and dead ends. One way to rephrase might be to call blogitis “modernity,” with its attendant states of euphoria and exhaustion, the death drive’s compulsion to repeat, repetitious action as internalised Taylorism; lassitude, hyperactivity, pathology and prosperity, all tangled in that loose conglomerate experience of the industrial revolutions of mechanical reproduction (in the postcard’s time) or the industrial revolution prompted by information culture (in the blog’s time). This curious concatenation of diverse experiences indicate above all else that the registration of blogging’s effects is made through an alteration of affective state, and of conscious, one reminiscent of Douglas’s description of landscape, after the postcard, and its “ self-conscious air of the reproduced.” While the effect of blogging is consummately public, its excesses are relegated to the private sphere somewhat as the pathology of “postcarditis” did to the postcard when it joined the serried ranks in collectors’ albums; in a 2004 New York Times story about the pernicious ubiquity of blogs, Katie Hafner draws a startling picture of blogitis as sequestration: To celebrate four years of marriage, Richard Wiggins and his wife, Judy Matthews, recently spent a week in Key West, Fla. Early on the morning of their anniversary, Ms. Matthews heard her husband get up and go into the bathroom. He stayed there for a long time. ‘I didn't hear any water running, so I wondered what was going on,’ Ms. Matthews said. When she knocked on the door, she found him seated with his laptop balanced on his knees, typing into his Web log, a collection of observations about the technical world, over a wireless link. Hafner’s description of the errant spouse-blogger features a familiar topos for the sequestrated indulgence of blogging’s compulsive pull; this “epistemology 148 Chapter Ten of the water closet” (after Edelman) offers a disconcerting coalition between blogger and other forms of evacuation.3 Whatever it is that Wiggins is doing in there, it’s to the detriment of his real-time and real-space relations. His blogging body – note how the passage draws attention to the balance of his laptop on his knees – is at once stationary and withheld, mobilised not by life but by the affective discharge between blogger, blog, and the blogosphere. The use of the Wiggins as an example of the blog author at work (use made by both me and Hafner) requires him to attain the status of exemplar; Massumi writes that: [l]ogically, the example is an odd beast. . . . An example is neither general (as is a system of concepts) nor particular (as is the material to which a system is applied). It is “singular.” It is defined by a disjunctive self-inclusion: a belonging to itself that is simultaneously an extendibility to everything else with which it might be connected (one for all, and all in itself) (17-18) This kind of exemplarity, like the definitions of blogitis, which adumbrated the diagnosis, has the quality of offering unlikely or disjunctive possibilities of connection. The example is an “odd beast,” rather like the odd beast blogger locked in the bathroom exemplifying singularity. Encapsulated within this image of quintessential solitude is also an account of connectivity fostered by, and structured around, the blog’s capacity to form connections: the story leaves unclear (as no doubt it is unclear) whether the connection felt by the lonely, long-distance blogger is to the blog per se or its potential to amplify and diversify the blogger’s audience; this distinction, in fact, hardly exists. The emergent properties of the blogging system, like the emergencies of war that effectively ended the postcard craze, remind us of the rhetorical complexities all open systems adduce, of the unpredictability of discursive spaces. As written blogs become either increasingly embedded in networks (as quasi-journalism), or else unidirectionally stagnant and ultimately incorporated into a virtual archive resembling the albums of postcards stockpiled by collectors, it remains to be seen how effectively this medium can contour or enunciate geopolitical formations and the effects of globalisation. Though the terms were coined a century apart, and, as far as I can tell, with no deliberate sense of repetition or resemblance, both “blogitis” and “postcarditis” are used in uncannily similar ways to describe these wild vacillations between a writer's sense of impassioned agency and of exhaustion, as if in both instances the potential for communication is either outstripped by the facilities of technology, or else outstrips technology itself, and as if there remains a distinct ambiguity over where this infectious incitement to discourse resides; in the writer or the sphere in which texts circulate. This uncanny echo across divergent technologies, societies, and agents is activated, in the first instance, by the homologous coinages “postcarditis” and “blogitis.” It suggests that there are What is the New Rhetoric? 149 ways in which the formation of each followed a similar logic, something to do with the experience of a new sphere in which to manifest and motivate a writing subject, one which offers a pivoting perspective on public and private spheres. It also suggests that the analogical movement between the two terms has an irresistible quality rather like the irresistible or compulsive activity of the blogger and postcard aficionado, a contagious property registered rhetorically as well as experientially. This slide into the contagious nature of resemblance, naming, and invention will re-orient the late modern blog as a textual artifact. III. Exemplary, Catachrestic, Contagious A model of “stickiness” is implicit in both diagnoses, “postcarditis” and “blogitis.” Those who fall under the spell of these miniature communicative technologies become adherents and liable to transfer their affliction to others. This “stickiness” can be given both positive and negative valences: positive when what is precipitated is a desirable trend of assimilation – participation in an emancipatory new rhetorical sphere (or “realm,” Perelman’s term); negative when fear of certain consequences of this emancipation (distraction, compulsion) precipitates a moral panic. As such it seems less micro biotic than viral, recalling the now near ubiquitous metaphor of the “virus” as a form of social interaction: viral metaphors reach both destructive intrusion (“The Melissa Virus”) and emancipatory social congress as good marketing (“Unleashing the Ideavirus”). In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell charts this epidemiological fashion, drawing from discourses of contagion a model of social interactivity that has strong resonance for internet and virtual communities. Gladwell’s influential figure symbolises the dominance of epidemiological metaphors in a description of the growth of internet community, the porting of off-screen subjectivity into on-screen identity, the fashionable adoption of virtual templates to orient an expressive subjectivity online. Above all else connectivity is the diacritical aspect of these accounts. Similar kinds of figurative drift characterise the naming and plotting of these new technologies of self. Metaphors of contagion are one way in which to put into discourse the question of connectivity; catachresis connects from the past to the present in the reuse of a word. In the seventies and eighties the naming of new information technologies relied substantially on the rhetorical figure of catachresis, or “abusio.” Catachresis is a form of extravagant metaphor, one that reaches well beyond literal meaning to create a “proper” name for something, which lacks a proper name4. A simulated workspace on a video screen becomes a “desktop,” for example. Silvae Rhetoricae tells us: “[t]his figure is generally considered a vice; however, Quintilian defends its use as a way by which one adapts existing terms to applications where a proper term does not exist.” In 150 Chapter Ten short order from the figurative pioneers of Xerox Park and Apple came not only “desktop,” but “window,” “cut” and “paste,” “mouse,” and so on: familiar words for wholly unfamiliar properties, protocols, or practices of interface and interaction. This muddle of metaphoric license located spatial relations onscreen and biological motors to one side: the “mouse,” whose heretofore unremarkable career in technological servitude was less signal than its passing resemblance to a small and moving boxy item with a whip-thin “tail” to its rear. Catachrestic usage, and metaphor more generally, only works when there is a certain “contagious” appropriateness to their adoption: however outlandish catachreses may seem, they becomes quickly incorporated into a public lexicon if they “work,” both aesthetically and pragmatically. Such is the case with “blog.” Fashioned from the longer term “weblog,” “blog” quickly caught on, not least because, I suggest, it echoes another set of relations: blog, bog, fog, smog. One definition of the “blogosphere” speaks of it as “ a poisonous environment of methane, self-satisfaction and other hot gasses. “The only creatures that can survive in the blogosphere are low-order molds, able to feed off the waste of others” (Knauss).5 Smog, of course, is a word that was coined at the the turn of last century, a neologism formed around 1905 to describe the “smoky fog” of London, another environment of unpredictable modernity. “Smog” has been more recently employed by David Schenk to describe a purported information glut, as “data smog.” The soupy, saturated realm satirised by Douglas in his 1907 description of the postcard engulfing the world returns in the figure of “data smog” and particularly in the epidemic diagnosed as “blogitis.” A fear of discourse can be attributed to the same fear as Douglas expressed of the postcard, that it would imbue the non-physical world which represented itself in the blogosphere with the “self-conscious air of the reproduced.” In One-Way Street Walter Benjamin wrote: [o]pinions are to the vast apparatus of social existence what oil is to machines: one does not go up to a turbine and pour machine oil over it; one applies a little to hidden spindles and joints that one has to know. (444) These “hidden spindles and joints” are the places where inconspicuous forms are fostered; for Benjamin, in One-Way Street, faced with an environment of “data smog,” prolific “prompt language” is the only one “equal to the moment” of modernity: Significant literary effectiveness can come into being only in a strict alternation between action and writing; it must nurture the inconspicuous forms that fit its influence in active communities better than does the pretentious, universal What is the New Rhetoric? gesture of the book – in leaflets, brochures, articles, and placards. Only this prompt language shows itself actively equal to the moment. (444) 151 My argument might be seen as a prelude to the observation that the blog offers an opportunity to contribute effectively in this facilitation of movement. This contribution would come from the blog’s capacity to offer “prompt language,” opinion-as-action in the face of a lifestyle otherwise stilled by the proliferation of fact. The blog, after all, facilitates the expression of opinion above all, and its migration toward journalism and other forms of information delivery represents ultimately a drift against the nature of the medium. The movement offered by blogs I want to characterise as not merely the provision of opinion, but more particularly as the circulation of affect, which is sometimes prompted by, and sometimes prompts, the expressive energy of the blog. “Prompt language,” in this context, is language which moves: “relations of motion and rest: affect” (Massumi 20). The postcard was important for literacy not merely because it was easily accessible, easily used and easily delivered, but because it associated literacy with affective exchange. As effectively “a stamp that could be written on,” the postcard “reduced the materiality of communication to its bare economy”: the postcard’s journey “celebrated the elimination of the world because the distance it effectively had covered in circling the globe added up to exactly zero” (Siergert 154). Surprisingly, then, what worldwide postage offered was the diminution of physical distance and the substitution of “relations of motion and rest” in the form of bare, phatic messages. The blog’s work within the networks of the world wide web has the same effect, one hundred years later, when the earlier technology has lost its immediacy and capacity to move. Where these prolific exchanges might lodge, and how they might find themselves in the way of “hidden spindles and joints” depends upon a recognition of the particular affective registers of blogging, and recognising that on some fundamental level the blog’s template and overdetermined format is, in fact, a fundamental aspect of its rhetorical potential. Devising blogging as the “prompt language” of postmodernity redeploys the concepts of late modernity to new ends. By severing the postcard’s provision from its usual context and adumbrating it here as a “late modern blog” I’ve hoped to do the kind of “creative violence” Massumi speaks of when he writes of the re-use of concepts: A concept could be severed from the system of connections from which it is drawn and ploppped into a new and open environment where it suffers an exemplary kind of creative violence. . . . When you uproot a concept from its network of systemic connections with other concepts, you still have its connectibility. (30) 152 Chapter Ten This severed concept “plopped into a new and open environment” analogies the unpredicable movement of prompt language into its “spindles and joints,” and offers a way to understand linking as a final form of contagious expression in the informational flow described by blogs. Thinking through the blog as a late formation of the postcard posits the blog within a contemporary moment strategically connected to the late modernity betoken by the postcard. Thinking through the blog in terms of concepts severed from one system and yet still bearing the character of “connectibility” brings us to the metaphor of the link as a form of neutral metaphor quite distinct from the contagions and smogs which have otherwise preoccupied theories of connectivity. Links materialise, perhaps memorialise the affective incursions represented by the system of blogs; their presence gives a new framework for the analysis of flows in the blogosphere, an analysis which benefits from a consideration of its precusor technology, the postcard. Notes 1. I would like to thank Fergus Armstrong, Kate Lilley, and Susan Thomas for the ways in which they facilitated and enlivened my work on postcards and blogs. 2. Wong’s marvelous analysis of the postcard’s negotiation of incommensurabilities and of the fragmentation of the colonial world pursues these implications. 3. Hafner’s description of the cloistered bathroom blogger evokes Edelman’s exploration of “urinary segregation,” and particularly Edelman’s discussion of the scene from Laura where Clifton Webb types in the bathtub, his typewriter lying on a tray that obscures his groin. This image is conveniently used on the cover of Edelman’s book. 4. For a properly complex account of the “violent intrusions” (72) of catachresis, see Parker. 5. Is it merely coincidental that Knauss’ dictionary parodies Ambrose Bierce’s 1911 Devil’s Dictionary, a satirical encyclopedia written during the period of postcard mania? Works Cited Anonymous. “Blogitis.” . Anonymous. “Blogitis: The Sickness.” . Anonymous. “Frenetic Mind: Politics Archives.” . Anonymous. “Word Salad.” . Bender, John and David E. Wellbery. The Ends of Rhetoric: History, Theory, Practice. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990. What is the New Rhetoric? 153 Benjamin, Walter. A Berlin Chronicle. Selected Writings Vol. 2 1927-1934. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: Cambridge and London, 1999. 595-637. —. One Way Street. Selected Writings Vol. 1 1913-1926. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: Cambridge and London, 1996. 444-487. Burton, Gideon. Silvae Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric. . Castells, Manuel. The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, Business, and Society. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Edelman, Lee. Homographesis. New York: Routledge, 1994. Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2000. Godin, Seth. Unleashing the Ideavirus. . Hafner, Katie. “For Some, the Blogging Never Stops.” The New York Times 27 May 2004. Knauss, Greg. The Devil’s Dictionary, 2.0. . Lanham, Richard A. The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology, and the Arts. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1993. Massumi, Brian. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002. Parker, Patricia. “Metaphor and Catachresis.” Bender and Wellbery 60-73. Perelman, Chaïm. The Realm of Rhetoric. Trans. William Kluback. Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 1982. Shenk, David. Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut. (New York: Harper Collins, 1998). Rubush, Matt. “Frobie’s House.” . Siegert, Bernhard. Relays: Literature as an Epoch of the Postal System. Trans. Kevin Repp. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999. Staff, Frank. The Picture Postcard & Its Origins. London: Lutterworth Press, 1979. Vincent, David. “The Progress of Literacy.” Victorian Studies 45:3 (2003): 405431. Wong, Yoke Sum. “Beyond (And Below) Incommensurability.” Common Knowledge 8.2 (2002): 333-356. Zenari, Vivian “Folio: Postcard Fever.” Folio 37:14, March 17, 2000. .