IT: Technology, Language, and Culture

Warblogs, Tekkies, Journalists

The first attestation that I can find of “warblog,” or its suffixed forms “warblogger, warblogging” is in Matt Welch’s 9/18/2001 3:06 post, where he uses the form “war blog.” Welch essentially defines war blog in his introduction to the sub-site he titles War Blog: “discussion of the crisis triggered by the Sept. 11 massacre.” The term war blog and its related forms have evolved to mean a web blog inspired by the events of September 11, 2001, whether or not the blog is itself primarily about September 11, or war. In general such blogs do tend to be overtly political. Dave Winer has published his own definition here.

I’ve already posted about the derivation of “tekkie” or “techie” from the same Indo-European root that gives us both text and technology, and a host of other related words. I find the term “tekkie” somewhat offensive. I’ve certainly had it applied to me by academics who should know better; it is, I suppose, marginally better than the other term I often hear—”computer person.” It is in part those attitudes that inspired me to describe myself as a digital medievalist.

The nascent controversy between “war” bloggers and “tekkies,” is, as I’ve indicated previously, somewhat half-witted in concept, and would appear to have been constructed by journalists who do not understand the history of their own profession.

Theirs is a profession born from the union of technology, in the form of the printing press, and war. People needed a way to communicate news efficiently over great distance, more efficiently than a single town crier or herald, or Irish bard carrying scela or “tidings,” could do. Within 25 years of Gutenberg’s press one-sheets crudely printed with the latest scoop (based on a letter) about Columbus were circulating in Barcelona before Columbus arrived there. America’s first newspaper was largely a source of war news and gossip, much like those in Europe. At first news items were culled from private correspondence and day-books, or journals; later publishers contracted with travelers for detailed correspondence to be “repurposed” and printed in the newspaper. In a sense then, web blogs are a return to the roots of journalism.