After finding out today that my favorite Runner’s World weblogger will no longer be posting, I was deeply saddened and touched in a way that felt very unique to the medium. It’s funny; the retirments of many of my favorite writers, composers, and artists haven”t touched me deeply. But Web reading is a different experience; one doesn’t often go back and read (someone else’s) old archives just for fun to see how the story unfolds with knowledge of the future, despite hypertext literature’s emphasis on rereading.
So when a blogger retires, that’s it. Runner’s World may choose to take the all of the archives down in a couple of months, cutting off my access forever. With reading a book, looking at a painting, or listening to a song—even though those pleasures exist in a finite space of time like reading a weblog—the experience is repeatable in a way that reading social media updates isn’t.
Where is the line drawn? I wouldn’t read a newspaper a second time, though I would reread the anthology of an interesting columnist. And I would argue that the interesting columnist is the closest analogy to the blogger. And indeed, though I’ll never browse the archives, if the blogger’s posts were bound into a book, I would probably reread them. So why the difference? What is it about the Web that makes this distinction?
And in the age heralded as the birth of universal publishing, does the achievement really count if people won’t ever reread those works?