ThoughtPossible.com :: Brevity is the soul of wit. True enough. But, information that brings us to a more enlightened approach to understanding the world often needs to “play out” in a substantial interaction of ideas, a “testing” of logical thought-processes as relating to concept and interpretation, an essay. There has long been a presumption that online writing must be brief, due to the “above the fold” bias of attention-span deficient online readers, but I would argue that the medium is actually ideally suited to something very different.
The traditional newspaper or magazine has a limited amount of space, as well as the physical constraints of materials used, weight, shipping, cost, etc., that necessarily interfere with the length and scope of materials contained within. And yet, one can often find far longer profile or investigative pieces printed in the pages of The New York Times, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair, than one tends to find on even probing, serious investigative online publications.
Indeed, traditional print news sources are often the most reliable sources of lengthy, in-depth online writing and analysis. The paradox here is that the online medium lends itself to length, as costs for storage and “global distribution” are so low as to be almost zero for any given article published. What we do not have is an established tradition of treating web media as primary sources for serious journalism and cultural analysis, and so we have not come to devote our attention spans to reading the fullest, most in-depth writing available online.
There are legitimate reasons relating to both craft and content for longer, even meandering essays. An essay, as such, is an experiment with an idea, or a series of ideas, a rehearsal of thought-processes and rhetoric, aimed at behaving like a forum for exploration of related themes and the testing of certain challenges to a central thesis or guiding set of principles. This is a vital part of our literary and philosophical collective endeavor, as a species, as a civilization, and the online medium is ideally suited to “give place” (a phrase taken from the Spanish language) to that rehearsal.