... is that it defies concrete definition.

We generally never have to identify a personal column in a newspaper. When we open the paper we know where the personal columns are located, and since each writer has his or her own byline, and often his or her own title as well, no detective work is involved in finding out whose column we're reading. But other than that, it's difficult to delineate the generic characteristics of a column, and that's because, among other things, one of their distinguishing characteristics is that they have an individual flavor to them. Words make up sentences that come together in paragraphs. Writing is, in the end, writing. It's the topics that get covered, and the attitudes expressed, that define a particular column for us.

Yet in cyberspace many of the identifying characteristics of certain sorts of writing aren't available to us until we actually encounter the page. We get to a page via a click, and often the location of that connecting click gives us only very limited information on the nature of the page to which we're clicking. An academic treatise may link us to a page of jokes, or a personal report on a vacation, and these in turn can link us to a corporate web site or perhaps that same academic treatise. It's very difficult to ever be truly ready for what we're about to encounter on the web.

Go to: Web Essays - The evolution of a (personal?) medium