Scattered Notes

Scattered Notes

Just trying to correlate some things: Dave Weinberger blogged an interesting question: “How do you scale personal involvement?”. Around the same time, I attended a presentation by Joe Williams centering on the question: “What constitutes civic participation?” In an e-mail exchange after the meeting, my thesis chair, Michael Kleine, began to speculate about the online “review” sites used during the presentation. Is this the future? Are we to be reduced to short capsule comments, usually written with little consideration, tabulated into databases that tell us what is “hot or not?” In a sense, this is the only form of involvement that neatly scales in an Internet discourse model. It takes a long time to read and respond to long narrative expositions regarding civil values. Have we outgrown deeper critiques in search of models that can be taken in at a glance? It sort of made me wonder. Michael said: “if this is the future, I’m not sure I like it too much.”

Why categorize blogs?. Maybe it’s just my mistrust of taxonomies in general, but it seems to me that thinking of the ways in which we relate to our own blogs or the blogs of others is a more direct way to approach what sort of work is accomplished by this type of public writing. I’m not certain why I’m so opposed to the sort of categories suggested, other than the possibility that it’s sort of drawing a circle in quicksand. In terms of functional discourse, we all slip seamlessly between Britton’s categories of expressive, transactional, and poetic modes of discourse. Hence, a “journaling” writer would tend toward the expressive, a political or tech blogger would tend towards the transactional, and the creative writer towards the poetic. All people are capable of all three modes, which apply in different mixtures at any given point in time. To draw exclusive categories, or even tendencies, tends to obscure the other work being done in public writing. And it certainly excludes the unclassifiable like Bobbi.

The quality of civic participation which Joe Williams was trying to highlight dealt with “self-reflexivity” which, for me, neatly describes Bobbi. Sometimes her image/word constructions are personally revealing, but just as often they are not. They oscillate between the poles of expressivity and the poetic, never resting too long in either. She claims no “role” in a broader discourse, and yet I have read her obsessively for a long time. There is a strange zone of presence in absence that always keeps you guessing on blogs. I always find too much involvement questionable. I’m not sure why that is, either. But it’s a future that doesn’t trouble me nearly as one filled with tabular data, and categories.

Questions always seem to outnumber answers.

3 thoughts on “Scattered Notes”

  1. I commented over on I always find it highly amusing when people object to their blogs being called blogs or try to define some difference between blogs and journals or some other label that they prefer. A weblog is simply a medium, like pen and paper is a medium. A pen and paper doesn’t become something else other than pen and paper just because you think what you write on it is somehow different from what other people are writing on their paper. You can do anything you want with a blog, just like you can write anything want with a pen and paper, but it’s still a blog. I don’t like the word either so call it whatever you want but we’re still talking about the same thing.

  2. Oops. I meant to add that I do try to categorize the blogs in my blogroll according to main areas of interest (artsy, political, etc.) but I don’t see these as major differences. They’re all blogs or weblogs or whatever.

  3. Blogs are more than a blank sheet of paper. Blogs are part of of a community of speakers, so it might be more apt to say that blogs are like an independent radio or tv station. What you write on a piece of paper is your own private concern alone. What you write on a blog is part of a larger conversation. This is why some bloggers like comments sections, in order to make response available to the reader. You can ignore the larger community of speakers when you blog, but if you do the equivalent of “scribble” on a blog, someone is eventually going to respond to this and ask what it is you are doing, if for no other reason, pure curiosity. The same thing will happen if you say something strange, irrelevant, misinformed, iilogical, etc. during a conversation
    There is another difference between blogs and paper I thought of. Paper is an very ancient medium. Blogs are very new. What bloggers do right now will effect the future of blogging, because what is happening now will shape the future of the form, just as what happened in early tv and cinema became a crucial part of its history.

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