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.