Publishing or Conversation?

It’s an old topic to be sure, but I wanted to make myself a note about an interesting thread which developed on Mathemagenic. Lilia wrote:

Conversations are different from publishing, they require listening to others, require investment of attention and energy. My morning check is my way to find out who is talking to me and what they are saying. I don’t do it to find our how famous I am, this is just a very human thirst for a feedback and my respect to those who spend time answering my questions, finding flaws in my arguments or developing my ideas in new directions…

So, coming to my original question. I guess some of our conversations die because we do not spend enough energy listening and replying back. In this respect weblog conversations are not much different from all other conversations.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I don’t think the distinction is that strong. Writers must pay attention to their market audiences. If you want to publish articles or stories, it requires an investment of attention and energy to the history of the publication: what do they like to publish? Then you have to rhetorically direct yourself to match their style and interests. It isn’t just a matter of sitting in solitude waiting for a landmark idea to perk up, which a publisher just leaps upon instantly to publish for the edification of the world.

Writers are also sensitive to their reviews. Often, you have to scan a lot of publications to even locate mentions of your work. The web makes this easier to do, but that doesn’t mean that writers were not doing this all along. This distinction between weblog publishing and publishing in general just doesn’t seem all that significant, at least if the writers in question are interested in improving their craft. Web writing makes it easier than ever to become a better writer, at least in my experience/opinion. Of course it can get better still, though, with improved software.

Lilia’s post generated a few comments, and one observation in passing from Stephen Downes really nailed the problem of “attention” quite well:

I am always fascinated by responses like, “I don’t have time.” There is always time; what we do with time is, every minute, a decision. When someone says, “I don’t have time,” they mean, “I had something more important to do.” But what? Each decision tells a story.

The problem with keeping up with online publishing is a matter of investment vs. return. I constantly find great ideas to think about, links to sources I wasn’t aware of, and just plain entertaining personalities. That’s why I invest a certain amount of time into it. However, I am shy about the constant pursuit of conversation because it takes away the time I have to do things such as finish my thesis, teach my classes, and pay attention to people in the real world.

That’s why I cannot adopt the concept that “conversation” alone is a good reason to invest this much time in blogging. Conversation is great when you have the leisure time to expend. What I get from reading and publishing a blog goes far beyond that. I learn from myself every time I write; I learn from others every time I read. When others take time to respond to things I written, I learn from that too. But I don’t always have the time to pursue or contribute to conversations.

4 thoughts on “Conversation”

  1. I can’t think of a writer who doesn’t treat print publication as a conversational process requiring quite a bit in the way of “listening to others” and “investment of attention and energy” — not to mention “callousness to perceived slights and insults,” “patience with conventional small talk,” “tolerance of bores and boors”, and “survival of acutely embarrassing faux pas.” I prefer not having to wait for (or chase after) an invitation to Lady Chufflestone’s Sunday brunch salon, and so I prefer web publication. But the experiences differ in speed and ease rather than in essence.

  2. I was dancing at a small club one time and I realized most everybody else was out there on the little dance floor hustling booty, or scheming to get laid, or engaged in narcissistic terpsichorean display.
    As opposed to moving with the music.
    I talk because it’s fun. When it gets goal-directed I drop too many levels to enjoy it. Too much armor goes up, too much analysis takes place.
    Ideas make me excited, the excitement makes words, they come out, then I feel good, then I stop.
    Right now I have a lot of time and a computer, next month who knows?
    The continuing effort to fix what “this” is in a continuum of media, along a progress-timeline of human communication technology, seems like what I said, conversation for base purpose, hustling booty. That creates a “demand” for consistency and response, for relation.
    Like when you’re arguing with somebody and you realize they’re a lot more concerned with where they’re at than where the ideas are at, where the truth is.
    The best writers I see all don’t like words like blog and those worse ones I can’t use at all comfortably.
    But it’s new, it hasn’t solidified, the jelly’s still coating its wing-casings. And I like the thing blog itself, and the blogspot guys. And I read your stuff regularly, and it’s fine either way reply or no.
    All in all I feel real lucky being exposed to so much high-caliber intellectual output, of which “this public address” is a consistent provider.
    Not to mention it’s like being down the coal mine shaft with a thousand different canaries all around.

  3. blogging conversations

    very interesting discussion (very hesitant to use that word given the nature of the post) on this public address about conversation in blogging. the participants are discussing why some posts become full fledged conversations and some do not. one reaso…

  4. blogging conversations

    very interesting discussion (very hesitant to use that word given the nature of the post) on this public address about conversation in blogging.

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