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.