Full of It
I think we need to remember that a listserv can do more than keep a conversation focused, that it can act as a backchannel mechanism for blog conversations, a space where educators who are not going to follow all the conversations in the blogs can participate.
I suspect that part of the low adoption rate for blogging among academics is tied to Ton’s explication of the traditional model of information overload (referenced in my previous post). They feel they don’t have the energy to graze blog conversations. They prefer a focused, task-oriented, approach. Blogging became a great outlet for me because I am not good at task-oriented thinking (witness the fact that I’m blogging when I should be working right now). I wander a lot, and am generally full of it (I leave the ambiguous pronoun reference at the mercy of your imagination).
Writing for a listserv, I always get the feeling that I am taking up people’s precious time. Writing on my blog, I really don’t care about that at all. If the signal-to-noise ratio is too skewed for them, a reader can always just skim or ignore what I’m saying. Or, better still, just not visit. I control this space. Listservs resist that sort of control—though there all always booming voices that step up to attempt control of them. I think its because people differ over the amount of control they desire, different venues attract different people. It’s not just topic focus, but control that is at issue. An unmoderated listserv is subject to all sorts of slings and arrows that a blog is not.
Charlie’s point regarding the “intimidation factor” of blogs is also well cast. But, as most literature-geeks would realize, the same thing is true of any form of discourse. A poet can’t immediately know all poetry, or a novelist all novels. I suspect that because blogging is perhaps more of a medium than a genre, people are more reluctant to just dive in and swim both ways, as literature people are wont to do. Unlike television or radio though, there is no convenient way to just drop in and surf the channels of blog discourse. Using “popularity” as a measure of what is significant would give a novice a really skewed perspective on just what blogging is—making them all the more intimidated.
I have never visited the sites of most “A list” bloggers. I just write in my own space (somewhat excessively by some accounts) and visit those friends, and friends of friends, that catch my attention at that moment. I seldom feel that overloaded by what everyone else has to say—merely by what I’d like to say—because like I said, I’m generally full of it.