Jean Dublog

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

How Sybilized

I really like the following exchange on a blog called Writing as Jo(e), which is a link off of A Delicate Boy, a Brett blog-find. It's a little long and very serious (they're academics, what do you expect?), but check this out.

"It seems to me that it's only been in the last few years that composition teachers and literature teachers have recognized blogging as a legitimate activity for their students. I think many resisted at first. But more and more, panels on blogging have crept into conferences. Often now, faculty will refer to their course blogs.

"Yes, of course, blogs are different than books. The nature of blogging is interactive and instantaneous. When I write a poem for a literary journal, it gets published more than a year after I wrote it. Blog posts are published within seconds of when they are written. I like the way a blog written by one person can be a text with multiple voices - sometimes personal, sometimes academic, sometimes political. And of course, anyone can post to a blog. You don't have to wait to get noticed by a publisher. I wonder, as publishers increasingly get taken over and ruled by big corporate interests, as small independent presses go out of business just as many independent bookstores have, if blogging is replacing the free exchange of ideas that writers could once do in books."

Dr. K responds:
"I had a discussion recently in a nature & culture class about what technology does to communication and to information, and we all agreed that it two effects: it broadens them and makes them more superficial. It's easy to see that face-to-face communication, where you have gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, volume, body language, the smell of a person's hair and breath, the sparkle in their eyes, etc., to communicate with, is richer than text messaging. Text messaging on the other hand is efficient and can reach lots of targets quickly--immediately. It's broader and it's trivial. There's a place for that. I think blogs do the same for written communication--it's instantaneous and ephemeral, and archived or not, we rarely go back to it. It can have an effect on us through memory, and that's something for sure. The Internet, in my opinion, has done the same thing to knowledge--it's astonishing what's out there, but the information gets trivialized and made superficial by its instant, easy access."

Couple of ideas here I'd like to chew on. As a class, we've blogged quite a bit about what constitutes a personal blog and the importance of an authentic voice. But Jo(e) really goes for solo blogs that exhibit multiple voices. Impossybil? I have to say, no, yes, maybe (slap). To the extent that we are complex creatures with varied interests and moods, I think our blogs can reflect this and still demonstrate authenticity. Perhaps nothing exhibits better who we are. Brett does this with his literary and personal blogging. Aldon, too. But they walk a fine line. It's blogging with multiple voices that troubles me about Jo(e)'s comments. You can cross all kinds of subject lines, but I think a single, complex, authentic voice needs to shine through as readers are taken from one subject to another. Otherwise, there's no thread. Such a thread makes the blog identifiable and helps us decide if we feel a connection and want to come back. As for Jo(e) and his obnoxious parens, have you noticed in this context that he's Writing as Jo(e)? Is he really Joe? For the moment, presumably. I think I saw a movie about him/her.

That brings me to Dr. K's view of the blogosphere as ephemeral. I largely agree. While some blogs have extensive archives, I seldom use them unless I'm visiting a blog for the first time and want to learn more about the blogger. With millions of blogs posting almost daily, how many will have far-reaching effect and remain memorable? I also agree, no-brainer, with K that there's a place for blogging -- a substantial and very accessible place. I think Dr. K may not quite recognize, or at least address, just how powerful an impact blogs are having, how they are helping to satisfy a widespread hunger for self expression and for connection to new online communities.

Joe, on the other hand, worries that blogs are so powerful they may even replace books. What he doesn't get is that books do not necesarily represent the free exchange of ideas, except among elites and academics. Colonial era pamphleting had far wider impact than the works of John Locke. But what's really important, I think, is to recognize there's room and need for both media. Would Common Sense have happened without Locke? Blogging does not mean social cataclysm, just new forms of social and intellectual interaction for an age populated by overworked, distracted people who need an easier, faster way to freely exchange ideas and connect. The blogosphere is not replacing books so much as the village green. The added benefit is that the blogosphere can accommodate so many more people than a square piece of grass.


  • You touch on a lot of interesting and important issues here, and I wanted to comment on a few of them.

    Concerning writing with multiple voices: The general rule in the blogosphere is that you shouldn't do that. It makes it narrows your audience. I can see the rationale for that. The personae that I present at work, at political events, at religious events and at recreational events are different. Yet on the blog, I mix them. A lot of people I know end up having multiple blogs to address this. I have experimented and intermingled all of it.

    As I comment in my bios section, "Persona is a function of context, and my online persona is multifaceted."

    Yet there is something important there. I speak about a single online persona which is multifaceted, as opposed to have multiple distinct, personae that are not integrated with one another. So, if Jo(e) is talking about voices as different aspects of a single person, then there can be great value, but if the voices are 'Sybilized', unrelated and schizophrenic, then there is a problem.

    Okay. That was a long first part of the comment. Perhaps the second part will be briefer.

    My experience is that blogs (and text messaging) are anything but ephemeral. On the text messaging side, I realize I may be an exception. I text message with many people and I archive most of the discussions. I frequently go back to old text messages to get context for my new discussions. I would suggest that this relates to the whole idea of Dunbar's number. The idea of Dunbar's number is that people can only keep about 150 other people straight in their mind. By refering to archives, I can go beyond Dunbar's number.

    With respect to blogs, I have to disgree more strongly about the ephemeral nature. Looking at Today's most popular content, the top two were written around a year ago.

    While regular readers of a blog may care less about historical writings, it is the historical writings that draw in new people. (MHO, YMMV).

    By Blogger Aldon Hynes, at 6:16 AM  

  • Fascinating. Regarding the ephemeral and blogs, your point seems counterintuitive to me. But you've got the evidence. I wonder if that's true of most blogs?

    By Blogger John, at 9:38 AM  

  • A lot of people come to my blog via searches that bring them to some very old posts (I hope they click on the header to see the recent stuff).

    I also get a lot of hits, surprisingly, from links on other people's blogs that were posted many months ago. Thus, somebody is reading an ancient post on those blogs and then reading an ancient post of mine.

    Some fanous old posts are several years old and yet people keep linking to them and reading them, the new bloggers rediscover them aover and over again.

    So, lots of fluff (one-liners, today's Cartoon, links of the day...) passes into oblivion, but more thoughtul posts keep living...

    By Blogger coturnix, at 12:50 PM  

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