In all three classes I have to blog for, people are either enthusiastic towards or terrified of having to blog (with very few in between). In part, I do think some of the terror might come from a person’s definition of a blog.
So often, blogs are described as online journals, which I think is completely unfair to them (and us). The first blogging platform I ever used was LiveJournal (there was also InsaneJournal and GreatestJournal to pick from back in the day–IJ is still around), so the naming of it didn’t help. But by equating a blog to an online journal, we’re already limiting its potential use. I think a lot of people then go into blogs thinking it’s just a written version of your super-personal thoughts. Of course that would be terrifying!
But that’s the brilliant part about blogs: they really can be whatever you want them to be. Some of the catchiest online presences around have nothing to do with presenting the person as they actually are. @feministhulk on Twitter is one of my favorite personas. Yes, I’m sure whoever runs that account is probably a feminist. But I somehow doubt they walk around talking in Lou Ferrigno voice (which is disappointing…) spouting feminist agendas all day long. Twitter is their vehicle to have fun and say something they want to say in a unique and reative way.
Dr. Fowler did get me thinking about this all of last night–why are people reticent to blogging? What is so problematic about it? If you see a blog as only an online place to dump your padlocked-secret-Lisa-Frank-journal thoughts, then yeah, that is terrifying. But if it’s a way to have fun with something your interested in, even if it’s not particularly unique (your way of saying it is probably way more unique then you could ever realize), a blog becomes a very special outlet for your creativity and imagination.
I called this post “blogging as subversion” because right now, that’s how I’m seeing them. We’ve been talking so much in Dean DePauw’s class about tenure, promotion, and the all-important difference between assistant, associate, and full professorships. The hoops one has to jump through include publishing peer-reviewed journal articles and books through university press publishing are daunting. In my mind, we’re automatically limiting who receives this information by picking these expensive, subscription-required (or access to a university library in some cases) media. Glossies and mass media publications are bad. Because, G-d forbid, we might actually be sharing knowledge with the masses.
Blogs are powerful and, yes, subversive. I can write anything I want here. It’s terrifying and dangerous. It’s wonderful and awe-inspiring. I can come up with new ideas here and get feedback from all of the world. And yes, someone might then steal my idea and write about it, but it’s still my idea. And I can go publish something too, because the idea will be in my own words and will be said differently by me than anyone else can.
Do I want people to read a book I might write someday? Absolutely. And yes, the selfish “I Need Validation For My Hard Work!!!!! Look at meeee!!!” reasons are there, jumping around somewhere in my Id. But honestly, books are a medium, like so many, that hits everyone in a different way. I’d rather have a book I write mean something to one person then to sit on a shelf in a university library (because their the only one’s who can afford it) doing nothing. How often have you been the first person to check out a book since the 1950s at the library? It’s sad, isn’t it? What’s the point of all this school and learning if we can’t share what we’ve learned with people outside of this crazy academia bubble we live in?
Blogging might be an answer to this situation. Why not go into it thinking that maybe we can change the world with our words? That sounds ridiculous and trite as I write it, but why not dream big? I’d rather dream the impossimprobable (neologisms are fun!) then not even try. If blogging isn’t working for you, figure out why. Make up a character. Blog about something you actually despise just to see if you can. Have fun. Be subversive.
I love this idea. It’s one of the reasons I’m so excited to see things like Khan Academy and MITx. If the access to information is there for everyone, we might just be surprised who has the drive to learn and come up with new ideas!
Great stuff here. I’ll be pointing to this post in the future as an example of the kind of free-range, wide-range thinking that blogging not only supports but encourages. Blogs combat “administered intellectuality” in many respects, one reason they’re so troubling to academics. Take a look at the essay “Edification By Puzzlement,” by James Fernandez. (It’s on his website–comes right up on Google.) You’ll see part of what I’m talking about.
Thanks for these insights.