Thursday, August 7, 2008

why i blog

Getting back to why i blog-- the topic I brought up, and then abandoned, in my morning biertje posting-- there is something unique and enticing about writing in the blog form. It's special, in part, because it is a paradoxical sort of writing--a writing that is at once both private and public, and as such, very contemporary.

We live in a culture that has increasingly erased the line between private and public--not only technologically, with the state monitoring and recording private conversations and consumer preferences, etc., but socially as well. Socially, this is reflected in our mirror, the television. The popularity of reality TV shows, which offer the viewing public a look inside the walls of a house into people's private lives. Shows like Jerry Springer, where the public (and the studio audience first-hand) gets involved (often vocally, if not physically) in a couple's private domestic squabbles. American Idol might be the best example, though. People are no longer content to simply sing their favorite songs in the privacy of their showers; they want to sing them and be judged by the American public. And the American public wants to judge and watch the performer's private hopes and dreams be fulfilled or (even better) dashed by harsh criticism and/or the vote of the watching public.

So it is no surprise that blogging--as a form of expression that is both private and public-- is popular. What is a surprise is that I have embraced it. And in order to understand why that is, it's necessary to look closer at its paradoxical form.

It's a private sort of writing insofar as it is essentially personal. It is a person's "web log," and the content of its dated entries is necessarily of personal interest to the blogger. It may record only brief summaries of what was done with each day, or it may go into the explicit detail characteristically found in a personal diary or journal. Its point of view may be very self-centered (like this blog) or it may be farther removed (like my friend Megan's blog) in speaking more professionally or academically to a larger audience. However, regardless of its content and the point of view taken by the blogger, the blog writing is of some personal interest to the blogger, or else the blogger simply wouldn't bother. And in being personal, the writing is private to a greater or lesser degree. Something private--a personal interest, a political opinion, a sexual orientation, etc.--is revealed either implicitly or explicity about the blogger in a blog's published postings.

It's public in that the postings are published, and published with immediacy. As soon as I click on the "Publish Post" button at the bottom of the screen, this blog entry will be viewable to whomever wants to read it in the blogosphere. The degree of immediacy with which it is published is within the blogger's control, however. I could save my blog entry as a draft and wait as long as I wish before publishing it, or I could choose not to publish it at all.

Every aspect of each posting publication is also under the blogger's control. It's not like each post is published like the newspaper, fixed in print, on every front door step in the morning. It can be edited, whenever and however the blogger wants, and re-published, re-named, and re-edited again. The scope of its publication is also controlled by the blogger. It can be restricted to a small audience of a few close friends, or it can be expanded to a worldwide audience using various means, such as meta-tagging, bloglisting, flickr-ing and shit I haven't even begun to start looking into.

It is the malleable nature of this published form of writing that I find so appealing. It provides a freedom of expression that is restricted in any other form of writing. You can write freely in a traditional diary or journal, but it is solely private. Only under rare circumstances (e.g. the diaries of celebrities) does such writing find publication and a public reading. Any other form of writing is not free--be it academic, professional, literary, etc.-- because it requires the writer to obey particular conventions for each type. Only writing that obeys these conventions (or flaunts them in some genius manner) has a chance of publication through traditional channels. Try, for example, to publish an essay without a bibliography in an established academic journal. You can't. The act of citing one's sources in an essay is a convention that must be obeyed in academic writing.

Liberated from traditional forms and traditional publication channels, blog writing can be whatever the blogger wants it to be. It can be a log of your daily activities (as many blogs are) or it can focus only on particular aspects of your day (what I ate for breakfast) or on particular subjects (politics in the office) or it could be a blog about the most bizarre shit you can imagine (a record of how many drops of Tabasco you lick off your significant other's perineum in a given day.)

Blogging is a multimedium so you have the additional freedom to do things like drop a medical diagram of a cunt into your text on a whim or link to another webpage for a definition of a term like perineum. You can say words like cunt, as well as all of George Carlin's other dirty words you can't say on TV. You can be self-referential in your blog and provide a link back to your very first blog posting in which you mentioned George Carlin. You can describe things however you want to, even the act of blogging, with words that you make up yourself (mophunquis) You can choose not to use punctuation if you don't want to,, or use it twice as often,, shift tenses however you felt like doing, and no editor will mark your words with a big red pen. Yu cahn mispell evry wrod inne ai sentance rong. And the posting is still going to be published whenever you click the red button.


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