some connections I've been making

Everyday my boyfriend diligently sits at his computer and writes and writes. I, in the other room, set to the task to read, usually end up watching Young and the Restless. But eventually I do read and more of it has been from the blogosphere than the texts I assigned myself. So here are some thoughts on those readings:

Thanks to Clancy, I looked at the Jodi Dean essay on theory blogs. But before I did that, I read Jay Rosen’s piece on “The People Formerly Known as the Audience.” In it, the statement is made to mainstream media that we, the people, have more tools with which to respond and have our own say: blogs, podcasts, video, editorials, etc. While I certainly believe mainstream media should listen up, I think his final bullet point “A highly centralized media system had connected people “up” to big social agencies and centers of power but not “across” to each other. Now the horizontal flow, citizen-to-citizen, is as real and consequential as the vertical one” has a long way to go before becoming fully realized. Maybe I am not reading online news sites as much as others and probably haven’t linked to an “A-list” blog in months, but when I think of the citizens I come across in the grocery store, in my classroom, and even those bloggers in New Orleans that provide me with eye witness accounts of the rebuilding and local government mishaps still going on post-Katrina, I don’t think they are writing to connect “across.” The students I have who are on MySpace are promoting themselves. The NOLA locals are venting. Sure there are posts here and there with a call for action, but I see their use of blogging as a way to narrate their lives and at a pace not fueled by the exigency of newroom deadlines, which brings in the Jodi Dean piece.

One of her points is that academic theory blogs [NOTE: Academic Blogging is a category I saw disappear from the BloggerCon schedule which is the conference where I first met Jay Rosen and Dan Gillmor] offer “more thoughtful, human time.” Many of the problems people have with blogs are those blogs written by bloggers who don’t really say anything. Or if they do, it’s the details of their personal lives, and lord knows that’s not what Rosen advocates. Dean is specific when she writes that theory blogs offer substance where an exchange is “like a slow seminar, focusing on one narrow question that arises on its own, and is addressed over a longer period of time, giving those who engage it opportunity to read and reflect.”

That’s the kind of blogging I want to teach my students to do–not the taking control over old media. That’s not what they are trying to do with their videos or podcasts, so why force their blogs to? Sure, students can do this type of engagement in places other than a blog, but when “made public” I think they become more invested in their statements and opinions and can reach people beyond our classroom walls and university campus. Jill/txt’s students found this out, why can’t mine?

With that said, I’m off to finish planning my first day of the summer session and cross my fingers that the classroom has a computer in it!

EDITED TO INCLUDE…link to the essay “Do Internet Users Have More Social Ties?
A Call for Differentiated Analyses of Internet Use”
from the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication

2 thoughts on “some connections I've been making

  1. I would strongly disagree with the assertion that NOLA bloggers are not writing to “connect across”. In several instances where blogs are very much focused on what the blogosphere calls citizen journalism, they are doing just that.

    For example, da po’ blog’s tracking of how much money was actually sent or at least authorized by the federal government has been consistently ahead of what any journalistic outlet is doing, including all of the mainstream media. This isn’t your usual mastabatory blogging about self. It is an attempt to step in where the major media are failing us.

    There is additional evidence of what we might call horizontalism in the cross-linking of the NOLA bloggers to important posts. We are a matrix somewhere just above our readers, to be sure, but we function horizontally to disseminate what we perceive as the important posts through each of our channels.

    It’s not as Big or Important (or as Real) as Rosen would have us believe, but it is happening, or at least beginning to happen. We are functioning on a role that might not fit into the theories posited by your cites, but one that, say, Thomas Paine would recognize (and approve of).

    I think that there is some danger in overcatagoriztion. I think there is a thoughtful, “meta” blog on the subject (theory) of the Rebirth of New Orleans, informed by a lot of horizontale communication. It is not a single blog; it is the synthesis made by each readerof all of the folks down our blogrolls, which is in part shaped by the more formal horizontal communication of a certain set of NOLA bloggers.

  2. Thanks for pointing these blogs out, Mark. I do believe there is more of an Internet-presence for New Orleanians these days and that it will make a change across blogs and borders; I think I just felt Rosen’s argument, which he’s been making for the past 3 years, felt a little stale to me and what I’m interested in in terms of autoethnography and theory.

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