You are here: Home > probably too long and definitely unfocussed

January 17, 2007

probably too long and definitely unfocussed

Posted by dogpossum on January 17, 2007 10:50 AM in the category clicky

There's been a bit of a scuffle going on around the Golden Bloggies lately (you can read an installment on LP, and I have to confess, I have mixed feelings. I tried to read up on the awards on the official sites, but lost interest fairly quickly (mostly because I couldn't find the rules or the list of entrants or understand what was going on). I heard about these things first from Mz Tartan, then nick cetacean, then from some other people on some other blogs (I can't remember where or when - it was over christmas and I was busy).

I've had a look at a few of the winning posts (there were a bunch short listed, and they're being reposted over the next bit of time), when they've been linked to by other people, but mostly I've not bothered.

I think it's because I'm not really sure there's much point in a bunch of awards for blogs.

Frankly, the thought scares the living shit out of me - I really can't stand the thought of there being people out there reading this mass of dance-nerdery and recipes (the swing dancer alternative to photos of cats, unicorns and purple cursive font action) and assessing it seriously. I read and write for a job, and for me, a blog - this blog - is a chance to just write and write and write and write and not edit (I just write into the box on movable type here - that's why I have so many typos. Sometimes I go back to fix a post with masses of horrible mistakes, or to fiddle with layout). I can just write down a bunch of crap, add in a picture (if I can be bothered), click post and then walk away.

Writing here is a chance for me to write crap that has no real point, isn't developing another point, and doesn't necessarily make any sense. I like just floating ideas without citing sources or supporting arguments. I prefer posting here on my blog to participating on discussion boards, because here I have complete control and can just delete the comments made by people I really can't fucking stand who give me shit on other online spaces. I love that delete button.

I like writing here because it's a chance for me to keep my writing hand in when I get all blocked on my work writing. There's nothing so debilitating or distressing to someone who's job is all about writing, or for whom their entire working self is all about writing than to suddenly find they can't string a sentence together. During those moments when I've gone back through a day's worth of work and thought "Holy shit, I frickin' suck. What the FUCK am I doing?", being able to just open a tab of Movable Type, blurt out a bunch of ramble and then move on is WONDERFUL. And it's because I know this writing is just for fun, I don't get all blocked, and I don't worry about whether or not this post is good enough for publishing, and I don't try to write about things other people will find interesting and I don't try to impress people. I write as if no one was reading. Ahaahaha. That's a lie.

Sigh. Sometimes I do, anyway. Mostly I treat this as a chance to work through an idea I've had. That's where all that dance stuff comes from - I have to articulate these ideas, and goddess knows I don't see another postgrad/person-formerly-known-as-postgrad from one semester to another, so I need to do this this way. It's a really useful process for me - creative, constructive, low-stress.

I could, I suppose, just write all this in a file and leave it on my desktop. Or I could keep a proper journal. But when I'm writing here on the internet, I feel like I'm writing as if there could, one day, be someone reading this. Not many someones - maybe just two, if I'm lucky. One of those will be The Squeeze, out of duty. And the other will be another googler looking for pictures of Dennis the Menace. So I have to try, at some level, to explain my idea. Or to write as if I was writing an explanation.

I think I've contradicted myself here quite a bit. Ah, fuck it.

But here are a couple of things I wanted to write about, in regards to this whole Golden Blogs thing (you know, I'm actually having real trouble writing today. It's fucking hot, I'm sitting here riddled with hormones and trying not to think about the paper I'm trying to edit).

Mark on LP, using skepticlawyer's comment, pointed out that Tim Blair doesn't like 'I' in blog entries.

I can't fathom that. Nor can I go on to read the comments in that Tim Blair post - play nice, kiddies.
That sort of action is the reason I don't like to read conservative blogs. Blogging is meant to be fun (and blogging = writing blogs, reading blogs, posting on blogs, receiving posts on one's own blog), and I really don't need to read that rubbish. Head in the sand? Up my own arse more like - I prefer my own company to hanging out with meanies.
I don't really understand how these doods can on one hand revile the use of 'I' and personal anecdotes on a blog, and yet also hoe in with incredibly aggressive personal attacks (mostly in comments it seems - I guess comments are the 'less formal' bit of blogging, huh?). It seems a bit contradictory to me.

I wonder if, perhaps, this insistence on no-I-word and less-on the 'personal' stuff is a manifestation of the idea that we should keep personal stuff out of the public sphere?* That the private should be private, and the public... I was going to make a joke about public assets and Telstra but can't. It's too hot.
This whole issue strikes me as odd, as blogging seems one of the most personal spaces or modes of address or whatever (look, it's frickin' hot, ok?) on the internet. If we remember the roots of blogging, we're talking home pages. Home pages.

The Squeeze is reading Where Wizards Stay Up Late: the Origins of the Internet, which contains this little gem:

Rumours had persisted for years that the ARPANET had been built to protect national security in the face of a nuclear attach. It was a myth that had gone unchallenged long enough to become widely accepted as fact. Taylor had been the young director of the office withn the Defense Department's ADvanced Research Projects Agency overseeing computer research, and he was the one who had started the ARPANET. The project had embodied the most peaceful intentions - to link computers at scientific laboratories across the country so that researchers might share computer resources. Taylor knew the ARPANET and its progeny, the Internet, had nothing to do with supporting or surviving war - never did...
Lately, the mainstream press had picked up the grim myth of a nuclear survival scenario and had presented it as an established truth.
I'm not sure how reliable this book is (though it seems better than most of the bios of the internet and computing getting about), but this point really caught my interest. I'd only ever heard the story where the internet had been invented as a way of localising US military computer resources and information, so as to avoid complete obliteration if one, centralised site was hit by cold war missiles. This alternative story really warmed my spirit ( :D ). It's so much nicer to think of the internet as doing what we bloggers do with it - share stories of our everyday. So my everyday doesn't include much talk about electronic switches and mainframes and hardware (so to speak), but it does have a whole bunch of fairly specific knowledge and practice which I can't really share with every person in my life. It's pretty specific stuff, and the internet gets me in contact with other people who share that particular discourse. And what could be nicer than finding a bunch of like-minded people with whom to share this stuff?

So the internet's very purpose was to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and individual people's social networking. Basically, the internet was designed for nerds to talk crap. Right on!

With that in mind, as Jeff Beck points out in a gentle observation about the Golden Blogs,

A few of the posts are worth reading but most are tedious, self-indulgent bullshit from self-important lefty academics. If this is the best the blogosphere has to offer, it's fucked.

And that's entirely the sort of sex I like. Really, we don't use the word 'blog' for nothing: long and boring. It's nice that people have high hopes for the internet (I, too, like to think that somewhere out there someone is tapping out a ream of Great Art or Important Contribution), but I think it's ever so much more interesting to think of all the ordinary things people are doing with the internet out there in their bedrooms and studies and workplaces and classrooms and loungerooms. And it seems a bit silly to me to pretend that the internet has no domestic or private or everyday elements, when it is being made on people's laps on couches all over the world (or desks or kitchen tables or wherever). Though, it could be fun to imagine, just for a minute, that I'm wearing a suit and glasses, my brow furrowed with concentration and Serious Thoughts, rather than sitting here in front of the fan in my bedroom doing a little nuddy typing and considering running to the fridge for snack before I cruise Youtube for more hawt lindy prn.

So I guess I do have one problem with the Golden Blogs. When I read, for example, ducky's entry in Online Opinion, I was struck by the way reading this post out of context stripped so much of the meaning out of it for me. When I first read that post on duck's blog, I'd been wondering where she'd been for a while. I'd been reading her blog for a while, sucking up the bits of her life she put online. For me, ducky's story meant more as a chapter in her ongoing blog/life than as an isolated moment re-contextualised in an awards series. When I first read it, I teared up and suddenly wanted to do something for ducky, even though I don't know her, have never seen her, and would probably have felt really strange talking about this with her in person then. The first sentence,

Some of you may be wondering why I haven't been writing more about progress on my letterpress project and my arts grant.
which Tim Blair picks out as his special favourite in a list of 'dreaded I's' means so much more when you have been keeping in touch with ducky over the past year or so. We'd read about her grant and been pleased and excited for her (yet also understanding the new challenges of the project). We understood that she was a big printing nerd and thought letterpress(es?) were the best things since sliced bread. For us, to not hear about a bit of ink-and-tickle was an indication that something was amiss. Or that, perhaps, there were other more important things going on in her life.
I think that Tim Blair has missed the point with this derision - he hasn't understood that ducky was pointing out that her everday life had been interrupted, that the sorts of things that consumed her everyday had recently been pushed aside. That suddenly printing wasn't at the fore of her mind, and her priorities had shifted.
It worries me that Tim Blair might be so profoundly lacking in empathy that he could read duck's entry and not see it as an important bit of writing about something very important to duck, and through their assocation with her through her writing, to duck's readers and online friends.

But then, thinking about it, I wonder if this sort of response was encouraged by the out-of-context-ness of duck's post on Online Opinion. I remember being moved by the everyday language of the entry when I first read it. I was far more affected by her 'normal' tone than I would have been by wailing and gnashing of teeth. When she wrote

Lying on a bed crying just feels like I'm indulging myself too much. I know, go figure. It's not like I don't indulge myself in other ways.
On the one hand I thought, 'you silly - of course it's not being too indulgent', but on the other, I thought 'I know what she means'.
I had this feeling that she was somehow kind of suspended in that space where you move between uncontrollable crying, where you just don't have that conscious control of your mind and body - it's like the emotion and the sheer physical experience of that emotion have opened up a clearway to the rest of the world. You wouldn't normally shed a tear in public, but you suddenly find yourself with snot and tears all over your face. You'd normally try to keep it together for the sake of your family who are also worried. So lying on a bed crying does feel like indulgence.

Because I had been reading her blog for a while, I was most moved by her bravery and trying to keep it together, but then I was really touched by this bit:

Actually, I'm telling this tale at this point in time because tomorrow morning at 10.00am I'm going under the knife to get Wellsley Giblet (see, we'd nicknamed it already!) scraped out.* And I'm scared. I want lots of blog-reading good vibes to steady that surgeon's hand and keep me safe. Last time a stupid doctor perforated me three times, and I bled for two months. This is a different hospital, a more experienced doctor, but the same soft mutant fibroid-filled womb. It should only be a day-visit, and I should feel better in a day or two. If all goes well.

Wish me luck.

. It's the way duck moved from bravery and clever writing and a touch of humour to suddenly admitting - I'm afraid. I'm afraid of being hurt, of things out of my control. And I just want you wish me good luck.
And I don't know about the rest of the people reading duck's blog, but I was wishing her all the good luck, hoping someone would hold her hand and tell her it was all going to be ok. Reading the comments on her original blog entry, you can see that I wasn't the only one. But when you read the entry out of context, you don't see all that rallying-round. All the people holding hands for duck and thinking of her. Not in the sort of in-your-face way we would have in person, but in the more manageable way the internet does it.
And when you're reading that post on the Online Opinion site, you don't see the 'textbreak's duck inserted through her original post, which I read as big breaths, or clear pauses, or literally, breaks in the text. And the fact that duck is a printer, who is all about the mechanics of words on papers, a text break, in her font, lent weight to the pause. Then, of course, when you're just reading that one post on OO, and you haven't been reading duck's blog, you're not reminded of the follow-up post, and this line, that stuck in my memory:
To his absolute credit, there is no pressure from BB's side. He and Bumblebee have been seriously scared on both these occasions (more so last time) and they keep insisting that it's totally my choice whether I want to go through it again.

This bit sticks with me because it so nicely sums up the complexities of wanting children, not wanting children, having a child whom you love and adore, a partner who loves and adores you, and perhaps most importantly, a child who loves and adores you as well. I think I was most moved by the BBs' worry. I don't know where they stand on duck's resolving all those issues of body and work and motherhood. But they've definitely got duck's back.

That whole follow up post, with the discussion of having children, when to have them, how to have them, the physical experiences of pregnancy and all of that - all of that is what goes in to deciding when and whether to have a child. Abortion and contraception and children and bodily health are all things that pop up a lot in the blogs, and in the month following duck's post there's been a few posts about motherhood by women who read duck's blog.

That sort of trickle-on effect of a really good blog post can't be indicated or measured in blog awards thingy which cannot map the temporal (as well as 'spatial') relationships between individual blog posts, posts on a single blog, posts cross-posted between blogs, between blogs, between blog authors, and so on and so on.

All of that talk about ampersand duck's post has suddenly made me feel uncomfortable - I don't know if I like taking apart 'someone' and their feelings like that, and I guess that's the kernel of my argument: this is emotional and personal, domestic and private writing. Blogging isn't always, but when it's part of your everyday, when you engage with it by commenting and writing your own posts as well as reading (not to mention the emailing and snail mailing and face to face catch ups), it's not just words on the internet. So why should it always be calm and cool and detached? Why shouldn't I be in the words as well?
I'm not saying that everything we write or read on the internet should be emotionally loaded. Sometimes it's nice to read or write a bit of cleverly cool and detached academic writing or a bit of well-crafted mass media. But social networks are complicated. We don't ever leave our own persons behind when we write or read. We are always there, there is always a body in the net (to quote Katie Argyle and Rob Shields**). So why pretend that there's not?

*I can't be bothered revisiting Nancy Fraser and the feminist stuff on the public sphere, so just imagine I did, ok?

**Argyle, Katie, and Rob Shields. "Is There a Body in the Net?" Cultures of Internet. Ed. Rob Shields. London: Sage, 1996. 58 - 69.
Tim Blair didn't think there were enough links in the winning OO blog entries. Does citation like this count? What is the importance of linking? Is it citing sources? Or would he like to see more text on cats? If he was a lindy hopper, I just know he'd like to see more of this hawt shit.

Posted by dogpossum on January 17, 2007 10:50 AM in the category clicky