Friday, February 20, 2004

A Nest of Paradoxes

See Selena? I can do honesty.

This whole blog make-over reminds me of an early conversation with Selena (which she later brought up in her own blog) about the need to write and the battle of honesty and anonymity in a phenomenon such as a blog. Now, granted I may have already fuzzed things in my memory such that this may not have occurred, but I do know for sure my own struggle to define what my blog is supposed to do and what limits I should set for myself.

I remember trying to discern the varied definitions of the blog-- a pseudo-paradoxical diary or a mastubatory experience of the worst kind? I remember searching for the reasons why people blog and hoping to find my own in such an effort. And I remember the questions:

Should I hide behind the masks of nom de guerres or nom de plumes while writing in this semi-kinda-sorta journal? Do I dare flash the true nature of my personality to unsuspecting internet passersby while delivering juicy-- yet ultimately boring-- accounts of my life and my fiction? Do you (or I) even care about what happens in my blog? Does it matter? Is there life on Mars?

Hrmmm... got carried away there for a moment.

Thankfully, it seems like I'm not the only one confused by the paradoxes swarming over this thing called blog. In his weblog, published author John Shirley comments that:

Another paradox is that this is a kind of log, in which I write about what's on my mind that day, or things I experienced, and yet I can't really talk about what's on my mind. It's too personal--sometimes yes I talk about personal issues but this one involves someone else in my family who, it seems to me, is in deep trouble, and if I talk about it I'll be exposing them in public, and, well, it'd just generally constitute a Bad Thing. But my heart is burdened with it. I have to "let someone go" and it's very painful.

If I were to get into it here, it would be an exercise in self indulgence--or it would seem that way. WHo wants to go to a blog and hear some guy sighing about something sad in his life? All I can do is just express distress in this way, just like putting out a flag that says DISTRESS on it, without expecting any response, without being able to enlarge on it. If someone responds to the flag like a Coast Guardsman to a distress signal, I'll only shake my head and say, "That's all I can say about it. The flag. Distress."

This blog already is only borderline entertaining. Blogs are not made for soul searching in public. People should have the good taste not to whine pointlessly in public. And the public mostly surfs the internet, when they're not researching some project, for entertainment. The internet seems designed for attenuated attention spans, and I'm as bad as anyone else in that regard.

Another account from Terry Teachout at Arts Journal gave some interesting points about blogging. Read it and see which ones hit the nail on the head and which ones are way off-base for yourself:

TT: Notes on blogging

1. It’s almost impossible to explain what a blog is to someone who’s never seen one. That's the mark of a true innovation.

2. I know very few people over fifty, and scarcely any over sixty, who "get" blogging.

3. Blogs without links aren’t blogs. Blogs without blogrolls aren’t blogs. Blogs without mailboxes aren’t blogs.

4. The blogosphere is a pure market—but one in which no money changes hands. If you can afford the bandwidth and your ego is strong enough, it doesn’t matter whether anybody wants to read what you have to say. But the more you care about how many people are reading your blog, the more your blogging will be shaped by their approval, whether you get paid or not.

5. Politicians and celebrities rarely make good bloggers. They’re not interested enough in what other people are thinking.

6. Blogging puts professionals and amateurs on an even footing. That’s why so many professional writers dislike and distrust it.

7. The whole point of a blog is that its author controls its content. That’s why no major newspaper will ever be successful at running in-house blogs: the editors won’t allow it. The smart ones will encourage their best writers to blog on their own time—and at their own risk. The dumb ones will refuse to let any of their writers blog, on or off the job.

8. For now, blogs presuppose the existence of the print media. That will probably always be the case—but over time, the print media will become increasingly less important to the blogosphere.

9. Within a decade, blogs will replace op-ed pages.

10. Blogs will be to the 21st century what little magazines were to the 20th century. Their influence will be disproportionate to their circulation.

11. Blogs are what online magazines were supposed to be.

12. Art blogging will never be as popular as war blogging. More people care about politics than the arts.

13. Blogging is inherently undemocratic in one important way: it privileges literacy. Like e-mail, it is dividing the world into two unequal classes: people who feel comfortable expressing themselves through the written word and people who don’t.

14. If you want to be noticed, you have to blog every day.

15. An impersonal blog is a contradiction in terms.

On a personal matter... hey Selena, I love what you've done on your links section! (Don't be a stranger, eh?)

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