Thursday, January 18, 2007

Content manifest

When people learn I blog, the general reception is a joyful “Ah, yes, I regularly read some blogs myself, it is an interesting phenomenon.” Some ask what I blog about, and with what software and ask for the url, but not once has the question of why – the reason for my blogging - been posed. I’ve pondered why that is. Perhaps it is so, because those who know me know that writing is my true element and therefore, it does not really come as a great surprise that I’m writing blog posts on the internet. Or perhaps one of the greatest human basic needs is so widely recognized that most don’t reflect on it, that is the need for self-expression. Maybe when they learn that someone blogs, they automatically think that “yeah, putting down one’s thoughts and sharing them with the world, that makes perfect sense” and wouldn’t come to think of questioning it or digging into it.

To be honest, I’m glad I’ve never been asked to “justify” my blogging as I haven’t had a clear, pin-pointed objective. I had to reflect on it when I recently updated the layout and template of my blog. I figured I should add some sort of product description of Paeonia to guide new readers. I’m not assuming people have the time to read through half my archive just to get a grasp of who I am or what topics I write about.

Tangled up in thoughts on motives for blogging, while updating my template, I came to think about the papers I used in my teaching on blogging last autumn. Susan Herring found in her study that “surprisingly many” blogs contain few or no links at all. The blogs were not as interactive as one would expect, but rather individualistic, even intimate, and they seemed to play the role of a tool for self expression. Again, the self expression. I believe that is a huge drive for us humans, perhaps increasingly more so these days. People love to talk about themselves, their life and to share stories and experiences they’ve had. Nothing new, nothing bad about that. Perhaps the fact that the majority of blogs are personal, diary-kind of blogs mirrors the need to express one-self.

Another assumption would be to consider the blog a means to reflect upon one’s identity, using Gidden’s thoughts on self-identity. He basically says that our self, our identity, is nothing we simply inherit from our parents. It’s not static or impossible to redefine, on the contrary. Our self and identity is rather a story or biography that we keep telling ourselves around us, by our clothes, our actions, hobbies and tales we tell. Naturally, this is not done in a vacuum either, the tale you tell about yourself to others and their feedback is important. This is of course something that goes on every day, you can’t build it one day and preserve it like that forever. Now, is this why diary-like blogging is so popular, because it serves as a tool to keep our story, our biography, going? Is blogging a tool to keep reflecting on ourselves and the world, and to (re)define our place in it? The beauty of it is that as you keep the story of yourself going, you also get to share it with an immense audience, who can actually give you feedback on your biography.

One thought that lands close to the one above is that the limit of how far the individualization of our society can go is perhaps close. Maybe people want to take a step back, maybe they want to be individualistic by blogging, but together with others, in blogging communities on the net. Like small islets forming an asymmetric pearl necklace in a lake, individual but still together, within reach.

Well, I did manage to identify the two main ingredients that make up Paeonia. There’s, firstly, a need for storage for thoughts, links and ideas. Secondly, I think better when I write. I formulate myself better then as I need to visualize an imagined audience. It helps getting to the core of loose thoughts. (A friend who I went to university with had a complete opposite way of doing things. At exams, he sat for hours simply thinking, with an entirely blank paper in front of him. Then the last 30 minutes, he put a perfect answer to paper, handed it in and got straight A:s. I on the other hand need to draw and write while trying to figure out what to say.) So voilà, the answer to why I blog is that I need 1) a place to store interesting things I stumble upon and 2) a creative sandbox where I can grow loads of toys and then refine those I believe in. What really bugs me though is that I don’t have much time to actually sit down in this sandpit and play with the thoughts and develop them into something. Thinking requires time and I’ve been short of that lately.


greensatya said...

Hmm, interesting post. I never looked it that way that blogs with no links are individualistic. May be never gave so careful thought.

I am going to read other posts of yours as well.


Paeonia said...

Well, nothing is black and white. Not all blogs with few or no links and interactivity with other bloggers are individualistic. For example, I often read a blog written by a group of students that contain no links and that seldom reaches out to other blog posts and bloggers. But the writers really stress "the group" and their "community", which is not what individualism stands for.

Yenayer said...

The first I learnd about blogs is : "The blog is the link" through reading Rebbbeca Blood excellent book "The Weblog Handbook".
I really believe that what make a blog and then a network of blogs is linking each other. And it's the RSS feed that makes all.