Adding to my regular theme of reasons for blogging I’m adding procrastination when deadlines loom. Assignment title: How useful is the ‘subject of language’ approach in helping us to understand identity?
The bible is full of aphorisms. Some are less useful than others such as ‘thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’ plus long lists of other shalt nots (fornication, idolatry, adultery, etc). But the most useful edict of all appears at the start of genesis; ‘in the beginning there was the word’.
We make sense of our left-brain world through the logic and lists of language. Via agreed consensus, it names our realities and is the tool for defining knowledge. Semiotics; the first science of linguistics proposed by Saussure, bought us the triple S of signifier, signified and sign through which we see that meaning is never fixed. When Gertrude Stein wrote ‘A rose is a rose is a rose’ she wasn’t being obtuse; she was using repetition in an attempt to pin the language down. The word rose has multiple significations (romance, valentine, beauty, interflora) so we use it in a notional way, we evoke the idea of a rose; recognisable to each of us in individual ways. We can’t capture a rose; we can only create a linguistic category of rose-ness. The single rose in our hand is a rose – but the word itself is conceptual and its meaning dependent on the cultural surround.
Language is cultural, it reflects dominant social constructs. The language of gender is one of the best examples of this. As sex is fundamental to identity it’s clear that the language we use to ‘know’ ourselves is constrained by the environment in which we live. Boys don’t wear pink’ not because of the colour pink is pink is pink but because of the associations of the word. It’s difficult to escape language. Even if we become subjective, work on intuition, develop sensory perception, adopt Zen, we have little control over the ways we are seen by others. Is the subject of language approach useful in understanding identity; yes, you could say that. I just need a few more thousand words in which to say it.
I notice I’m the 8th person here on blogs.lincoln.ac.uk to pass the 100 mark; nothing to celebrate regards coming in first but a significant achievement in terms of motivation. Several times I’ve reflected and invited comments on the purpose of blogging; coming to the conclusion that at the end of the day I do it mostly for myself. It helps me focus on work related issues and find the links between my different areas of interest. In the past few weeks I’ve been using the blog for my OU course; I have a joint blog with the University of Kent at http://labyrinth.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk and am supporting an external WordPress blog set up by a colleague at http://blindinglygood.wordpress.com – you could say that blogging has become part of what I do. Blogging is my CPD; a reflective record of achievements. Overall blogging is fun and picking up the odd comment along the way is a bonus. I like having a one-stop online area that constitutes my virtual identity. I’d like to blog every day, commenting on news items and overheard bits of conversation or how today a colleague dressed up as a book worm to promote the library opening hours; a good old fashioned analogue way of getting people’s attention! But every day is an unrealistic target; once a week seems to be manageable, at the moment I’m on a bit of a roll!
My last post title is an apt description regarding this blog though most of September – seen but not heard (but has anyone noticed? That remains the pertinent question). The season of mellow mists and Mabon is also time for reflection; I’ve enjoyed the challenge of blogging and the occasions when there have been responses. But overall I doubt its future.
If we blog for a reason other than pure self expression then it’s like any online discussion or new ‘web 2.0’ type tool; only adopted if it is a requirement or can be shown to do something better than it is done now.
I blogged because I could; because I work with a talented colleague who set up the facility and ensured technical support was readily available. I blogged because, as a subscription payer for my own domain name and host, I appreciate the value of free self publishing on the internet. The concept of a digital divide rising out of differing means and ability for virtual communication is a core area of interest as is the construction of online identity. So blogging for me was a gift. An opportunity to find my voice and write succinctly not just on my work, but also those areas on my life where the barriers between work and non-work get blurred, (although non-work life remains mostly invisible on these pages)
Keeping up with other people’s blogs is a separate issue. As if maintaining your own wasn’t time intensive enough then to follow fellow bloggers on a regular basis is well nigh impossible. I collect my rss feeds into Netvibes and set it as my home page but the numbers of unread posts continue to rise inexorably.
Throughout the year the question of why we write blogs has been of regular interest to me. Perhaps that’s the wrong question. Maybe it should be why do we read them? Voyeurism? Curiosity? Self promotion? Ambition? CPD? I haven’t thought about it this way round before. Or maybe we need to look at the reasons people have for not writing them; our office colleagues for example. Think about it laterally. There could be some interesting answers and new light to be shed on the mystique of the blogging phenonema.
Digital debate has a short life span. Thank you again to everyone who contributed and caused a ‘spike’ on my rating levels! Clearly the reasons for engaging (or not) are as varied as the individuals who participate (or not); as would be expected with analysis of any human activity. I was interested to see in the responses the concept of ‘justification’ of what we do and the perceived value of having an additional ‘voice’ whether it for clarification of our own thinking or to share practice in a community-of-practice type way. Wenger identifies activities indicative of a CoP including discussing development, asking for help, documenting projects, seeking experience, mapping knowledge and identifying gaps – all of which are common features of the blogosphere.
So the conclusion that blogs are primarily about learning; either through individual reflection or collaboratively through shared activity situated within lived experience comes as no surprise. We all have a range of tools for expression and use what we feel most comfortable with. Those that have made the shift from analogue to digital sometimes take it for granted that everyone has virtual connections and if not then why not? Maybe an alternative way to scratch below the surface of blogging and identify its strengths and weaknesses would be to take a blogger’s laptop or mobile away for a month and ask them to use pen and paper to record their thoughts instead – any volunteers?
Thanks to those who have made contact re the previous blog http://learninglab.lincoln.ac.uk/blogs/sue/2009/04/16/blogging-whats-it-all-about-again/
Still I ponder on the process of blogging and the divide between the avid and the reluctant blogger. I wonder if there are clues. Are bloggers natural reflectors? Do they see blogging as a pleasure or a chore? Does it appeal more to the technical extrovert or the digitally competent introvert? Do bloggers blog strategically? I’m still curious about how people manage their blogging lives? Do they catch up on their blogroll rss feeds over lunch? Is it considered a work or an après-work activity? Or is blogging simply another indicator of a digital divide; one that isn’t about access to computers but the way in which they are used. Are bloggers also Twitters and Yammers with a Facebook profile?
Am I typical or not? The written word appeals to me; texting, email, even assignments and papers; I complain about deadlines but favour the written over the verbal every time. Words suit me; either once removed so I can cut, paste, smooth and polish – or as in stream of consciousness verbiage on demand. Words always have been my preferred method of communication.
I’m also a fan of the Internet; the idea of a network of like minded souls looking for digital connections has always appealed. Me and my laptop are best friends. I miss it when I’m not connected. If this is an addiction then it could be worse – as they say ‘if it harms none do as you will….’
It’s not that I have nothing to say – its almost the opposite – there’s too much – the top layer of my consciousness at this moment includes three paper deadlines (so why am I blogging?!) the practice based research unit on my OU course, if I can use optical illusions to demonstrate critical thinking, identifying other LD tools for prospective students and who or what has eaten the asparagus tops on my allotment. The only reason I’m sat here with my laptop on a Saturday morning is recurring iritis and several looming deadlines; shortly I’m going to plant a jostaberry and cover the asparagus bed with netting!
So it’s not lack of computer confidence or content. I’m an early adopter rather than later or laggard but I’m not consistent; I still find it difficult to get into a blog routine and I’m curious about how others manage. Back to the Cadbury crème again – how do you do yours?
Who do we blog for? Is it for ourselves or for other people? I find myself re-reflecting on this after reading an entry on a (recommended) author’s work blog which was of a highly personal nature and seemed out of context. That might say more about me and my own thoughts on the work/life balance; never the twain shall meet etc. but it did set me pondering once again on the nature and purposes of the blogging revolution.
What is blogging all about? Ultimately we must blog for an audience – if we were blogging purely for reflection then we wouldn’t be uploading our musings into a public place and inviting comments – would we? Is the idea that the blog is a mirror for our personal thoughts a false one? Should an effective blog be a crafted one; written with intent? Should blog entries be bite-sized reflections of distilled essence; not stream-of-consciousness ramblings? No-one has the time to search for needles in haystacks – they need to be pricked – so is an effective blog one that is designed to attract attention?
Blogs function on different levels; their value measured by the number of comments, who is on the blogroll, and how many mentions the writer can get in for their latest conference, journal article or book chapter. We all do it (see http://learninglab.lincoln.ac.uk/blogs/sue/2009/03/13/technology-enhance-learned-a-new-digital-divide/ for example!) and this reinforces their ‘public’ nature; we all like to assume that a blog has a wider audience than one consisting of our immediate work colleagues or even no-one at all. Does ‘0 comments’ indicate 0 readers?
So I found myself thinking (sad or what!) about how many types of blogs can be identified (or even ‘How do you do yours’? as in the old ‘How do you eat your Cadbury’s Crème Egg’ adage). So far I’ve got:
- Business Card Blogging (find out more about me…)
- CV Blogging (this is where I’ve been and what I did there…)
- Social Network Blogging (how many names can I drop in… )
- Competitive Blogging (I must increase my ratings…)
- Boring Blogging (once visited never returned…)
Does anyone have any more suggestions?
The harsh truth is that the majority of bloggers write for an audience of one – themselves – so maybe it doesn’t matter what we post after all – or is there anyone out there who disagrees………….
My web 2.0 activity (as in self publishing) seems to have diminished; one week I’m blogging, twittering and yammering with anyone who is likewise bitten by the bug and the next week, apart from some occasional facebook activity, it’s all stopped. I’ve waited to get re-bitten but it hasnt happened.
Being a reflective sort of person I’ve been wondering what’s changed and my conclusion is…… nothing.
And therein lies the answer. I haven’t blogged, twittered or yammered and it hasn’t made any difference.
I’m still over-working, under-studying, spending my weekends walking, seeing family and friends; my life is just as busy, just as much fun – nothing has changed. I haven’t lost or gained. Whether I divulge innanities online or keep the daily minutae to myself, I’m still living exactly the same life. It doesn’t seem to have made any difference at all.
I thought I was the first to use the word but I’ve now come across ‘bloggage’ several times. @iandelaney uses it on Twitter. bloggage.me.uk is a blog title from Jimbo in Shoreham. The domain name http://www.bloggage.com is live but lacks content; is a website for bloggage verging on oxymoronic?
Do I do bloggage or do I produce it? It feels a bit like luggage – containers of personal artifacts – which can then be disconnected through the links of strangers and sent to far flung places. bloggage.me.uk has ended up here at learninglab.lincoln.ac.uk. I’m following @iandelaney on Twitter (although it feels uncomfortable, like virtual stalking). Or maybe bloggage is more like traffic. Where the blogs are the cars and bloggage is a conglomeration of them; a multi storey car park, or a traffic jam, or even a scrap heap of rusted unwanted vehicles; after all there are more unread blogs than read ones, more blogs are dead than alive. Blog rot is endemic. But however you interpret it, bloggage is a phenomena; indicative of Web 2.0 technology which gives individual voices the opportunity to be heard. To me, bloggage is the Internet in action; real people engaged in virtual communications – even it they are mostly talking into a digital void.