this post is all about you

10 December, 2008


So that linguistics class I’m always bitching about? There were four essay questions on the final, the first of three required complex comparison between at least 7 different theorists and 10 differing concepts/theories, with each of those requiring specific citations.

At this point? I don’t even care, as evidenced by my answer to question 4 (which in my defense was so short it is almost certainly a ‘gimme’.)

Question Four:

I know what you want me to say. You want me to write something insightful and interesting, something showing how much your class has taught me. You want me to write about how my more solid understanding of linguistic theory and methods, especially the complex and contested relation between language and culture will make me a better anthropologist. You want me to tell you that before, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis was a kind of bleak chart in my mind, an uncontested linguists-only statement, and now, now, I fully realize the complex and historically specific work this theory is couched in and how it has been misrepresented, and sure, I could do that.

Or I could go off on a tangent only vaguely referencing these conceptions of language and culture (mimicking the frequent mental tangents this class has caused me to endure) and hope that I will have sufficiently, in the preceding paragraph, shown I have, in fact, learned something (and earned the 10% needed).

I’ve had a blog for the past few years, and find it an enriching space to ‘publish’ or publicly record my personal writings and opinions. It is a weird place though- with many names- blogland, the blog-o-sphere, blogworld, etc. I’ve noticed the problems, felt and read the angst of blogging- a number of the bloggers I regularly read lament the act of blogging, referring to it in a number of contradictory ways, such as ‘therapy’, ‘mental exercise’, ‘self-indulgent narcissistic crap that no one really wants to read anyway*’ . They express frustration with the lack of definition or knowing exactly what is they are doing- what does it mean to blog? Why blog at all?

What is interesting to me is that they can question what they are doing while they are doing it. This kind of meta-discursive investigation of blogging is confusing- to say the least. I’ve read more than one post about a “blogging identity crisis” where the author tries and figure out why and what it is they hope to accomplish from blogging and find it an impossible task. Bloggers are unsure how they fit in a yet undefined genre and unsure how to talk about what it is they are doing.

While blogging seems to be an intensely personal and yet acutely public field of writing, I don’t think this is the issue bothering bloggers. Writing is, by and large, intended for an audience- blogging puts light on the darkened forth wall, opening the relation between writer and reader in near instantaneous dialog. I am not arguing that blogging is a great or even good genre of writing, just that it is, in fact, a genre. The issue lies not in the public/private dichotomy but in the lack of definition and consensus as to what blogging is and ought to be. Without an established framework bloggers must figure out for themselves what it is they are doing, why they are doing it, how they should do it and what it means to do it successfully. This is true of any genre, but usually there is some kind of organizing principle, some sort of (however loosely defined) consensus.

Bloggers have little consensus or understanding of what it is they are and should be doing, yet in their frustrations express a desire for consensus; they desire to know that they are meeting the criteria of the genre and producing meaningful work. (Even humor or porn blogs, I imagine, wish to contribute meaningful work (however that might be interpreted)).

Briggs and Bauman point out that “genres are not road-maps”, genres should not be viewed as empirical structural and content-based constraints on textual production (Briggs and Bauman: p148). By acknowledging the intertextuality in genres and the (re)construction of other classes of texts in any genre, we can come to understand why and how there could be such radically different conceptions of blogging occurring at relatively the same time, sometimes in a single blog post. But it does not answer the frustration of blogger identity crisis. I recognize that no genre is completely defined or understood by its users, however, the lack of definition and consensus in the genre of blogging seems especially uncomfortable. Perhaps it is simply a new genre, and will become more fleshed-out with time. I’m not sure. At this time though, it seems bloggers must strain their eyes to do work in relative darkness, unsure if their writing will be acknowledged or accepted as meaningful once it is published in the overwhelmingly bright light of public scrutiny.

*that one is mine, I think


5 Responses to “this post is all about you”

  1. Pare Says:

    Absolutely, unbelievably, without a doubt *awesome.*

  2. batspit Says:

    so you’d give me an A, then? ’cause if i get less than that I’m totally taking this to him and saying ‘look pal, SP would have given me an A and she can write (and drink for the matter) you ass under the table….

  3. GAP Says:

    HA HA HA HA!!! Holy crap, if you submitted that to him I will be your follower for life.. Lol.. NICE, that totally entertained me.. Yeah, he better give those finals back with an A, or else… you know what I mean.

  4. smoothpebble Says:

    *no, I think that one is mine!
    And I don’t want meta – I want a concrete answer here, damnit!

  5. […] a more academic look at this topic go here, and for a bunny trail related to some of this go […]

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