Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Week 8 –Getting Stroppy with Miller & Shepherd

The reading that made me think a great deal this week was Miller and Shepherd’s “Genre Analysis of the Weblog.” The authors discuss the public vs private aspects of blogs. I can think of several colleagues who dedicatedly maintain them. Although they don’t want anyone to know about their blogs at work, they want me to follow them, which I sporadically explore when I think about it (which isn’t often). This is what I really want to ask: Why the heck do people (not in my TCR class) want me to read their blogs? Why does it matter so much to them? My life is surely just as interesting as theirs, yet I don’t feel compelled to share my TCR blog with them, nor photocopy my personal journals at home. When friends go on vacations, I’m the gent who takes them for coffee post-vacation and listens to all of their fantastic (or not so fantastic) anecdotes, nodding and smiling as I slurp my mochaccino. It’s my pleasure to do that, but I have no desire to follow their blogs.

It’s my belief that people need to think and re-think what persona they want to show the public, as well as what information they want to reveal to the masses. There are times when I read something about a friend and wish that I hadn’t. They may discuss something that either offends me (religious intolerance) or disappoints me (haughtiness and a host of other attributes). This is the second TCR class that I’ve had to maintain a class blog…and it has rubbed off on me. I understand what we’re doing in our TCR blogs, and I like it so much that I’m planning on having my students maintain one for Fall Semester’s Language of Film class. The two will complement each other well. It even makes me toy with the idea of maintaining my Composition blog after August. Then I would have to decide who the audience is and what function it serves. Is it for my personal travels? Academic research questions and pursuits? Bawdy humor? All or none of the above? Although I like this medium for classroom purposes, I’m not quite sure I’m comfortable enough with the genre to incorporate it into daily life outside of TCR.

Why do people on holiday feel the need to blog while they’re still on holiday? Maybe I’m old-fashioned or just plain old, but when I’m in India, I’m too busy playing Holi, getting drunk, and throwing colored powder with Hindu friends. When I’m eating Ramadan meals with Bedouins in the desert, I don’t think, “Man I’ve got to get back to my computer to share all this to the world ASAP!” Brazil? I’m in the Amazon. No internet. New Zealand? I’m milking cows on a dairy farm. No laptop. I suppose it’s about priorities. I actually LIKE going off the grid from time to time, shutting OFF my mobile phone, getting away from it all and LIVING.

Is that weird?

I liked the article’s discussion about reality television. Nowadays reality isn’t reality unless it’s getting filmed, which truly terrifies me. Someone always appears to be filming someone or something else. We are obsessed with morons like Kim Kardashian, who is as vacuous and uninspiring as an empty shampoo bottle. Yet she really isn’t exactly a moron, since she makes tons of cash from people watching her scripted problems and well, her assets. Ahem. The authors write that it is the ‘democratization of the celebrity’ and ‘mediated voyeurism.’ We watch celebrities’ lives unfold like the car crashes they really are. Clay Calvert mentions several factors for this, such as the pursuit of truth, the desire for excitement, and the need for involvement. I agree with this.

The authors suggest that no writings are meant to be 100% private. As an avid journal writer, I disagree. I’m on my 45th journal, which is a kind of tool. When I’m angry, I can kvetch and not injure anyone with ridiculous words. When I’m confused, I can flesh out the details and discover why I feel the way I feel. And yes, when I’m on vacation, my details allow me to remember the blue of a Maltese beach and savor the taste of Chilean chocle. In fact, it is in my will that my journals are to be burned when I die. They are deeply personal reflections that chronicle where I am at a given point and allow me to see what I was feeling at this time a year ago. For my eyes only.

I’ll conclude with “our immersion in a culture of simulation ultimately devalues direct experience, making it less compelling and ultimately less real.” I agree that that’s where our society is heading. Virtual vacations are on the horizon, aren’t they? I suppose I pine away for the tactile world that dazzles all five senses, and it saddens me that so many of us don’t occasionally abandon the information highway, our computers, our avatars, and don’t actually experience REAL real life so much anymore.


  1. You've touched on a lot that is of great interest to me. I think for many folks, the blogging is just another way to journal. If it's not written down, it's not real - or they're afraid that they'll forget it. Their lives are social, so their journal is social. They don't write for a particular audience, because they are not rhetors - they just write.

    Your believe that computer mediated experiences aren't real is pretty common. I've been interested in this real/virtual dichotomy for a while. (I made a video project for one of Dr. K's classes, in fact: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzrVkq0zKEI)

    I would agree that "virtual" experiences are much thinner, experientially than f2f experiences, but I don't think they're any less "real."

  2. Hey, guys!

    Have you read Susan Sontag’s book _On Photography_? It’s about how photography interrupts our experiences, like when tourists take pictures of an amazing sight instead of just experiencing it. Her most salient argument, for me, was that we are so busy wanting to “capture” the moment for future nostalgia that we actually fail to engage with it in the moment. I experienced this, myself, when I visited Italy last year. I was so busy taking pictures and video for when I returned home, I often looked at some of the most magnificent scenes for their “photo opportunity” value. It was only after my camera died that I was really able to live for every experience (because I wouldn’t have photo proof of it later).

    Joe, your thought about travel blogs seems very similar, and I found a lot of Miller and Shepherd’s points about how things aren’t “real” unless they are filmed similar, too. In fact, Sontag makes some very interesting appraisals of Hollywood war films. And Dan, you might be interested in Sontag's book because, while it predates "virtual" as we define it now, it still makes some very good general points about how technology (cameras and film) change how we perceive the "real."

  3. Hi, Joseph...

    You bring up an interesting comment about wanting to disconnect off the grid once in a while. Many of us can't, or won't...because on the grid we surely advertise our personas (just like Kim Kardashian et.al.) and have a "presence". In fact, I think the line between our real-world on online-world persons is oh so blurred. And maybe by blogging on vacation we're saying to our peers, "look at me, how important I am...I have followers I have to blog for".

  4. Amen, Joseph. Your continuing search for the real gives me hope that Baudrillard's observations about simulation being the only reality are...unreal.

    By the way, I loved the blue-faced pic you used for last summer's cyborgs and prosthetics class.