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Blogging and public thinking

Euan Semple takes a moment to reflect on how blogging has affected how he thinks:

Once you have a blog you notice more, you start to think “I might write about this on my blog” What do I want to say” “What will people’s reaction be”. Over time you get better at noticing and the better at noticing you get the more noticed you get!…

I do find the possibility that I might blog an experience transforms that experience. I begin to compose the post in my head, even if I know I’m not actually going to write about it. I did this to some extent before the seventh day of creation (G-d rested, looked at what He had created, and then we started blogging complaints about i), but I now find myself shaping experience according to how I might present that experience in public: finding the words, deciding what might be interesting in the experience to someone other than me. Blogging has given the public yet more of a grip on the shape of my private experience.

Blogging is not unique in this. I assume we all think about how we might tell others about something that just happened to us, imagining the anecdote told at dinner to one’s family, to one’s co-workers, or to other confidantes. If you kept a traditional diary, you might find that you are drafting your experiences with its blank pages in mind. But, for those of us who write personal blogs, the anticipated reading of your blog by people you don’t know creates drafts of experience — which ultimately become the experience — that are more written than told, more public than social, more composed than expressed.

Is that good? I dunno. I don’t even know if it’s generally true. I’ve worried before that the little homunculus in my brain that is always scribbling away is a personal mental disorder. (Shut up, homunculus! I don’t care what you say, I’m posting this anyway!)

11 Responses to “Blogging and public thinking”

  1. I am now concerned that you have a humungous homunculus!

  2. Have you seen this piece?

    There’s a really interesting intersection there, at a different angle, on what you say above. Compare:

    “I do find the possibility that I might blog an experience transforms that experience. I begin to compose the post in my head, even if I know I’m not actually going to write about it.”


    “To Johnson, this is How We Live Now: we can read the bad news in our doctor’s eyes as she looks up from the pathology report–It’s the Big C!–and “the instinctive response is, I’d better tweet this up right

  3. Beware, David, wou may be what Dave Winer calls a natural-born blogger!


  4. […] Joho the Blog » Blogging and public thinking […]

  5. Seth, I hadn’t read the Dery True/Slant piece.

    I’m not sure I’d use the word “intersection,” but I can see why my piece made you think of his. He’s yowling about the expression of the private in public, while I’m noting that the possibility of public expression is shaping my private experience. (I’m using the word “yowling” on purpose because I thought Dery’s piece was more of an expression of taste and preference than an actual argument, although he is an insightful yowler.)

    As I said, I don’t know how common my experience of this is. I think my inner narrator is louder than other people’s, which has worried me since adolescence, but I also don’t know if that’s true; I’ve assumed it’s a form of dissociation, possibly pathological. I probably should have hade someone look into this by now. It’s probably also why I’m comfortable writing: My inner narrator and the experience it’s narrating are unified then. (Sorry if this sounds like psychobabble bullshit. It mean it pretty literally.)

    In any case, as my post says, I don’t blame blogging for this. While my narrator _may_ be more dissociated than others, I think forming experience according to our anticipations of recounting it is probably quite common with linguistic creatures like us humans. Blogging may be aggravating it some — as my post says, I think it has for me — but I don’t see forming experience into stories as necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I suspect it’s a non-barking human thing.

  6. I think his piece is more deeply connected to what you’re saying, in that he’s also examining the “possibility of public expression is shaping my private experience”, but approaching it from a more critical direction.

    Compare (my emphasis):

    “But, for those of us who write personal blogs, the anticipated reading of your blog by people you don’t know creates drafts of experience — which ultimately become the experience — that are more written than told, more public than social, more composed than expressed.”


    “This is partly about the media-age article of faith that nothing is really real unless it’s recorded and, increasingly, shared.”

    “… like the characters in White Noise, we only feel that we truly exist when we see ourselves reflected in the media eye, because that’s where the real reality is, these days: on the other side of the screen.”

    I’m edging into contentious territory in the following, but what he says does apply to you in a “blame blogging” sense – that is, blogging is not the ONLY media/celebrity system, but it is (has) A media/celebrity system. And what that system does to experiences – quite often, negatively – is the point.

  7. Yes, there are continuities, but…

    I’m not talking about actually blogging everything that crosses one’s mind. As you know, I personally tend towards Dery’s own preferences in how much I share. (E.g., how many children do I have? Bet you can’t tell from my blog.) I’m not convinced that fashioning experience as stories we might post is much different from thinking of them as stories we might tell at the dinner table.

    My post does wonder whether blogging does change the inner story-telling so that we do _more_ of that inner work. But, even if it does (and, as I said, I don’t know that that’s the case), the questions are: (a) Do those stories change their narrative and character when we think of them as posts instead of as dinner-time anecdotes; (b) Is the change towards conceiving of one’s life as the focus of a celebrity account?

    Maybe (b) is right, but I could just as well suggest (as without argument as your own assumption is) that this inner posting of experience (so to speak) is a change from the previous media paradigm’s focus on celebrity to the new media paradigm’s focus on talking to a much smaller public of a blog’s readership. But, you and I disagree about the character and nature of blogging, so we’re probably not going to resolve this (especially since neither of us has evidence to support what’s going on in most bloggers’ inner lives).

    The idea that public media alter our inner narratives is hardly new. Stephen Goldblatt’s book on Renaissance self-fashioning is a great work on this topic. It seems to me to be a coherent history (resorting to coherence in the absence of evidence) to say we are moving from a time in which media structurally gave rise to celebrity (because the media were mass and one-way) to a new medium that gives rise to some Hegelian synthesis of celebrity and actual sociality. That is, in the age of broadcast, we fashioned experience so that we were stars of an imaginary broadcast; in the age of the Web, we fashion experience so that we are bloggers with a non-massive, semi-social, potentially interactive readership. Under this fact-free analysis, the Web’s fashioning of our experience should be understand in _contrast_ to the celebrity-based stories we made of our lives during the Age of Broadcast.


  8. Here’s my response to Dery: Oversharing on oversharing:

  9. I was among those who left comments at Euan Semple’s blog. When thinking about the matter later, and then reading this (my brother who is a regular reader pointed me to each blog posting) I wondered if we are transformed in more ways than we know.

    There are times when I keep my camera with me and take photos. With my camera a “frame” the event in different ways. I want to record the sights of what happens around me.

    Yet, there are other times when I (and those I am with) want (me) to be immersed in the event without any mediating technology.

    Anthropologists and other social scientists have a term for this: the participant observer:

    In a sense, we become anthropologists of our own experience. It is possible that our commitment to writing about our experiences “taints” them, withdrawing us from the immediacy and innocence of the experience itself.

    `//rite On!
    ,\\ark Hurvitz

  10. Bloggers are not the only ones that view the world in terms of how to re-present it. I have served as a minister for 20 years and have preached over 2,000 times during that span. There have been mulitple occasions when I hear something, see something or read something and I think to myself “That’ll preach”

    I believe that when you are in the business of communicating publicly than this natually happens, whether you intentionally choose to do so or not. You have trained your mind to observe and discribe.

  11. […] the idea that no matter what we are experiencing, we are framing it for others consumption.  I find myself doing that a lot, and especially how I choose my words (although I think that is […]

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