Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rigor Mortis

More and more often when I teach blogging, I feel like I am teaching Latin.

It seems as if blogging is now considered a discourse essentially dead in its vernacular practice, but the language of blogging still holds some recognizable pedagogical virtue as a way to build students' communication skills with public audiences and as a gateway for understanding related digital practices that might appear more demonstrably alive in the present day.

Today I found out that I will be part of a roundtable discussion titled "Is Blogging Dead? Yes, No, Other" at the Computers and Writing conference at the University of Michigan. The proposal from Steve Krause begins as follows:

In one fashion or another, the short history of blogging has always been about dismissal. Blogging has consistently been labeled a fad, discredited as little more than amateurs keeping public diaries, criticized by mainstream media for their shoddy writing (compared to the mainstream media), and so forth. And yet Rosenberg (2009) argues that blogging was “the first form of social media to be widely adopted beyond the world of technology enthusiasts,” a development that provided a “template for all the other forms that would follow” (p. 13). Blogs perforated the borders between author and audience, reporter and reader, diary and pulpit in ways that launched careers, destroyed campaigns, and illustrated, perhaps, the communal philosophy of the digital age. That said, as Facebook and Twitter have eclipsed blogs, perhaps the death of blogging has finally arrived. Perhaps the medium that showed the way has been superseded by the forms following. Or not. Or maybe it has become something else. Something other.

Of course, the news of blogging's demise is not a terribly stunning announcement. A year and a half ago, a report from the Pew Research Center announced that it was already judged an archaic practice among the young.

Yet the blogs in this quarter's digital danse macabre continue to show a certain vitality conceptually, rhetorically, stylistically, and even technically. Offerings from my students like Eat Dirt, San Diego, Greener Strides, Cinesia, Digirights, and The Social Documentary speak of students continuing desires to have their voices heard by the public. The class blog is full of suggestions for alternative lectures that I could have given with the same subject matter.

I can't imagine trying to get to know my students otherwise in a lecture hall of over two hundred souls. I may be a schoolmarm essentially drilling them on their conjugations and declensions, but at this point I don't know what else to do.

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Blogger Missoula Redhead said...

Liz, do you think it might be a function of a lack of teaching sustained argumentation? FB, with its 420 character limit, tumblr's 'microblogging' format, twitter's 140 characters - none of these allow for crafting much of an argument. And you and I both know how little students understand about argumentation or writing well when they land on our doorstep.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Synthetic Zero said...

Will the rapidity of cycles of changes from current to archaic continue to accelerate, to the point where months, then weeks, then days, then minutes separate the peaks and troughs? I have to admit my own blogging practice has greatly lagged since I moved much of my online life to Twitter and Facebook; though I miss the relatively lazy, expository style, the ability to write about topics at relative length --- yet when I started my blog many of my older friends thought it was too brief to be fully taken seriously (one older intellectual friend of mine who hails from the Institute of Advanced Study liked my blog but likened it to "beer" as opposed to "fine wine", and encouraged me to write, of all things, books).

9:37 PM  
Blogger LMaruca said...

This is a great analogy. Centuries after it was no longer the vernacular, Latin was the linga franca of the educated. Is blogging now the space for educated and/or informed commentary? If so, is it a bad thing to teach our students fluency in this genre --this media dialect, if you will? I haven't yet found a better platform to encourage _sustained_ investigation of a topic along with dialogue and community, in or out of the classroom (exactly what those Latin-speaking scholars of the early modern period were after). But I'm open to persuasion.

5:22 AM  
Blogger Synthetic Zero said...

I tried to leave a comment before but a glitch in the sign-in process seems to have eaten it.

I wonder if the speed of technological rollover has a limit; the printing press, radio, television, blogs, Facebook, Twitter... will we soon face mere months or weeks or days between introduction, adoption, and discarding of new forms?

I am always astonished at how prolific you are in your blog posts; as I've moved more to Twitter and Facebook, I've spent less and less time on my far more languid blog posts, which now seems like novels by comparison. The irony is an old friend of mine at the Institute for Advanced Study once said he liked my blog but thought the short form of the posts made it like "beer" rather than "wine"... he suggested that I ought to write a book, instead.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Steven D. Krause said...

I think it'll be a fun talk/presentation because I think that the answer is blogs are dead, blogs are alive, and blogs are something else. Sort of reminds me of writing pedagogy. There are all kinds of very cool post-process/process-based teaching adventures going on right now, approaches to teaching and writing that fundamentally question what it means to "write," what constitutes a "text" or even media, etc., etc., etc. And yet, just down the hall at any large institution (maybe in the English department, maybe not), there's someone who is well-meaning and thoughtful teaching the 5 paragraph essay, talking about the importance of double-spacing, and how it is a good idea to always begin an essay with the phrase "In society today."


I guess what I mean is that what blogging even basically means is shifting too quickly to label it dead or alive. Which, again, will make for a fun time in Ann Arbor.

10:05 AM  

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