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Week 13--Benevolent Dictatorship? Democracy?

Anne Dalke's picture

This Tuesday we will have a visit from Laura Blankenship, who "fearlessly blogs" as Geeky Mom, and has offered her description of a blog as a "benevolent dictatorship"; and on Thursday from Paul Grobstein, who suggests you try "getting acquainted" and follow his musings about whether "To Blog...Or Not to Blog." Please read also The "How" of Story-Sharing I and The "How" of Story-Sharing II, along with Serendip's Evolving Web Principles.

Then: tell us what you are thinking about all of this....

Marina Gallo's picture

Last week of class

I was thinking about the welcomeness of certain blogs and I made a list of a few things that I feel constitute whether or not I feel welcome. One of the items on the list was language and along with that intellect. If I don't understand the words used or the concept, I won't feel interested or welcome. The other item was shared experience, which we talked about in class today. It is always nice to talk about something you have actually been through or to see how someone else reacted to a similar familiar event. I feel like that really is one determinant in feeling welcomed. 

We used the word, "boundedness" in class to describe a blog and I was a bit confused on what that meant. I finally got a working definition of "grokking" though. :) 

egoodlett's picture

Notes from Tuesday

We started off discussing the usual audience of Laura Blankenship's blog, Geeky Mom, and learned that she has readers who are faculty at other schools, as well as a few mothers, but also an audience of some of her coworkers here at Bryn Mawr. But, she said, her coworkers rarely comment on the blog, though sometimes they do offer her comments in-person.

She also mentioned that she blogs about her kids sometimes, but she usually asks her kids' permission before writing about them, and they read the blog. This brought up some discussion on bloggers who write about every moment of their kids' lives, and how that might affect their kids in the future, once they've grown up.

From there, we talked about the evolution of blogs - they were originally invented as a way of sharing links, with a little commentary, but now, as Laura said, blogs are being used more as a type of social software (like Facebook or Myspace). She felt one of the big blogging booms began after 9/11, when people were seeking information from real people, not from the mainstream media, looking for the "real" story. 2004 was another "blogging boom," with the elections that year as the major topic.

We discussed how Laura's blog seems different from the others we've seen - the idea of Tim's blog is to create a public sphere; Kate used her blog as a sort of food column and diary; and the main drive behind Laura's blog seems to be creating connections and networking. She is very aware of her audience, she says, and knows who her loyal readers and commenters are. She also includes a lot more personal information on her blog. Readers can tell from following the blog when her house is messy, when she's off of work for a vacation, etc. She also showed us an entry she wrote a couple of years ago, asking her readers to help her decide an outfit for a formal event (she posted photos of all the different options).

It was also suggested that perhaps Geeky Mom is a hybrid of the other two blogs we had looked at so far - it contains a lot of personal information at some parts, which in a way gives it a diary feel like Kate's blog, but other sections are about technology, education, and promote more generalized conversation, like on Tim's blog. Some people preferred reading the personal entries, while others preferred to read about topics in technology or education, but the overall reaction of the class seemed to be that everyone felt welcomed by one aspect or another of Geeky Mom.

We finished by talking about the course more generally. Do we feel that Prof. Dalke is making us do a hybrid (or a hydra, as she said, which may not be coherent with itself) by having us post our papers online? Are we writing blog entries, or just putting our academic papers on display? Could that be an emerging genre?

Paul Grobstein's picture


Thanks all for rich conversation. I was particularly intrigued by the question of whether a conversation published on line is or is not "writing", in the sense that Derrida (and others) were critical of. And by a related follow up conversation with AD about the more of less deliberately obscure writing style of Derrida and others aimed at reinforcing the point that there is no "Truth" or final answer.

My sense is that what's critical is not whether something is "published" or not (or comprehensible or not) but whether it is offered and taken in the spirit of ongoing conversation. A posting on Serendip is not intended to be the final word, to end conversation, but rather to contribute to someone at some ime thinking something new/different, and hence continuing the conversation. And it is written as clearly as possible, since it is intended as a take off point for generation of further new ideas.

Yes, exchange on Serendip involves writing but it is writing to promote ongoing change rather than to settle anything, and so for me satisfies the desiderata of conversation. And it may in fact do so in some ways better than vocal face to face conversation since one has time/space to do some reflective thinking in the interstices of the exchange. In this sense Serendip exchange is a hyrbrid form, somewhere between published writing and informal verbal conversation.

Anne Dalke's picture

is bad writing necessary?

...that related follow-up conversation with AD was prompted by the Lingua Franca piece Tim Burke mentioned during his visit to our class last week, James Miller's "Is Bad Writing Necessary? George Orwell, Theodor Adorno, and the Politics of Literature" (9, 9, December/January 2000). This is as good a description I've read anywhere of why theory might be so difficult to read (ready?) because it fulfills a political function, reminding us all of the impossibility of getting to any clear "foundation" of truth....

AF's picture

Before I even saw your link

Before I even saw your link to Geeky Mom's conversation about our class I went and read it. But when I got on her sight I was immediately distracted by her most recent post about how she cast her vote in the primary election. Which got me thinking about how internet is effecting politics, especially the Presidential race that is going on right now. 

I guess in a lot of ways I always thought of blogs and the internet as more of a younger generational thing (although I am happy that our guests are proving me wrong) and that definitely makes me think of the effect the internet has had on the Obama campaign specifically. We even watched (or attempted to watch) the Obama music video in class! And then of course there's the Obama girl and the way Facebook has mobilized young people like never before. 

In some ways, I feel like our generation is taking credit that isn't completely deserved. Everyone keeps talking about how amazing it is that all these young people are so passionate about politics, but really, is the amazing part that these young people have decided to get involved, or is it actually that the internet has made it so damn easy you can't help but youtube that video and join that facebook group.

I mean let's face it being political is the fade right now. It's like my sister said, "I have no idea what Obama's policies are, but hey everyone's got their politician on Facebook so i should too, right?" 


(this post is has been mildly prompted by the fact that I was a bit shocked by the outcome of the PA primary and therefore can't get it off my mind.) 

Anne Dalke's picture


Don't miss Laura's report on our conversation in class yesterday (and her gratitude for it, and her further thoughts) @ Meta-blogging about talking about blogging.