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Grobstein's blogs

Molly's picture

"When I was in high school, I edited the school newspaper and wrote a biweekly column for it. In the inaugural column, I said something like I can't guarantee anyone that what I write will be interesting or useful to any particular reader. What I can and will guarantee is that I will write only about things that have proven interesting to me and that I think might prove interesting to others, and be as clear as I can about both why they are interesting to me and might be to others. That's the spirit intended here, with the addition of active exchange. Its not just what I think at any given time, but what I think reflected on to the point where I become convinced it is worth sharing, and so am interested in what others think in relation to it.  Maybe its a blog, maybe its an invitation to exchange .... maybe its something else? Whichever, it is what Serendip has meant to me from its inception, long before "blogging" came into existence."

This was the passage from Grobstein's blogs that struck me most.  All in all, I thought that Grobstein provided a balanced view of blogging in each of his blogs, and this passage exemplifies that balanced view very well.  Grobstein, it seems, self-edits wisely-not to the point where his self-editing is done to a fault, but also not so little that he says whatever comes into his mind and may regret what he says in the future.  Grobstein's observations on blogging (and writing in general, which he discusses in the above passage) are very astute and worth reading, and I think they're important.


Ann Dixon's picture

Is this the way Serendip should be?

Hi there, I'm Serendip's *other* co-founder, Bryn Mawr alum (English major!) and webmaster. Just had to throw my $.02 into the discussion here, since Serendip is many things and many styles. To cite two examples, the most popular webpapers on Serendip are HOW DOES MARIJUANA AFFECT THE BRAIN? (1000+ comments) and Sleep Paralysis (900 comments). While the papers (blogs?) address academic topics, they are written in the styles of the author-students (now alums) which are significantly different from Paul Grobstein's "voice." The readership of these papers clearly incorporates a wide spectrum of educational backgrounds as well as all of the identity categories we could name. If you take a closer look, you'll see that some of our readership is middle school aged.

Serendip was founded in 1994 before blogs existed, and we made early attempts to incorporate reader comments to the area below the webpapers on the page. We switched over to a content managed system several years ago, and now can realize some of the interactive potential that blogs promise. If you're intrigued by what makes a posting appeal to the general population (or a segment of the population), you can take a look at Serendip Readers Write Back, where the comprehensive listing of webpapers includes the number of comments on each. You can enter a number (eg 100) in the box to filter the papers to the most popular ones.

Thanks for *your* contribution to this big experiment. We welcome about 4 million visitors per year, and serve 30,000 pages of unique content.

Shayna S's picture

Writing to a small audience

 I agree with you that his writing is wonderful and is a good example of what I think an academic blog might resemble, but I can't help thinking about what Anne said a former student of hers said to the cooking blog. The blog was preserving the academic elite in the way it was written and presented. It did not attempt to appeal to the general audience. The style that Paul Grobstein writes in is fine for an academic setting, but it seems to be off-putting when taken in any other setting. His subjects and style appeal solely to an academic crowd. This, of course, is probably why he inserted that passage that you quoted above. It is the typical plea of "if you don't like it, I'm not responsible. I am not my readers' keeper." Is this the way Serendip should be? In a style that appeals only to the educated elite? As much as I liked his blog, I will not be using Paul Grobstein's format as a model for my paper. 

Paul Grobstein's picture

chatter: multiple voices, multiple styles

"I will not be using ..."

Glad to hear it.  As per Ann above, Serendip's strength is the availability of many voices, many styles.  It exists as a platform for chatter, with no presumption that there is an optimal "style."  Indeed, the presumption is that the process of constructing both individual and group stories requires an openness to different styles, that "style" is as meaningful a difference between people as is "content" and so differences in style are no less important a contribution to chatter than differences in content.  Is there a consensus "common language" that we should all aspire to?  My guess is no such thing can exist, that all "styles" will be "off-putting" to some people some of the time.  More importantly, the perspective of chatter as construction suggests we shouldn't in fact be looking for a style that appeals to all the people all the time. 

That said, its also worth noting that the same person may use different styles at different times and for different purposes.  Cf Not just my problem, friend.  We can appreciate, make use of different voices not only of different people but within ourselves as well.


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