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Legos, Rocks and Boulders

skindeep's picture


LEGOS, ROCKS and BOULDERS << listen to this while reading the paper.


(taken from



Walls = Boundaries = Comfort = Safety.

People like to build walls, they like to categorize things they see, people they meet, experiences they have. It’s human. It’s expected. It’s natural.

Or so we like to believe.

Yes people like to categorize and it is true that they draw boundary lines around themselves all the time, but people also need a release. Be it in the form of a diary, a sport or an art, people all through history have searched for an outlet to express themselves, to find a manner in which to vent.

And so, when blogging came along, people got excited. Finally, a release that was both safe and very helpful. Now people all around the world could talk to each other about how they felt, it could be anonymous or not, people could exchange ideas, share political views, talk about the economy, or even just about their daily lives. Here was an outlet that could potentially revolutionize the world, build a world-wide democracy.

Or so they thought.

Listening to everything we’ve been discussing in class, and looking back at all the blogs I’ve read, I can’t help but notice that the idea we had of what blogs could be doesn’t match what blogs really are or have become.

We like to believe that we are ‘hard wired’ into behaving in a certain manner, into thinking and feeling a certain way, but are we? Or is it just that the knowledge of us being hard wired is enough to further embed concepts and stereotypes into us. Have we become so accustomed to doing things ‘because that’s the way it’s always been’ that we’ve lost track and sight of the possibilities that lay ahead of us?

I think we have.

And that’s what makes it so hard to make blogs what they ideally were supposed to be. For the most part, we don’t seem to be using blogs as a place to talk freely, a place to exchange ideas and a place for growth. Instead, blogs seem to be used as a place for people to further re-instate their point of view. Blogs seem to be more of a monologue, a place for people to talk about their point of view and state it with affirmation. But in doing so, they leave no room for other people to give them input, to build a conversation.

And without conversation, there seems to be little possibility of any growth.

To further illustrate my argument, I’ve taken a small excerpt from Tim Burke’s blog – Easily Distracted and compared it to a blog post by Flying to Fall (a blogger on )



Taking a look at both, Burke’s blog and Flying-to-Fall’s blog, one thing clearly stands out. The lack of conversation. Both the artists/writers are very contrasting in their approach to blogging – Burke’s blog is long and plain, it’s a monologue, paragraphs following paragraphs of what he thinks and what interests him. Flying-to-Fall’s blog on the other hand, is full of art, of ideas, of things she has created. She has a page of her art work, one of her journal entries and a page on which peoples comments show.

But none of the blogs seem to attract comments, none of them involves the creation of ideas. Both blogs, individually draw similar minded people to them, but despite this, none of the people find the need to contribute to what it is that is going on, and even if they do, the writer responds in a manner so as to suppress conversation rather than further fuel it.

All this while, we’ve been talking about building our blogs in a manner such that it would be approachable, comfortable and invite discussion. But maybe it’s not the blogs we need to build but ourselves. If we are so head bent on sticking to our ‘hard wiring’, if we insist on remaining within our comfort zones, we allow no free space for new things to be born. And without that, there cannot be ant growth, there cannot be a world-wide democracy.

So maybe this isn’t a question of self editing, but a question of layers and layers of walls and boundaries. Of lines we’ve unconsciously drawn for ourselves. Of lines we live and think and feel within.

So is there any way to explore yourself when you know other people will have access to that journey of yours? Or will we forever live within our self constructed boundaries?

Or more importantly, looking at the blogging world as it stands today, are we building our blogs (and as a result ourselves) or are our blogs (are ideas, concepts, stereotypes) building us?





Anne Dalke's picture

Broken walls? Re-wiring the brain?

I've been praising all your classmates for their inventive use of the resources of the internet--active links, images--but yours is the only paper to include a sound track. Very effective for "getting me in the mood." It's such a moody, emotional piece, that listening to it, even before I began to read, I found myself expecting an essay filled w/ dour predictions. I would be interested to hear if other reader-hearers had similar experiences?--and also to know what your thinking was in selecting this music.

You highlight here my sense, after Tim Burke visited our class, of the great gap between the dream we had, not so long ago, of what the blogosphere might be, and what it has actually become: not merely lots of self-edits, as you say, but "layers and layers of walls and boundaries. Of lines we’ve unconsciously drawn for ourselves. Of lines we live and think and feel within."

What is most striking about your paper, aside from its tone and pacing--those interspersed phrases:

Or so we like to believe.

Or so they thought.

I think we have.

--is its punch line: that "maybe it’s not the blogs we need to build but ourselves." I actually hear you suggesting here something along the line of what Paul Grobstein was advocating when he visited our class last week: the need for us to focus less on the technologies (and the opportunities and obstacles they create) than on ourselves; asking (for instance) what
    *  new ideas result from "chatting" rather than necessarily being born as isolated insights of particular brains
    * what happens to ways of seeing the world that are kept within one brain rather than being shared.

Perhaps you should think about taking the Neurobiology and Behavior course, which (among other things) brings into question the whole notion of what is commonly called "hard-wiring," attending instead to the plasticity and revisability of the human brain.

I'm also wondering if the material we've read since you wrote this piece--in particular The Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0 and the other work Jen highlighted for us, such as Stanford Humanities Laboratory's CROWDS--gives you more hope for the breaking down of walls....?