It’s the end of 2012, and I’m returning to active blogging.
Yes, I’ve been blogging here and there of late. There’s my digital storytelling book blog, which was active earlier this year. The very brilliant (and NITLE colleague) Sean Andrews has been co-blogging with me over here. I’ve added a few posts to the NITLE blog. My wife and I share our homesteading progress here. Infocult remains an active, dark project. The Draculablog ran once more, thanks to Andrew Connell’s sterling aid. I’m active on MetaFilter, firing off some front page posts. And I’ve quietly added a few posts in this very spot over the past few weeks, muttering about movies and one nifty digital storytelling project.
So why ramp up the blogging, and in this place?
For one, I want to outflank my current social media practice. I’m pretty active in a variety of short-form writing spaces: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn discussion groups. I’m starting to add short reviews to my ruthless book reading on Goodreads. I post frequently in these places, and follow people’s work there avidly. These are very satisfying venues for me. I enjoy the challenge of compressed writing, learn a great deal, feel good about contributing to various networks. I appreciate the personal connections these enable, many of which probably would not have occurred through the blogosphere alone. At a meta-level it’s good, even essential, to practice what I research: social media curation, learning through networks. Additionally, I can play with these when I’m not at a connected laptop, now that I have a decent phone.
And yet. I miss the long form of blogging. I love the space of multiple paragraphs, where I can stretch out thoughts and arguments. I like the practice of integrating other media into my texts. There is nothing like that personal unfolding as an idea emerges, step by silent step, from sustained writing. The sense of starting to write without being sure of where it will end up. The delight and dismay of returning to a draft in progress.
It’s all too easy to fall away from this practice with the presence of short-form tools. I can form a tweet or status update in my head while I drive or stack wood, then quickly fire it off when I get back online. I travel a great deal, which means plenty of time where there’s no access to internet-connected laptop, but a phone sometimes works. My schedule, too, has driven me into the short-form world. I’ve been massively overscheduled this year, between plenty of work, homesteading duties, and family, not to mention health problems and going cold turkey on blessed, blessed caffeine… all of which makes a quick tweet or G+ update very attractive. Too attractive.
I’m also worried about what’s lost when we migrate from the blogosphere to these other microcontent venues. The very fine practice of commenting on someone else’s blog posts seems to be declining, as we slink off to merely Like or +1 it. The grand, subversive art of linking fades in Facebook, or is downplayed in the mobile world. It’s easy to relax into a prepared, professional-looking, and cushioned embrace, where our links (and other needs) are already taken care of.
This is a political problem, that of housing writing in someone else’s manse. As others have said well (most recently), we’re risking a lot by giving up ownership of our own domains (cf Mary Washington’s heroic project). We’re at the mercy of architectural changes, terms of service alterations (cough Instagram cough), partial or entire deletions of content.
Our self-presentation is mediated through a new layer, by a new player, one we don’t know and cannot effectively address.
But this isn’t a manifesto or analysis of the state of the web as 2013 draws nigh. This post is about why I’m returning to blogging, here.
I imagine counterarguments, reasons not to open the post box on this site. Actually, I don’t have to imagine them all that much. My daughter has expressed her opinions with customary ferocity. I’ve enjoyed conversations about this with friend and blogging hero Alan Levine.
Why not Tumblr instead of bryanalexander.org? I’ve experimented with it a little, using a site to house a joint reading project with a friend. I like the ease of use, and the vibrant community. I admire the creator’s independence of thought and practice. But I want to focus on writing at length, and Tumblr doesn’t feel suited to that for me, nor yet. It feels like a home best suited to images and short-form writing. (Although I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise)
Why not G+? This has emerged as a robust blogging platform, given the lack of character limitations on status updates. I have been using it, and admire the people I connect with there (so much for the ghost town theory). G+ is also very friendly to hyperlinking. But I want to get away from the Google palace now, and focus on a space more clearly my own.
Why not keep on blogging across those various sites mentioned earlier? Because they are far too segmented. I’m splattered all over the Web, now. There’s no center to my work, no overall shape. I need to integrate, reflect generally, focus. And this is my site, the one with my name on it. It would be disingenuous, even a little dishonest not to blog here, not to practice what I preach.
PS: about audience and topics. I’m assuming a general audience here, and want to avoid professional jargon. Topics will be based on my work, which concerns the transformation of higher education under the impact of digital technology, plus other fields of interest: media, politics.
Let me know what you think.