Thursday, February 03, 2005

Blogagogy and the troubling of the spheres

The whole issue of public/private writing that blogs seem to trouble in interesting ways has been on my mind ever since Marcia quietly pointed out to me (over email) that I seemed to be saying something I didn't mean in my 8010 syllabus:

"The individual weblog is mainly a space for you to talk to yourself: to think through ideas, puzzle over ideas, etc."

But how mainly a space to talk to self if self is talking in a public space? Indeed. I do think there's a distinction to be made between a collective blog and an individual blog (which is the distinction I was groping toward), but the distinction can't really be a traditional expressive/transactional distinction. Surely collective blogs also allow for what's been called "expressive" discourse--language for working out ideas rather than for getting things done. But expressive discourse also always gets something done; it's just that if we don't show it to anyone, it's not doing much for another one.

What's lost, though, by making the analogy between a paper diary or journal and an individual blog is the sense of interaction that Marcia and some of the folks over in Collin's class are talking about. (I know I should ping but don't know that I've quite figured that one out yet.) The idea of "getting out of the way" is a sort of bizarre belief that writing is, despite the collective work we do in a class, really a matter of the individual genius doing work. Wouldn't want to mess with that.

So now I regret telling the folks in my 8010 class that I wouldn't comment on their individual blogs unless they asked me to. I've also apparently established myself as being outside of the collective blog, too, though I think I could probably join in without too much of a big deal. I like what Derek says about "writing alongside students, engaging in dialogue with their writing, and offering links to other conversations that might do any number of things to shape, guide and coach." This makes much more sense than the idea of "writing without teachers" or "the withering away of the teacher," concepts I've critiqued in my writing but seem to nonetheless continue to try to practice. The teacher can't wither away, anyway, and by being this silent lurker on student blogs really comes to seem more like a Big Brother (or Sister, I guess), keeping an eye out to make sure the work is being done (hello Foucault!). And, lest we forget, Freire never told us to wither away. He said to dialogue. And the teacher isn't exactly dialoguing if the teacher is only reading, never writing back. In fact, the lack of writing back only reinforces the difference of the teacher.

What do I do???

See, Marcia--you're absolutely right. This is why instructors should do a modicum of research before jumping on the blog wagon.

(But, hey--does that third ping work? Maybe I do know how to ping.)
Answer: No, it doesn't. No, you don't. Have to work on that another day.


Marcia said...

One of the things I said here, is that "In a sense, I think I am moving more towards what I say [on my personal blog] as preparation for what I'll say over there [on the group blog]. It's like [my personal blog] is my space to work things out (or with others if they come comment), but I think I'm feeling more desire to post something more original over on the group blog."

But, I still don't think this captures it. It's not as if I don't want to engage in dialogue on the group site, because I really do. However, I noticed that on other group blogs such as that posts to group blogs usually have one topic. It's harder posting to group blogs in a classroom setting when we're all reading the same thing. If one doesn't get a quick jump on others, then it's harder to write something original and worthwhile.

Although, bottom-line, I believe I can blog wherever I am so moved. So can you. In fact, I thought you were probably just letting us get used to bloging before you added your voice. Go for it. You could also model for us how an instructor shifts gears when she wants to approach something a little differently and encourage her students to do the same.

Collin said...

If it's any comfort, Donna, I have some of the same issues you do, and I've been doing this for a while.

It's helped me not to think so much in terms of private/public, though. The individual blogs are where I hope my students will get into the habit/practice of blogging, and that for some of them, their usefulness will extend beyond the class. I comment on them occasionally, but not frequently, and usually, it's by way of reinforcing, agreeing, or asking a question.

The class blog I think of as a specific space to channel the portion of their energy, thought, and time that's devoted to my class. My hope is that it's a place where they can gather their thoughts on the stuff we read, a place of opportunity rather than pressure or surveillance. Don't know if it works that way, but...