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More on Practice

Collin took the notion of “practice” that I raised on Sunday and ran with it, thinking both about the ways that academics are “disciplined” as binge writers and the ways that blogs, contrary to any Tribble-esque anxieties about their marginal utility and maximal dangers, might help scholars develop a new kind of writing practice.

More below the fold.

This notion of the utility of the blog for scholars has also been explored, from a more structural standpoint, by Matt and his many commenters. I want to suggest, if for the moment only briefly, that blogs might not only support developing scholars in making connections with others working in the field, and in exploring new ideas within a community of thinkers, and in developing an active, engaged writing practice, but beyond this, that blogs in fact be a new kind of writing practice, one that has the potential to transform writing at its root.

This is not to argue that all blogs ought to be included on their authors’ vitae, or that they be granted the status of peer-reviewed publications by our peers. (Though there are arguments to be made along those lines, at least for certain blogs, and certain scholars, in certain fields.) What I’ve been pondering of late is the literary potential of blogs, the ways that blogs themselves become a diachronic, database-driven, distributed form of narrative.

These thoughts come about two years too late to be anything like “revolutionary,” and there are more substantive articles exploring the literary potential of the blog to be found. And weez was some time back pondering the implications of the blog as a first-person narrative unfolding in real time.

But here’s where it seems to me that blogs remain an untapped literary resource: we could look at blogs as literature, but we too often don’t. That the Tribbles of the world are now concerned about the deleterious effects of blogs on scholars (even where only trying to protect them from the dangers of the job market) suggests the degree to which an awareness of blogs has entered the mainstream, both within and outside the academy. And yet, when we hear about blogs from non-blogging folks, by and large what we hear about are (a) political blogs, which are good or bad, depending on the evaluator’s own political position and understanding of the public sphere, and (b) personal blogs, which are written by fourteen year old girls and other hysterics, and are one long exercise in oversharing. That we are never presented with the opportunity to consider blogs for their narrative qualities — for the ways that someone like dooce or mimi smartypants doesn’t simply rant about the embarrassing or mundane details of her life, but instead draws the reader into the creation of a character, and of an ongoing story, from the bits and pieces of archived self contained within the blog — is a tremendous loss, both for the depth of our readings and for the ways in which we write.

So how can the blog as an archive of the developing scholarly self have not just utility, as a mode of interconnection, or as a sort of rehearsal space, but beyond this, archival, and narrative, value? How would such an understanding of the blog transform our writing practices in these networked spaces?


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