new media: January 2006 Archives

danah boyd posted a short reflection on what she's calling "sloppy speech acts," where she thinks about the various effects that IMing has had on her speech:

And then i started thinking about how sloppy my speech has been lately. I speak like i IM on my Sidekick - short, curt, coded... My speech has gotten super sloppy in recent years and i use my hands even more when i'm talking. I use whatever word comes to mind even if it doesn't fit well and i speak through impressions rather than using sound bites. I realize that my writing has gotten sloppier too and i find it far far far more painful to write now than before. I'm not particularly proud of either of these manifestations.

I'm not a big IMer--even though I have Sidekick envy, I lack the desire to overcome the massive inertia keeping me from joining the mobile (r)evolution. But I have noticed the shift, and even talked about it a time or two, in my own writing habits over the past couple of years of active blogging.

If there is a conventional wisdom about the relationship between blogging and writing, my sense is that it runs something like this: it's hard to get students to write, students don't improve their writing unless they write, and so anything that gets them writing earlier is bound to get them writing better. There's more to it than that, of course, but for me, that's the basic syllogism behind a great deal of technology and writing scholarship. For myself, I'd add that blogging can/should/may have the effect of getting students to think differently about writing, and in all sorts of ways that I find to be improvements over the default positions of most of us.

If there is a weakness in this line of reasoning for me, it's the baseline assumption that we all share the same threshold for putting pen to paper or finger to key. We have a tendency to assume that the world hates to write with roughly the same intensity, and it's that aversion that we must overcome as writing instructors. Fair enough, and perhaps even true most of the time. Certainly I don't walk into a classroom expecting to find a roomful of graphophiles. Heck, most of us could probably say the same about walking into department meetings. And even in the odd case that we could, it would be silly to imagine that everyone loves to write in the same way.

One of the differences that I've been thinking about with respect to danah's entry is this question of threshold, because I think that there are two specific features of it that vary widely from person to person: I think that each of us has hir own threshold for writing in general, and each of us juggles various thresholds from medium to medium and/or audience to audience. There are people whom I'd call on the phone and talk to for an hour before I'd return an email that asked for a one-line answer. There are people who only receive emails from me. And so on.

Lately, I've been having some trouble picking up my academic writing again, trouble that I haven't really experienced here. One answer to this concern is to say that blogging is interfering with my more strictly academic work, but that's not quite right. Closer to the truth is that, for a long time, my writing practice was pretty much monovocal (or maybe bivocal). I wrote emails to friends and colleagues (which I didn't think of as writing per se) and I wrote articles, presentations, etc., to a fairly general audience of my academic peers. Now, I like writing, and I like it enough such that my threshold for doing that work was never especially high. As a blogger, though, my threshold for writing has dropped even further--I never would have dreamed that I could write on a daily basis (or semi-daily, at least) for as long as I've maintained this space.

The trouble I've run into is that the thresholds for these two practices are themselves different. It's easier for me to throw up a post (obviously) than it is to work on an article, and once I cross the blog threshold and write, typically I do something else when I'm done. So blogging does in some ways "interfere," but really only in the sense that I feel like "I've written" when I'm done, and enough so that I end up starting over again to work up to the threshold for academic prose.

Well, that, and also that I find myself wanting to end articles simply by saying "That is all."

No grand conclusions here. I'm just thinking through some of these things myself, but I wonder if we spend too much of our attention on the notion that blogs will help us overcome resistance to writing and not enough on how it changes the practices of those (of us) whose resistance isn't as acute.

That is all.



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This page is a archive of entries in the new media category from January 2006.

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