Saturday, October 17, 2009

On this blog

I don't consider this to be a great blog, qua blog. If you want a great blog, look at Bldgblog. This skillfully utilizes certain aspects of the blog format to present its content. There are other blogs, of course, that rebel against this format--like typewriter blogs, where people type on paper, scan in the entry, and then put the image where the normal post would be--but I think we can say that these utilize the format equally well (as something to work against or parody). I don't do any of this. For a couple years now, I've just been doing the equivalent of scribbling here--that is, typing out some little notes and, instead of keeping them on a file on my computer, presenting them publicly. So it's all about content. In fact I feel it is a deformation of the blog form than a utilization of it. And I'd even go so far as to say that it's not even all about content--since the content remains mere notes, half-thoughts, rather than developed ones.

The only redeeming quality of this blog has really been the naivete, or the open-mindedness, or the honesty (I'm not sure what to call it), that comes with entries which are basically fresh thoughts put out there to others just in case they might prove handy. But at a certain point this undoes even itself. I've contradicted myself hundreds of times here--something I don't say often enough. And I fear often that what I say ends up being less handy, or even misleading, when it is so fragmentary.

I have always believed that thinking is a very fragmentary and impersonal experience, a matter of putting something in language so that you and others can work off of it. It's the type of thing that happens in the seminar room (or at least the ones I've been lucky enough to sit down in). You say something and try to grind it down or build it up into the right phrase, and slip it in there to push things in a certain direction. Others either take up the bit of language you proffered and use it, or they let you use it on your own. And in a way they only gain value through this social process: the thought isn't really a thought before you make it into this tool, this lever.

So you need others to do this--which is why I call it impersonal (a better word would be "collective"). But a blog ends up, in the end, being authored by one person--however many wonderful (or crazy) comments you may get.

And this is where the form of the blog has to come back in. Only being worried about the general shape of a minor point... that ends up creating a morass of opinion only gaining coherence from the force of the author behind it all--his general tendencies, etc. A blog should be a little more shaped and shapely: posts should be more definite, completed things, users should be able to navigate through it somewhat without trouble. Of course, there are many ways to make a blog work. In fact, one can make a blog into the reflection of the opinions of its author--but by engaging its form more than I have done with this blog here.

In short, I fear the general task of impersonal, fragmentary commentary could turn into a "bad egoism" or personalism here. This might stem from the other goal I had in starting this blog, which was simply to write better. Communicating your thoughts publicly makes you think differently, and I think more clearly in certain respects: you certainly have to finish whatever you're trying to get at, which was always a constant problem for me. And indeed, looking through the blog, you'll probably witness definite improvement on this point. But, you see, this is all at the wrong level. This blog should be about paragraphs, not phrases; posts, not periods.

To that end, you see I've been trying to improve the structure of the blog, organize some of its content, and write more significant entries. But I just would like to stress here that most of the blog is still fragmentary, and that many of the thoughts here are meant to be useful only as tools or levers in the manner I described above. Thus, they might be wholly wrong. I hope they're not. But I hope so in the way that I do during a seminar that we're going in the right direction, and that whatever I say has to contribute to the discussion, or lead it down an illuminating and generally good path, rather than divert it or grind things to a halt. The exceptions, of course, will be papers and generally the longer considerations--they'll stand out. These, of course, will be offered in a different way... a way that I hope to be more like my future posts: a bit more personal, a bit more formed, a bit less faithful in the general provisionality of the space in which these ideas are offered. That merely means that they will be more responsibly formed, more reliant on the space of the blog, qua blog.

I say all this of course with you, the reader, in mind. For offering something in a class is offering it to a present participant. On a blog like this one (and not, of course on all blogs), despite all the directness, you are still there as a reader, and that puts a little more space in between us--space I can't take for granted. I feel the experience of reading this blog, now, must be something like overhearing the discussion rather than actually being addressed. What I'm saying is that I'll be trying to correct this.

But this is not to say the comments on this blog don't exist, or that no one participates in discussions here. I love the comments! They have been helpful in many many ways, and I thank everyone who has written them. And the contacts with people I have made here have been so great. I'm just taking small measures that I hope will make this wonderful state of things even more wonderful.

But in general, keep in mind my warning that things here are more like handy phrases than theses. This isn't to say I don't believe in them or they are false. Just that they're offered and will generally continue to be offered--however much I try to improve things--as (mere) contributions.

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