Why Do I Blog? On (almost) 5 Years
May 29, 2012
I first blogged about five years ago (on August 21, 2007) following the always astute advise of Yvonne Welbon who was, at that time, producing a feature documentary I was making with and about my sister Antonia. Always a student of industry, Yvonne was convinced that producing a vibrant web-presence for myself would also enable grand possibilities for SCALE. In this she proved both dead-on and also off-target. Over three-hundred posts later, and a much more dispersed and vast Internet life than I could have ever imagined in 2007—one that includes this blog and another, three YouTube channels, a born-digital video-book, several websites, a global initiative to teach feminism and technology online, and uncountable web articles, interviews, reviews, guest-posts—I would like to pause and think about what and why I do here; who I am when on this blog; and why none of that mattered much for my documentary but did end up affecting my work and myself in other ways:
I am also speaking (metaphorically) to Geert Lovink, who I have been reading lately (about blogs: see his Networks without a Cause and Zero Comments), and to graduate students and their mentors who just might be reading, some of whom I’ve (literally) been talking with a lot about the role of blogs and other forms of Internet presence within our profession. I think, with all the best intentions, like my producer Yvonne before us, we’re getting some of this quite wrong (that is to say in what ways it actually helps us; and how we might best use it) as well as other parts right. Most specifically, the Internet’s unassailable logic of numbers, popularity, or virality is actually not well-suited to the kind of work that most of us do which is deep, focused and small by design; and the neo-liberal production of glossy or cool, sellable, spreadable things and surfaces (selves, websites, blogs) does not map neatly to careers based first upon content. By looking to mainstream Internet practices (as was true for Hollywood film before us) we fail to understand the norms and needs of marginal, radical, or alternative users or uses of a medium. So:
- I see this blog as a tool and extension of my professional life as media scholar, maker, and activist. I think of it as an “academic blog” or “professional blog” with little in common with blogs that re-post things by other people, mark the mundane and private, or sell things.
- I write quickly (usually in an hour or less) about the work I am currently seeing, making or reading, what I am thinking or teaching about (including other blogs), and cultural concerns that connect to topics of interest to my work and so now also to this blog (AIDS, fake and real documentary, YouTube and Internet culture, queer and feminist art and media).
- I write short because: that is part of the style I have honed for this place (I also try to include at least one video); I imagine that that is what readers expect online; this allows me to write quick, so I can do so often and even when I have other responsibilities.
- I try to write in a voice that is neither overly academic nor excessively personal, even as
- I write in the I voice.
- I am not anonymous even as I rarely discuss my private life.
- When I reveal personal things about my non-professional life this is because theyare part of my professional life, in that my work is most often about the personal and political. Even so, I do so with care (marking and monitoring my own limits for revelation) and because my feminist methods, topics, and politics so demand.
- I write to a small but steady group of readers who rarely comment. I know who a few of you are, I guess about some of the others, and a significant chunk I have no idea about, although I know you wouldn’t read me if you didn’t share some of my professional concerns. I am small and specific enough not to draw haters (although I get a lot of spam).
- I have no interest in growing my readership although I do cross-blog, on occasion, because I think communities outside my niche might be interested.
- I have met people through my blog and have gone on to work on projects with them.
- I have met readers of my blog, and learned that sometimes I speak to them.
- I have used writing from the blog towards other, larger projects. The quick words often become more thoughtful talks, larger articles, or merely the records of thoughts I had that help me to develop new thinking and remember old.
- I do not think about this as a “publication” (for my cv), but I do include it as an entry under the category: “on the Internet.”
- I do not think of this writing as self-branding, although I suppose it could be construed as such. Rather, I imagine myself talking first to myself, and then anyone else who might want to listen because we share interests and might want to learn more from each other.
- I do not think of this writing as self-promotion, although I suppose it could be construed that way. Rather, I imagine it at work within a network of the like-minded who are seeking evidence of, and new insights upon, our shared interests in our rather hostile, inane, or rushed culture.
- I do not think of this writing as a diary: it is neither personal nor hidden.
- I do think of this writing as critical Internet and cultural studies, about and in its vernacular, place, and spirit while also exhibiting and enacting the feminist qualities I wish for this and other places: visibility, context, criticality, safety, community.
- I think of this Internet practice as Internet theory.
- I write first to craft and share this Internet self to myself, then to place my marginal cultural interests and insights into the record, and finally, to anyone else who will have me.