Why I Blog
April 1, 2005

Two days ago, I read an article by Newsweek Senior Editor Steven Levy calling attention to a supposed lack of "diversity" in the world of web logs. (See yesterday's N+1 entry for links and a few comments.) In general, it followed what we might call The Diversity Formula that is such an annoyingly persistent part of the thinking of a large segment of our current verbal elite: Oh, gosh, look -- the participants in some fun, desirable, admired, popular or remunerative activity do not display the racial or gender proportions that we find in the population at large! Oh, the injustice! Oh, the discrimination! We must dedicate our lives to the remedying of this horrid blot on our national soul!

Actually, they want to dedicate our lives to their great cause by screwing us out of jobs, promotions, nice neighborhoods, college admissions, dating opportunities and even the respect we should receive for being productive, decent citizens, but that is, I guess, another essay for another day. It is not the tiresome political correctness of Levy's article that makes it worth commenting on. It is his complete misunderstanding of blogging and how it relates to the evolution of human intelligence.

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I've participated in computer mediated discussions on and off since 1978. I began writing essays and posting them on the Internet in 2000. Last August I started a web log and I kept at it until November, when I began working on A White College Student's Guide to Political Activism and a few other projects.

For me, essay writing is an effort (which often fails!) to start with various scattered thoughts, observations and hunches and develop some kind of coherent statement that I can look at and say, "Yes, that's it, that's what I was trying to get to. I will now present it to the world." I spent about three months in the summer of 2000 writing Manifesto for the Peoples of the Third Millennium. It was hard work, but I was generally happy with the fruits of my efforts. Unfortunately, I also ended up with a huge pile of half developed junk I haven't been able to do anything with.

In January of 2004, while I was writing Virtual Racism at the University of Michigan in the Winter of 1987, I was also following and occasionally posting on a computer mailing list sponsored by the Michigan Association of Scholars. It was nice of them to let me post there, because I am not a scholar. On the other hand, I would often spend all morning writing up some kind of post, so it slowed my progress on vr87. Plus, the list didn't exactly have a huge audience, and I was not getting any "reward" of increased traffic to my web site.

Just about any forum, regardless of the mechanisms by which it is conducted, will have the same problem. You give an issue some serious thought, but your post, sometimes lost in a sea of other posts, will be seen by a limited number of people for a limited time. This is a personality thing with me. Even if I'm not on a forum, I'll read things and try to figure out why I disagree or agree and want to write up my ideas, but without setting off on a month-long essay writing project. Finally, last summer, I understood: that's what blogs are for! Well, people have all kinds of reasons for logging stuff on the web, but that's my reason. Short responses to things I encounter, especially when they tie into and might possibly develop issues I'm already concerned with. A log of "thoughts in progress."

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I have a rule: If I start something bloggish in the morning, I must finish it and post it before the end of the day. This puts me in an "on deadline" frame of mind. It keeps me focused. It saves time. It is similar to the "write every day" rule that many writers follow.

A blog can be a medium halfway between private textual exercises in free association and work on a formal composition. I don't necessarily mean these posts to be widely read. They are (often) more like notes I share with people who are also seriously interested in some of my favorite topics.

Anyway, it's almost noon, so . . . enough for today!

 
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