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Case In Point - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
Case In Point
Alright, here's my first "reject" metaphor, doubly problematic because it's probably coming several years too late.

The discourse of "open source" technology, strenuously promoted by my friend Annalee Newitz among others, served as the foundation for what I regard as a key metaphor in Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Multitude, when they briefly consider the possibility of an "open source society." I wrote about this passage in my review of the book for Tikkun.

Anyway, I've been thinking, distractedly, about the way in which this concept of an "open source society" might provide a new angle on the phenomenon of personal blogging. Could it be that some of the discomfort people I respect have expressed with regard to weblogs like this one or kdotdammit's or siyeh's or songsiheard's derives from their sense that personal blogs make too much of the "code" that makes us function public? That is, do they worry that the transparency that personal blogs seem to promote constitutes a "security risk" because it makes it too easy for hostile parties to attack us?

Leaving aside the question of whether the confessional mode of the personal blog actually results in more revealing revelations than more superficially guarded forms of communication -- many critics of personal blogging overlook its performance aspects -- I think it might be a usefully "stupid" thought experiment to play with the idea that it represents an "open source" approach to personal identity.

For one thing, pursuing this metaphor would give us a way to think about the peculiar form of "gift-giving" that predominates in many personal blogs, including this one. Maybe the impulse to make our private thoughts public arises derives from a desire to be "hacked." Maybe we confess because we want someone to work on our "code" for us. Maybe we're trying to force our associates to collaborate knowingly in the formation of our own individual identities. It would certainly explain why personal blogging fits the definition of "passive aggressive" communication so perfectly.

Mode: flagrant
Muse: Box Full of Letters - Wilco - B Sides & Rare Collections

6 comments or Leave a comment
siyeh From: siyeh Date: May 19th, 2005 10:15 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
While I've never heard anyone express discomfort at my blog, I wouldn't be surprised if it were true. I have, recently, had someone attack me when he misread my blog. He later apologized, but it was odd. I think it's the same reason people might be uncomfortable with me in person. And I'd really hate to give that up....
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 19th, 2005 01:53 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
First, I was thinking abstractly about personal blogs in general and yours seemed to fit the description I had in mind. I didn't mean bad discomfort so much as the "I worry that too much is being made public" discomfort that a friend might express. And that second, friendly sort of discomfort seems to be motivated by worries that misreading might lead to an attack. That's what I was getting at.
siyeh From: siyeh Date: May 19th, 2005 05:30 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
It's funny, because my mom knows I write in a blog, and I know that she is really bothered by it. She keeps asking me why I would want to do it, and at first, she thought it was downright awful. THere are certainly things I keep private, but the things I don't are shared for a reason. But sometimes when I post things a little more private, or creative and less ironic and sarcastic, I wonder a little bit about if I "should," or what people will think, I guess.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 19th, 2005 06:15 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I suppose that's what I was trying, clumsily, to get at in that last paragraph about "gift-giving." We make a gift of a portion of our privacy, but it's the sort of gift that is integrated in an implicit -- and that's part of the problem, that it's implicit and not explicit -- system of "potlatch" in which the recipients of the gift feel the pull of an obligation that either leads them to oblige or leads them to act out their resentment at feeling that obligation.
kdotdammit From: kdotdammit Date: May 19th, 2005 01:24 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
This is a very cool concept and my brain is all over it. It would be worth developing into something longer. I was just going to write something about the compartmentalization of My Selves. Somehow that seems to fit into this idea too. The different codes and stuff. Very cool.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 19th, 2005 01:51 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Thanks! It's nice to have a super-smart reader who reads so early in the morning.
6 comments or Leave a comment