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.