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The Politics of Blogging
My parents left this evening. They had a really mellow day at home, while Kim worked and Skylar was at pre-school. I periodically stopped in to see what they were watching on television -- notably Judging Amy on TNT and All My Children, where Erika Kane still rules the roost -- and talked with them when they were in the kitchen, in between doing loads of laundry, attending to other household chores, and doing work for school.

I think it may have been their best visit, from my perspective, because I was here for more of it than usual and there was little of the family stress than surfaced in previous visits. My mother seems back to her normal self after abandoning her hormone replacement therapy, which seemed to have made her much more spacy and forgetful than usual, to the point where my sister and, partially through her influence, my father were worried. You never know precisely about these things, but it felt right this time.

Of course, the visit was more laid-back this time because both she and my father had more rest, so that could also have been a factor in her spaciness last time.

As I write this entry, I'm in a different sort of self-reflexive space than usual, because I'm anticipating that Bad Subjects will "go live" with links to my blog, Kim's, and Steven's in a few days, perhaps with two other Production Team members joining the fray as well.

I'm perfectly comfortable operating in the confessional mode in a public setting -- I do it in my teaching on a regular basis -- but still feel the imminent pressure to justify the personal dimension to my blog in political terms.

What political good could derive from reading about my parents' recent visit, or seeing pictures of my daughter?

What political good could come from my painful efforts to use theory to resolve a pattern of conflict with my partner?

What political good could emerge if I started writing openly about sex?

The answer, obviously, depends on how broadly the word "political" is defined.

In my scholarly writing, I've devoted considerable time recently to the problem of terminological diffusion. If everything might be construed as "political," does the word still have any utility?

Am I backing myself into a rhetorical corner?

I suppose the only way that I can effectively make a case for reading personal blogs like mine would be to start articulating the benefit I derive from reading the personal blogs of other people.

And that making-of-a-case would link up in productive ways with the case someone might make for reality television, even though I've watched a grand total of one hour of reality television in my life -- unless you count cooking or home improvement shows or, I suppose, Cribs -- and have no intention of remedying my neglect in the future.

One thing I need to account for, certainly, is the narcissistic dimension to blogging. Most people read blogs because they write blogs and intuit that reciprocity is a requirement for winning an audience. It really struck me that when Laura stopped blogging, she also seemed to stop reading our blogs, even though she had been doing so very actively for months. I had the feeling that I had exited her universe and that she had exited mine.

Could the redemptive aspect of blogging inhere in the pressure to maintain a community of fellow bloggers?

I'm drifting back in the direction of my idea for a piece called "The Resistance to Blogging."

Why does it bother me so much that I have readers who disapprove of what I do here, yet continue reading? Why does it bother me every bit as much to have had a reader who seemed to approve of what I do here, but stopped reading the minute that she no longer had the means to reply?

Narcissism is surely part of it. But my narcissism is imbricated with a desire for a community in which the distinction between reader and writer dissolves into a circuit of exchange in which power and authority are fluid and ever shifting.

I want approval, surely, but I want everyone else in my circuits of exchange to have it too.

I'd better revisit the Charles Taylor essay on the politics of recognition soon.

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elizabeg From: elizabeg Date: February 25th, 2004 05:07 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)


Lots of my friends "approve" of and enjoy my blogging, read quite ritually, but only a very few write back and fewer regularly. Not that I have a huge readership by any means, but conversation tells me it's becoming quite the thing among the first years and beyond to read me in my reading rather frequently.

I've told them they can reply annonymously or sign up without keeping an account, but some are just uncomfortable with the thought of posting at all. Some post annonymously and I can tell who they are, and some post and I can't--I try to play as if this doesn't bother me, reply as if I don't know and importantly don't care that I don't know. I do in fact care that I don't know. At present I'm trying to remind myself it's a good thing that this disrupts my comfort in the blogging space.

In part I'm telling myself a story in which I believe that's true but in part I actually believe it. I am, after all, trying to be more open even when I'm being cagey, smashing syntax to hell and all. I'm trying to remember I'm implicated in the way I read, the way I write my readings. And the friends who read me are friends in part because they're good readers in their own rights--meaning they can read me from my blog in ways beyond what I might give them credit for. And suddenly (or not so suddenly) I find myself exposed.

But I get more blog time than he does, he says, and we partly laugh this off--and yet this signifies.
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