Blogs and blogging: a meditation

It’s a funny thing, blogging, and something I’ve just learned to appreciate only recently. What’s the point, I used to think, of having what’s effectively a diary up on the world wide web where anyone can read it? Diaries used to come complete with locks, for heaven’s sake. A blog, I thought, is just another symptom of a tell-all society where discretion is the better part of obsolescence.

And then came the tsunami, and I started reading blogs. Not long after, under various names, I started writing them. By the middle of this year I was checking some blogs regularly, using feeds. I’ve even learned to appreciate the idea of podcasts.

This is the first one, though, that can pass as a bloggy blog. The others are explicitly linked to other activities that I was doing long before, and while this one is also linked to an activity — PFFA — it’s different from the others because it’s less structured, more like a diary. Its focus is literature, poetry specifically, and Poetry Free-for-All poetry in particular, but I’m placing fewer restraints on myself in writing it.

When I taught writing to college students, especially to those just out of high school, it was important to get them to understand that the primary purpose of language is to communicate. Of course they knew that if they thought about it, but language is so much a part of our lives that no one really thinks about it. We’d talk about writer and reader, and talk about distance. (This is something I derived from Edmund Leach, by the way, whose concept of concentric circles of categorization helps to explain why and how humans determine which animals to eat, which people to sleep with and marry, and which words become swear words.) Writing is meant to communicate, but different audiences produce different kinds of work. Journals are private, meant to be read by the writer only, and so can be as cryptic and as obtruse as they like; but writing designed to be shared with strangers — the public at large — has to conform to certain accepted conventions so as to communicate. In between the private and the public are various degrees of nearness and distance, and at each step is a form kind of communication.

The blog is a new idea — a journal designed for public consumption. What kind of language obtains there?

edit: David posted this link in his comment, but as it wasn’t live, I’ve posted it here. It’s an interesting addendum.

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