participant observation in blog-space
It's okay to be trendy sometimes, as long as the mood is right and the infrastructure remains visible. The earliest bloggers no doubt didn't worry about trends or scenes or fads but just went about their incipient blogging with, maybe, some sense of the impending digital unseen, seen again in slightly different form. Why blog=Why website=Why email?
Fear of a 'blog scene' is probably unnecessary if maybe because 'blog+scene' is what the literary-minded might call an oxymoron. Scenes are identifiable. Manageable. Blogs are not, so there's no need to worry. Or, if manageable, they don't congeal, don't meet on Tuesday nights, don't regenerate each other's tried and tired poetics, don't institutionalize trends, don't inhabit single cities, and probably don't find their ways into history books.
Or do they?
Blogs, like all trends, invite the perpetuation and routinization of conventions, and at all levels of production--from "template" to "safe mode" to "publish." And of course these conventions reach into the writing itself. Seeing what I see, those who might dismiss the web as a world-wide self-publishing mechanism would point readily to current blog practice as (yet another) case in point. Such an argument would miss the point that self-publishing is, indeed, the point, but to a different degree and perhaps toward a different kind. Publishing on the web (as blog as website as email, whatever) takes a concept like 'self-publishing' and blows it irrecoverably into a swampy wetland of recursive, unmanageable, ephemeral, and ultimately unreadable (entirely) self/other-webishy-writing that can only survive because the so-called publishing cannot, even if it wanted to, stop with the so-called self but must venture out into larger contexts and bigger problems.
So, a more disordered exchange of signs indeed. And, within that growing exchange, the question is not one of scenes but of social worlds.
I think there's something to the idea that writing here is like writing in two spaces at once. Or at least, for one who is new to it (as I am), there's a sense of not just preparing a writing--as one might for posting to a discussion list--but of being there (inside/outside) at the moment of preparation. Tricky ontology, that, and hardly worth pursuing. More importantly, I think, that sense of participant observation prevails, of witnessing your own and others' writings materialize in that slightly different setup known (now) as the weblog. Writing as participant observation, then (which is not the same thing as observational writing), and finding connections through that participation.
(And for that reason, good for the guild and for guild work.)
Brian Stefans I believe wrote somewhere (on Poetics list) that the blog can (or might or should) replace the writer's journal. Time and history may not order things so conveniently, but it's a good idea regardless, and precisely for this now familiar reason: The web's only hope lies in an activist, interpersonal, transnational, multilingual, and polynucleated orientation, and whether your average blog-space is filled with somebody's daily workout routine or the wise rants of a bigtime New York poet, the space (decidedly and significantly a writing space) is there for the taking--viewable, readable, transcodable, and, as with the connectionist platforms that came before it (email, IRC, newsgroups, MOOs), the windows don't close on anyone's respective self but open out to find others.
But, let's face it, blogs are about writing and so, regressively, a writer's dream come true. The little orange button below says "publish" and I, raised on the fetishistic juissance of that agonizing process, want in, want out, want to be read and relished. And of course, as a blogger with space and time, I'm not beholden to the disc-list protocol, don't have to weigh in on a topic, need not fear the icy chill of the next day's response. With each click on the keyboard, I imagine myself (here, now) writing more daringly, more impossibly, more readily, and so I wonder why in other spaces I've felt, to the contrary, shut down, disemboweled, nonessential.
So, maybe, the involutions and implosions of the captive audience of (really) just one. Which would only be true if it were not true--and this makes all the difference--that the lines in this very blog were the lines of follow-thru inspired by other lines whose spaces are available with one click of the mouse up above. In other words, I only write because others are writing. I'm not sure if that's good poetics or not, but there it is.
Blogs, then, are not scenes but inspire a sense of scenic possibility. Yes, checking on X today to see what's on her mind, setting Y as homepage so there is no missing the Tijuana update. But also seeking out the eventual absorption into the busy work of external connections, becoming just another node in the link repetitions propagating as fast as the packets are switching.
Blog is biography, true, if not individual or personal--and knowing the difference is perhaps what separates blogging from blustering.
But blogging is also ethnography: participant observation and explicit attention to social worlds and one's membership in them, as well as to the objects (boundary objects) in play between them, the blog being one of them.
Thus the importance of blogging, perhaps, to a 21st century ethnopoetics or, for the sake of adventure, a sociopoetics, where poetic assembly meets transnational world-building and glocal economic collaboration. (For more on that, read the message below about the guild.)
To blog is human, which, while it may not have much to do with blogs per se, has a lot to do with blogging.