To blog ... or not to blog
Alright, so maybe this will turn into a "blog", or maybe, even better, "something new that comes along to replace" blogs? Nice to have Laura, Anne, and Ron drop by with their thoughts, and to have Anne's reminder that there is a history of thinking about what Serendip and the web in general are good for (cf Serendip's Evolving Web Principles and The How of Story Sharing II and Intellectual Exchange as a Medium for Community Building on the Web and Beyond) that's worth connecting to as Serendip moves into its Exchange era.
Yeah, I have reservations about "blogs" as they are currently understood. What bothers me is not the idea that anyone (and everyone) may have something useful to say in a public arena. That idea I like a lot, and it has been a principle of Serendip since its inception. Moreover, the more I think about it, the more convinced I become that encouraging every one to find and share their own distinctive ways of making sense of themselves and the world around them is key to making a better, more humane life for everyone ... to creating "less wrong" cultures and worlds.
That promise, though, depends not only on everyone having a voice in a public arena, but also on everyone sharing a common belief that there is at least as much value in listening as in speaking. What is important in the public arena is not persuading others of the validity of one's own understandings but rather the sharing of current diverse understandings out of which come new and less wrong understandings both in others and in oneself. One speaks not to persuade others but rather to offer to them things they may find useful in revising their own understandings. One similarly and reciprocally listens to others speaking with the expectation they will provide things useful to revising one's own. Without a shared commitment to continual revision based on the sharing of diverse perspectives, the potential inherent in giving everyone a voice in the public arena can't be realized.
That's why I have some reservations about "blogs." To the extent they make publicly available voices that might not otherwise be heard, they are a good thing in my terms. The hazard is that they will be seen, both by writers and readers, as no more than that, and so be written and evaluated solely in those terms: composed so as to reach as wide a readership as quickly as possible and judged by the size of that readership. To the extent blogs are conceived in these terms, they will not only fail to support "continual revision based on the sharing of diverse perspectives" but contribute to old and persistant barriers to that ideal.
So, is this a blog? Yes, if by that one means something a particular person writes to offer to others a current set of understandings they might find useful, with the possibility that others might reciprocate by offering understandings of their own that I might find useful. The potential for return makes it different from a journal. No, if by "blog" one means something that is aimed at satisfying myself and others that my voice is being heard by as quickly as possible by as many people as possible. What's here starts what I am currently thinking that seems useful to me (and so is different from a discussion board or forum), and that I think at least some others might find useful enough to respond to in ways I might in turn find useful. Whether the latter is true or not in any given case, we'll find out (letters "to the world/That never wrote to me" are a risk one cannot avoid if one is interested in serious exchange).
When I was in high school, I edited the school newspaper and wrote a biweekly column for it. In the inaugural column, I said something like I can't guarantee anyone that what I write will be interesting or useful to any particular reader. What I can and will guarantee is that I will write only about things that have proven interesting to me and that I think might prove interesting to others, and be as clear as I can about both why they are interesting to me and might be to others. That's the spirit intended here, with the addition of active exchange. Its not just what I think at I think at any given time, but what I think reflected on to the point where I become convinced it is worth sharing, and so am interested in what others think in relation to it. Maybe its a blog, maybe its an invitation to exchange .... maybe its something else? Whichever, it is what Serendip has meant to me from its inception, long before "blogging" came into existence.