Livejournal - A considered rant.

aseidman's picture

Here's a thought: Jane Pinckard asserts that a "journal," rather than a blog, is that a journal requires real consideration before posting. Perhaps that is why blank notebooks, the kind sold at your local bookstore, are usually referred to by the vendors at "journals" rather than "diaries." So, then, what is the significance of the name "LiveJournal?" The well known online diary creation site is very much that - a diary site. LiveJournal is primarily used to create diaries and accounts of events, often dramatic ones, in the lives of individual writers. A friend of mine, whom I used to live with, refers to her livejournal as "somewhere that I post stuff when I need to rant." Doesn't exactly fit the definition of "journal" given by Pinckard. Is Livejournal trying to paint itself as a site where legitimate, considered and thoughtful writing is done? Is it neccessarily true that someone who is "ranting" is neccessarily not doing "thoughtful" ranting?

 

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E. Brundige BMC '93's picture

The danger of definition (TL; DR)

No, as you yourself imply with the title of your post, ranting can be carefully considered and quite thoughtful. There is a lot of that on Livejournal. My BMC friends use their livejournal posts to discuss politics, gender and identity issues, copyright, -isms, contemporary events and other larger issues where personal life and society intersect.

The problem with using Jane Pinckard's definition of "journal" and then applying it to Livejournal is that you're falling into the classical academic fallacy of what I call "Denial by definition".

The process goes like this:

1. Select and define a technical term, often borrowing a common word which is used in several ways.
2. Examine an instance of that word.
3. Declare the instance invalid, because it fails to meet the definition you have declared legitimate.

Denial by definition is nothing new. The Greeks have been using this method ever since Socrates banished mythology in the Republic by neatly substituting the word pseudoi, "falsehood," for mythoi, "fable, story," halfway through a discussion on education. Obviously, we don't want to teach our children lies, so we can't teach them myths. He set up a false dichotomy: Myth = lies, Facts = truth. We've been living with Socrates' verbal redefinition of truth for over two thousand years before Joseph Campbell finally grabbed us by the throat and reminded us that a myth is not a "lie," it is a "metaphor."

Definitions -- establishing limits -- are powerful verbal tools. They can help us understand words better. However, words sing. Words are poetic and polyvalent. When we cram them into definitions, we are always performing a Procrustean maneuver.

If the result doesn't seem to fit our definition, it may be that we need to come up with a better definition.

Journals are not simply scholarly journals, although the academic world tends to forget any other kind exists. When I was in middle school, before No Child Left Behind left many forms of education behind, we had journaling periods. We were encouraged to keep a creative writing journal. Most of the livejournals I read and view are, unsurprisingly, creative writing. The goal of these journals was not an edited, peer-reviewed, carefully considered production piece (an essay), but rather, they were a vehicle for expression, for writing. The journaling process produced a lot of junk and some gems.

There are newspaper journals. Academic journals. And there are live journals. I don't think livejournal was in any way hubristic in selecting the name. It created a vehicle for expression. Livejournal users have found many different ways to use that vehicle.

No, most livejournals are not all nicely edited and/or peer-reviewed. The web is not. The noise to quality ratio on the web is much higher than we are used to. That's the downside of freedom of the press. The upside is that we are no longer limited to reading books and journals which are commercially viable and/or propped up by academic institutions and groups that have decided a form of publication is legitimate. Now, people can publish, full stop. It is our choice whether to read what they write. it is our choice to evaluate it as drek or "unworthy." But we can no longer define it -- limitit. We are back to the way things were for thousands of years, when consensus or an individual author, could say, "Well, this is what I call it."

Herbie's picture

Intention and Reality

Livejournal, when they initially launched probably was just trying to make a clever play on words about how immediately posts appear after they're written.  Perhaps LiveJournal's original owners wanted its users to think of the site as a journal more than a diary, but barring screening and site moderation, there's just no way to control how the users on LiveJournal actually use the site.

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