Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Comments on Comments: A Very Bloggy Reflection

The night before I presented on Adam Banks and Samantha Blackmon, I sat on my red futon with an Orange Crush trying to respond generously to the generous comments that had been offered on my blog post. After half an hour or so, I attempted to send, but discovered another commenter (this was at after 1 in the morning, mind you: “Thanks for posting everyone [. . .] Mel, you just appeared before I posted. . .”). I revised to include a response, tried to send again, and the same thing happened (“Goodnight. Julie. You just appeared when I was going to publish this. If Lydia pops up after you, I'm going to scream!”).

An hour later, I'd responded to three insomniac rhetoricians, screamed, and polished off a second Orange Crush.

A little frazzled, but with the pleasant feeling of having been frantically engaged, I muttered to myself, “I'm never out of class.” The Blog, then, taught me a great lesson about keeping the dialogue of a course going in a more casual atmosphere; having just finished teaching a free-wheeling writing workshop, I'm understanding even more the potential of such a forum: that it can be a continuation and a redefinition of a classroom community. Next quarter, I'm requiring that weekly responses to the reading be posted on Wanczyblog (still to be established).

At the beginning of class, the content of most of my posts was standardly dry, but I began to feel comfortable cracking jokes and writing with a more provocative tone after I read about Crots. Posting a Crot made me feel a little bit guilty because I was having too much fun; I was worried my lack of citations and/or discussion questions left something to be desired. But I'd taken time, I'd thought about the material, I'd confused (and, I hope, brightened fleetingly) the days of my clasmates, so all was well:

“Play breaks the rules. Play gets sent to the corner. Play wears a dunce cap. 'What a great play!' Play wears a mask and shits on roles (play ignores decorum).”

And play, of course, allows us to say what we might not otherwise. Because I had space and time, I didn't feel like I needed to make my points in the thirty seconds alloted in a classroom situation. I felt like I could reference wider culture (Tim Gunn, The Simpsons, David Foster Wallace, Bob Schieffer, Chicken Wings) without harming the professionalism of class.

And I began to say to myself things like “So-and-so is smart as a whip” after reading blog comments. I was glad to find out I was in such thoughtful company; that ups the ante for in-class discussion and projects.

After a bit of play made me more comfortable posting on blogs (and this is the first I've done of this sort of communicating), I got back into the interpretive groove. It's my M.O. to bring it to the text, and I did that in response to Brett, Craig, Mel, and Russ. I feel like the blog comment is a way to focus what's about to come up in class, to put a bit of text in front of everybody so that there's a coalescity (I also make up words on blogs: see, “crottify” and “homo-distancia”).

Speaking of “homo-distancia” (see Brett's post), I was able to articulate thoughts on controversial topics because of this forum. In many cases, my discussions turned to essentialism: “Essentialism comes up for me again. Is an identity to be celebrated or downplayed? Are some of our pop-cultural novelty-izings celebrations or shortcuts?” (Brett's Post); “I think I need to be less ethically rigid (meaning, I need to see that there is a middle ground between cumbaya-we-love-each-other (in other words, I deny your culture by claiming our sameness) vs You've-got-your-thing-I've-got-mine ignorance/tolerance/multiculturalism)” (comments on my own post).

Whether on race or sexuality, I tried to be honest. On some level, at least, this comes from an essayist's instinct to challenge assumptions and get at bigger social problems through personal experience. I think that instinct (and I saw this working especially for Rebecca) has a space on our—and I can assume on other—blogs.

Can I talk about how much I (vainly) appreciated comments on my posts and my comments? It's a different feeling to get immediate feedback than to wait for a writing workshop or a professor's traditional responses and, besides the feeling of community, it incited me to get more stuff out in public if only so that I could get more feedback. This sense of community invigorated me (when it wasn't making me think about how technological communication sometimes precludes face-to-face communication). I loved thinking about all the issues that came up from the comfort of my grandfather's recliner, the color of which can only be described as cozy-cardboard.

Additionally, Lydia's, Brett's, Craig's, and Albert's responses to my conference proposal were instrumental in my fashioning of what I eventually sent to the conference on literacies at OSU.

I do believe, though, that there is the possibility to misconstrue tone, especially when considering comments from peers about assignments they are also working on. I also questioned the tone of a few responses to my own post on Banks and Blackmon. I suppose that's one of the pitfalls of the informality/honesty positive. Regardless, different registers of criticism suggest different avenues for progression.

I hope that my responses to Lydia and Todd were helpful on their proposals. I tried to synthesize what others had already offered and provide encouragement. The same goes for my post on Rebecca's book review. Having published a


project myself, I was worried that her efforts would go unpraised (I wonder if, in the future, professional blog-commenting will emerge as an occupation akin to professional mourning). Again, the opportunity the blog gives for that sort of fellow-feeling is welcome (Todd, you're a co0l guy). I feel like I got to know my classmates' minds better (Russ, that means you. Yep, I'm in your head. Good job on the IMovie) because I had access to work that usually stays in the darkened tunnel between teacher and student.

In keeping with the anti-traditional space of RouzieBlog, I want to conclude not with a restatement of some jargonistic thesis or a lift of sentimentality; I want to conclude by reminding us of Mel's dystopic conception, Big Androgynous Sibling — the ungendered presence keeping us all aware of our RL identities. The blog has allowed such ideas free reign and has allowed me to be aware constantly of the (sometimes troubling) difference between online persona and offline persona (lift of sentimentality coming: perhaps unavoidable?). I love such challenges. I love Big Androgynous Sibling.


Rebecca B said...

Hey Dave. You're as smart as a whip. I appreciate that you opened the door, so to speak, to creative posts with your crotting. It's been a pleasure being in class with you, and I look forward to working with you in the future (even though the "tone" of this post sounds somewhat yearbook-y and detached). That's one problem I find with blogs: it's easy to rage, to joke, or to duck behind a proverbial chair--but sincerity seems to plop into a post like a wet grilled cheese sandwich in the gutter. No matter how much flair one tries to put into "You're awesome!" or "Wow, you're the bee's knees!" praise seems to become an elephant in the virtual room. I suppose, in the blogosphere, imitation (even when translated to the form of call and response) is the sincerest (and least painful) form of flattery. Consider my candor and experiments with narrative as warm responses to your creative exhibitions, from one writer to another (tips hat and walks away).

[the secret word is: pankleg]

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