The Spirit of Paulo Freire in Blogland: Struggling for a Knowledge-Log Revolution

I wanted to try out the effects of democratization and subversion on this process of keeping a klog, and in doing so, possibly learn ways workplace practices could one day be further affected by the force of these software systems.

I also saw a visible (and documentable) clash of cultures between old and new media?perhaps made even more acute than it might be at more ?typical? large corporations because the primary, external ?product? or knowledge commodity of Time Warner embodies almost in its entirety the assumptions of broadcast or mass media, often unreflexively, as stated or even unstated truisms. —Christine Boese

The Spirit of Paulo Freire in Blogland: Struggling for a Knowledge-Log Revolution (Into the Blogosphere)

The author notes that her own involvement in the blogs she is studying means the information she presents isn’t unbiased, though she argues that being involved is the only way she could have come by this information. The brief digression on the invisibility of the cyborg gives us convenient point to latch on to her narrative.

I think I would rather read a good piece of investigative journalism, or a long blog entry, that presents insider information in this manner. Reading academic prose online can be very slow-going, but the academic essay is a genre with its own conventions (though those conventions developed over centuries, for the convenience of print readers). I think I would have appreciated, in the abstract, a few brief nuggets that show the kind of thing that is going to be investigated — linking patterns? Fact checking? Harassment of bloggers at the hands of government authorities? The quote from the first day of Kucera’s blog isn’t enough to satisfy my curiosity, though the fact that Kucera mentions Boese does cement Boese’s credentials as an insider. The excerpts from “The Other Side” seem to function more as chapter headings than integrated parts of the article — I’m thinking particularly of the transition from Boese’s brief comment on the Google toolbar’s pop-up blocking ability to a blog entry discussing war panic in Erbil.

Regarding Boese’s credentials, I was personally more interested to learn that Boese “was working for CNN Headline News, writing the afternoon on-screen headline ticker Mondays through Fridays”) — a detail that suggests Boese has a firm grasp on audience and rhetoric. Still, from the obligatory “what is a blog” paragraph, we find: “blog is defined as a regularly updated webpage using blogging software.”

I respect Boese’s desire not to get too bogged down, but it should be possible to signal “I don’t want to go there” without resorting to tautology. (I “blogged” for years just by writing ordinary HTML, and doing a lot of cutting and pasting. I then created some PERL and DOS batch files to automate some of that cutting and pasting, and that gradually developed into my own home-grown PERL/XML blogging software, though I mothballed that when a student who needed an extra credit project designed for me the blogging software that I now use. But that quibble shouldn’t detract from Boese’s excellent examination of the tension between blogging and journalism.)

While it’s true that there hasn’t been much scholarship on blogs, there has been some that Boese misses in her overview. We are all still applying the tools we learned in our own separate subfields to the “new” subject of blogging. The rapid development of the Internet in general and blogging in particular means that we’ll always be playing catch-up — though Boese’s description of what she calls “techophobia” at CNN makes me wonder whether the business world is any different. More collections like Into the Blogosphere and BlogTalk (I hope they publish a BlogTalks 2.0 anthology) will help us coalesce and synthesize (and that’s, in fact, why I’m going to try to blog something on so many Into the Blogosphere articles.)

To continue the general scholarship tangent… much of what has been said about Usenet, MUDs, and other forms of Internet communication can be applied to blogs — though it’s very true that journalism seems to have noticed the wider effect of blogs before, say, the rhetcomp community or the bloggers themselves. Journalists pride themselves with getting “out there” on the street, ear to the ground, while academics spend more time mastering a more narrowly defined subfield in their chosen area. (That’s supposed to be a nice way of admitting that academics have to fuss about in libraries a lot.)

Just as the committee-authored “official” blogs of politicians are group-thinked into a thin gruel, due to the pressures traditionally placed on the creation of “official” statements, a newsroom blog brings with it pressures that the average social blogger (or student forced to blog for course credit) doesn’t face. Broadcast writers were not only used to thinking the audience as passive recipients of their product, “they also constructed THEMSELVES as passive recipients of media products, despite the fact that they were actively writing and shaping those media products every day at work. The anonymity of the “voice” with which they were conditioned to write seemed to preclude finding a voice with which to speak up on a klog.”

I like “first person idiosyncratic” – Boese’s characterization of a blogger’s point of view.

At Seton Hill, many of the same students who are active in the student paper are also committed bloggers. Some have posted strong personal opinions about topics that they might later have to write about (objectively). One reporter was trolled anonymously on her personal blog for an article she wrote. Since we’re a small school, our paper only comes out about once a month, but we’re planning to ramp up the online version of the paper. Since the online paper is published within the same subdomain as the student blogs, Without getting sucked too far into the “are blogs a new form of journalism” debate, I’m continuing to watch this subject closely, so that they as individuals will understand their obligation to keeping their credibility in the eyes of the public.

Since it’s been years since I’ve spent much time in a newsroom (what with all the fussing about in libraries) I welcome Boese’s insights. She applies to newsrooms Michel de Certeau’s concept of the “wig” — a diversionary tactic, in which workers pursue their own agendas on company time (without actually pilfering, or being unavailable for “real” work should they need to reprioritize).

Google actually has an official policy, in which employees are expected to spend 20% of their time developing their own personal projects. Of course, Google will own the intellectual rights to whatever the employees come up with, and I doubt the 20% free time extends to groundskeepers and cafeteria workers… given Google’s proven ability to mutate with the times, I think that particular practice is worth investigating in the context of the questions Boese raises.