Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"anti-semantic" or the post you can skip if meandering is not the kind of walk you like to take

Those words don't mean anything, but I am feeling an urge to write about blogging, something I haven't had for a while. First, my open declaration of ignorance: I don't have a technological understanding of the ins and outs of the internet or of computers. And while I know what a trackback is, I never figured out how to implement it. In fact, I don't think I've really understood or cared to understand what tags are all about. Nobody gets too breathless over either function, but when they were getting excited about them, I felt like I missed the importance.

I know that they are connecting points to conversations, but timid person that I am, I don't go and follow them, and I block out conversations that probably would help explain the semantic web, if I knew what that is.

I am woefully ignorant about these things, words, concepts.

These are not statements of pride. I actually like to learn about things, to figure out concepts and ideas. But I take my time.

My curiosity flows toward history, toward the less important things, useless facts, trivia. My mind wanders when I hear a date, say one linked to a 19th century piece of European music. I think about the period the composer wrote, and I start tracking what was happening that year in Indiana, or Texas, or ... other places.

Long before Wikipedia, as a child, I read through the encyclopedia, following trails of information, mostly historical, stories about wars and other places and governments. That I didn't major in college in anything related to history is a bit of mystery to me now. That would have been a logical choice. What was I thinking?

The web. Oh, yes. Years ago, there was a short-lived school of thought among people who studied mass communications that centered on the uses and functions of media in people's lives. Instead of trying to measure the effects of media upon people or the culture, these researchers and academics were interested in how people used media, chose different media.

Instead of passive objects, people -- in this frame of looking at communications -- made choices, had needs that a soap opera in the afternoon or the ancient and wise network newsreaders at the evening news fulfilled.

Which gets me to what I was thinking about when I started writing this post. My sense is that blogging fulfills a need on our part as humans to write something down -- what we're thinking about -- to scratch out something that is going on inside our heads. To take words and lasso in thoughts and try to put them in some rational sentences: this is life, this is me, this is what is going on.

I am not sure what it means to write a blog for several years. I started in October 2003, and already felt like I was late to the party. I have hardly ever gone back and read any entries. It's a little painful to do that, discovering obvious misspellings and poor grammar, or worse, poorly written sentences. Did I really write that out without re-reading it? Yes. I hammered it out and hit post and then forgot about it.

I've written journals off and on over the years and never found much need to go back and read them. If only I had been a better observer, I could have captured my times. Alas.

Instead, I write that the weather was hot that day, or especially nice.

That's what I crank out out, often.

I started this blog as a place to write out things during a time when my work was quite stressful (in a negative way). Now things are humming along and I am busy and I don't have much time to write more than the weather was nice today.

I've lost my train of thought, my on-going train of thought. Rather than a daily conversation, I drop in a post one day and follow-up days later. And my reading of other blogs has gotten so narrow. There are really only a few that I read regularly, checking them through bloglines mostly, clicking onto their sites when I see activity.

I have no clarity about the blogs that strike my fancy, that interest me. The writers have a voice that is distinct, or that is one I can hear, or care about hearing. Like a good friendship, I've heard the stories enough to interpret certain tones, references, to weave together what has become a long conversation carried out over the internet.

The biggest criticism mainstream media types have hurled against bloggers is that we are many writing for few. Which actually makes sense to me, but obviously not them where all the voices are edited, and marketed, and somewhat oblivious to what the reader might think about what they're writing. If five people that I care about read this blog then I am in a conversation with five people, a human scale that is reasonable and understandable to me.

On the big blogs, I rarely read the comments section. I cannot fathom the ideas of 68 plus folk about a paragraph-size post.

Which brings me to what really got me thinking about blogwriting. Shelley announced that she is ending Burningbird, her fabulous blog. It is ... was... fabulous because she has a clear writing style that is presented among the best photographs you will find on the web. She is a generous writer, unafraid to tell us what she thinks, to point out problems, to take on people who are used to being praised rather than questioned. She wrote about Walker Evans and walks in Missouri and about the last days of her father and about her cat and about fireflies and about a host of tech issues.

Fabulous blog. There have been hints lately that she was thinking about quitting this blog, mostly through references to other blogs that were shutting down.

We want breathless, fabulous stuff forever. We don't like arcs to our media stories. We want them to go on forever. But people write blogs (at least for now), and they are funny and cranky and have things going on in their lives and waning and heated interests. So the noble stand would be to simply say that I will miss Shelley's blog and hope that she returns in some other venue, writing about life and her walks and illustrating them with pictures that reflect a person with a sharp and interested eye toward the places where she is.


Shelley said...

Thank you, Don. Very much.

Don said...

You're welcome.

And I will greatly miss your writing and photography. Thank you for sharing so generously.