I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Sudden online paralysis

... has been produced by a chance remark from one near and dear to me, to the effect that online writing doesn't form community so much as it allows the writer to project themselves, or an idea of themselves, into a network.

I know there are other ways to think about this, but for the moment, it's done for me. That's all the projecting I can assemble today.


Mindy said...

Possibly true if you aren't known to enough people IRL to keep you honest. But if you do try to be something you aren't you can bet that someone will find you out I reckon.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

I don't buy it.

Those two things are not mutually exclusive. In fact the one couldn't occur without the other. In fact, it's really just two differently connoted ways of saying the same thing. You could just as easily say that projecting an idea of yourself into a network is what you do every morning when you get up and project an idea of yourself into the family network before heading off to project an idea of yourself into the workplace network.

I also don't buy the implicit privileging of physical presence over other forms of connection, an argument I have with my non-social-networking friends on practically a daily basis.

I take it this near and dear person is not him/herself an enthusiast for online communication.

In your case, as a blogger, it seemed more a matter of 'build it and they will come', but the sequences and causalities are never clear-cut. I think one of the things that attracted me to online communities (and yes, in my experience that's what they are) was precisely that they are loose, lateral, ever-shifting sets of affiliations, rather than pre-existing, static, definable networks.

WhatLadder said...

I agree with Kerryn. I don't think online selves are less "real", although I know that's a popular argument, and I think there are plenty of online communities where people are real, or even interesting versions of themselves. And there is plenty of online writing that produces community. Okay, some are "worse" than meatspace communities, but others are surprisingly good, or valuable. I think even the "worst" online communities produce interesting interactions, both intellectual and practical.
My standout example for that is the genesis of Anonymous from /b/, but there are plenty of others.
It is true that none of us is as cruel as all of us, but it is also true that none of us is as kind, or intelligent as all of us.
Now, you can CHOOSE how you engage online, but that is true of how you CHOOSE to behave in your life generally.
If you CHOOSE for your online presence to merely be some kind of self-promotion, well, congrats, you're an asshole. BUT, and this is a big BUT, this is not mandatory.
Blogging is de facto navel-gazing, but it doesn't mean blogs can't have little communities, or even BIG communities.
You know what? Ima think about this moar. Then, if I post something about it on my blog, have we not just created some kind of micro-community?

genevieve said...

Said person clearly hasn't read the article on women and online communities in the latest Women's Weekly, then (the one with Julia on the cover - couldn't bear to purchase it in case it was horribly predictable, so read it in a library, for goodness' sakes.)
A very positive piece with some good input from Mia Freedman. That is not a sentence, I know.
Don't be paralysed, Stephanie. The network is projecting back to you...:-)

Eileen Joy said...

Well, I could go on and on, but I probably shouldn't. This is precisely the argument that *I* used to make all the time, about 4 or so years ago, when friends urged me to read weblogs. I brought this up at your blogging session in Siena at the New Chaucer Society conference. Weblogs, and other online interwebs, like Facebook and Live Journal and the like, can certainly be a perfect platform for only "projecting" oneself into a pre-established or other type of network [but you might also ask yourself: aren't we "projecting" all the time, even in face-to-face relationships, even sometimes with our most intimate partners?]. Weblogs actually give us a chance, by virtue of their somewhat premeditative, *written* manner, to say *precisely* what we think we mean in any given moment, as opposed to what we sometimes blurt out in intimate and other company without thinking too much. In this sense, they give us an opportunity to present our best selves, and sometimes, as you've shown in your cancer entries, our most vulnerable selves, which is precisely the moment when *real* intimacy and contact [touch] and affiliation, across multiple, albeit virtually-figured [yet still palpably real] selves can occur.

As I've said before, I used to be a big negative critic of the idea that online sites could actually aid us in developing real communities, across national borders and other types of sometimes impassable borders and limns, but I've learned otherwise, and in material ways. These sites enable contacts which, although they may not always involve physical face-to-face encounter, they are as real as those relationships formed in the Middle Ages via letter writing. Reflect as well on what Isidore of Seville once wrote in a letter to Archdeacon Braulio—that “it is a fine consolation among the absent that if one who is loved is not present, a letter may be embraced instead.”

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

And while never in a million years would I diss your near and dear, it never ceases to floor me to see some of my own near and dear, whose intellectual training you would think would have caused them to know better than to make such a very basic mistake, think it perfectly fine to hold scornfully forth with opinions on blogging and (other) social networking without ever actually having done it themselves.

Quite apart from opining about things you've not done the research on being intellectually indefensible (but does this stop D, or R? Why, no), online life is one of those things that you need to have experienced in accretions over time before you build up a picture of its effects.

And I am also curious about our collective near and dear's motives. But I have my theories, occasionally openly confirmed by D and perhaps best summed up in one of my favourite LOLcats. Pic is of a computer with a puss sitting, as they do, being little heat-seeking missiles, on the keyboard blocking the screen and gazing plaintively into the camera. Caption: NO MORE LOLCATS ... PLZ TO LOVE REALCAT.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

... dears' ...


Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Hey! Speaking as one of the farther-flung bits of the network, I am not a projection! :-)

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

"online writing doesn't form community so much as it allows the writer to project themselves, or an idea of themselves, into a network"

I'm happy you posted this in that it is clearly on your mind, but reality check: aren't communities a kind of network? I just don't see the problem here, other than someone seems to be stating that online communities don't exist (or don't exist as true communities). Please! Didn't the NCS blogger panel provide ample evidence to the contrary??

Penni said...

When I meet people online that I like and gel with, I do find I want to extend that intimacy offline, much in the same way that if I meet someone through work that I like, I want to socialise with them after hours. It doesn't always enhance my online relationships when I meet people 'in real life' though (sometimes it's positively awkward). (And what is this, if not real life? Am I not breathing and flesh as I write this?)

Penni (I came over from Life or Books)

dogpossum said...

Oh, I just got quite sad reading this idea. All my interkittens friends are real. And I like them as much as I like my friends who don't use the interkittens.

I don't like the thought that all my friendships with people I've only known online are just projections into networks. They're real boys and girls! Really!

David Thornby said...

"+1" Kerryn and others.

Aren't we ultimately alone inside our own heads anyway, regardless of whether what's immediately outside of the head at any moment is virtual or physical? I think minds are machines for designing and decoding projections; bodies and the internet are (among other things) apparatus for delivering and receiving. What is community-forming is whether or not some of the projections mean something to some of the people decoding them, and cause them to make projections of their own -- clearly in your case this happens, here and in the physical space.

I think it's neatly post-postmodern for this place that it turns out that the medium isn't, after all, the message.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

And I like them as much as I like my friends who don't use the interkittens.

Dogpossum, in the case of my non-interkittens-using friends at least, I think this is a large part of the problem.

Elsewhere007 said...

Yes and yes...I have to say that when I met some of the bloggers with whom I'd engaged with all this interprojecting, there was a lot more to them of course than their online persona. But neither experience -- internet or 'fleshmeet' -- was invalid or less valid than the other.