March 06, 2004 | Peter

The Perils of Blogging

Hmmm, this blogging thing is tricky. It was originally put forward (not so long ago at all – this is very much an infant sub-genre) as being sort of like a cross between a diary and an essay – more personal and provocative than an essay, but obviously not as honest or unstructured as a diary. The Online Opinion Blog is complicated again because it is part of a website that features short essays as the main contributions. Sometimes the difference between such a piece of writing and a blog entry is minimal.
I have to say that I have been having second thoughts about the value of blogging, at least for the blogger. It inevitably takes up takes time, which could be used in other ways. And it has to be kept reasonably up to date to keep readers interested. So it is fairly demanding. Furthermore, getting the style and approach right is not easy. For instance, earlier I tried a few more personalised blog entries, but the sense of personal exposure was unsettling, especially as you cannot assume the readers will respond with similar openness. To be personal is to set yourself up for a special sort of scrutiny and criticism, and the web is a very public space to do that.
The other problem is the need to write in a more informal, less rigorous way. This means the blogger will sometimes make assertions without providing supporting evidence (like my recent comment about conservatives – or at least conservatives like John Howard – still preferring women pregnant in the kitchen).
As a trained academic and author writing without a whole lot of qualifiers and supporting evidence makes me uncomfortable, but it would be simply impossible to write anything as a blogger if I didn’t take these short cuts. The other, more formal style protects the author, but as much academic text attests, it also tends to make for boring reading.
I will say that attempting to say things and make various points within these restrictions, knowing that critical responses – sometimes contributed in less than good faith – will likely occur, has been an interesting experience. It has reminded me that the price of comment is often misunderstanding or worse, but that that should not stop the endeavour to comment. After all, it is probably true to say that negative comments are more likely that positive ones, because the readers who agree or are neutral about what has been written will just say nod and move on. It takes some kind of emotion –like anger – to mobilise most of us to act, so disagreement is much more likely to generate a response. I suppose any journalist learns this reality early in their career.
One thing I do know is that the comments in my blog will differ markedly from the material constantly and uniformly put forward in the mass media, and I see no reason why we should just hand over new technology like the Internet to the same people who have so debased the fourth estate.

Posted by Peter at 2:16 pm | Comments Off on The Perils of Blogging |
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