I Have Never Been Blogging
Looking at the latest stream of posts in my RSS reader from Graham Harman’s blog, I realize that I’ve been holding the wrong attitude about blogging.
Harman is amazing on a number of levels, and if you’re someone who comes from STS and/or contemporary philosophy, you should definitely be reading him for his academic musings. Even if you don’t care about recent developments in post-Heideggerian object-oriented actor-network sociotechnicopistemology, the American sportswriter turned Egyptian professor is worth reading for his insights into academia, life, and academic life (which are three way different things). But back to my original point, the man is prolific – he blogs as often as most people tweet, giving his thoughts on everything from the recent crisis at Middlesex philosophy to personal reflections on the writing process.
Obviously he formats his posts and checks them for errors, but it doesn’t seem like he spends that much time thinking about what he should blog about or if some particular topic is worth posting. He just writes about what ever is interesting to him, sometimes just sharing a link, other times giving commentary, and (where I find him most invaluable) doing both, sharing an excerpt of something that someone wrote with his thoughts on the matter. It might be an essay one of his colleagues wrote regarding speculative realism’s view of innate qualities of objects, but it is more likely to be about plagiarism by students, whatever fiction or non-fiction book he’s reading, the latest conference he went to, or the English-speaking abilities of Cairo taxi drivers. This can sometimes be overwhelming — say, when I open up my feed reader and find ten posts written while I was sleeping — but I’ve realized it is the right approach. Not only has he kept me informed about topics, ideas, books, conferences, controversies, and so on that I would otherwise not know about, but he also offers a window into his world. I’ve never met him, but I feel like I know Graham Harman.
Contrast this with me. I haven’t posted an update in months, and the last one I did was formatted much like a short academic paper and took a good hour or two to write. I have about a half dozen drafts of posts that I’ve spent way too much time on — not writing, but thinking, second-guessing myself, googling to see if I’m original, and so on. They are long, but that’s not a inherent problem. Rather, they are filled with things that just don’t need to be in a blog post: no specific words or phrasings, but instead the awkward insecurities that permeate all formal academic writing at the beginning stages.
Maybe it is part of being a grad student, where I feel afraid that I’ll accidentally offend someone or, more likely, just say something stupid. Maybe it is because my site is first and foremost an academic portfolio constructed with blogging software, a professional, polished, public space in which I can present a slightly more interactive CV. Maybe it is because I’ve been part of an pedagogic culture in which blogging is overwhelmingly just a digital form of the standard one-page essay summarizing and responding to the week’s course readings. And as I write that last sentence — which may be interpreted as a slight jab towards some of my favorite professors — I realize exactly what my problem is: I have to stop myself from obsessing too much, or else I’ll never actually blog.
Thus comes the title of this post (which, by the way, is a riff on the amazing We Have Never Been Blogging, a Latourian blog which itself is a rift on the book We Have Never Been Modern). I haven’t been writing blog posts, I’ve been writing short essays about topics that are only worth the time and energy for blog post. That’s not to disparage the people who do publish academic essays with blogging software, it’s just a different thing. And having broken my new rule again with a good ten minutes of rewriting that last sentence, I’m just going to end this post now.
So all this to say that I’m going to be blogging again, and with a new understanding of what that means. I don’t think I’m as interesting as Graham Harman and I don’t plan on being as prolific as him, but I do plan on easing up on the slack. For me, blogging is an immediate activity, something that you put out there when you think of something that you find interesting. I hope you do and that is the ultimate point of this, but not something that can be dwelled on.