Blog Writing: For Students, part 2

In part one I offered some of thoughts on blog writing. I suggested two things about successful blog entries-as-critical-thinking: (1) They are not just unfiltered/unprocessed brain dumps and (2) They require more time to write than you think. My emphasis in that advice was on the process of writing for the writer. It was about using blog writing to engage in the practice of critical thinking, questioning, and  troublemaking.

Blogs are not just about the writer, however. Many types of writing can enable us to use the writing process to engage in critical reflection on what we mean and what we want to say. But a blog is unique. It is public and is necessarily and immediately about sharing our ideas with others. So in this entry I want to discuss blog writing as writing for others.

Because blog entries are posted on a public site that anyone who has access to the internet can read (well, unless you put a password protection on your blog, but why would you want to do that?), the process of writing about an idea or theory necessarily requires that we think about how we want to present those ideas to others and what the impact of our ideas might be on those others.

There are several ways to think about the significance of writing in a public forum. Many people will warn you that you need to think about how anyone can read your entry and possibly use it against you. They will caution you to always be very careful with what you write. While I agree that it is important to think about the issue of safety (yes, the lurkers and trolls are out there), safety is not the only (or even most important) way that I think about blog writing as public.

The fact that one’s writing becomes public the moment it is posted can have many positive effects on what we write and how we understand the topics that we are writing about. In particular, writing in a public forum can help us to be more accountable for the claims that we make. Simply put, when you write something and post it on your blog under your name (or even under a pseudonym) you are responsible for the claims you make, the critiques that you offer, and the facts that you present. You should be willing to stand behind them when challenged and to explain them when questioned. In other words, you are accountable to others–you should, when called upon, be able to give an account of what/how/why you wrote what you did. Being more accountable for the claims that we make helps us to be more careful and thoughtful about making them. The knowledge that others are going to read what we write encourages us to really think about we are writing–Does it make sense? Is it truthful? Do I really agree with it? For more on accountability, and the integrity it requires, see Rebecca Blood’s post on blog ethics.

Of course there are many bloggers who do not act as if they are accountable to others. They write whatever they want. They dump the contents of their brains out through their keyboards (and often produce stuff that resembles the result of another form of dumping). Rebecca Blood argues in her post on blog ethics that the ability to abuse the blog process by not being accountable for your claims is built into the system when she writes: “Let me propose a radical notion: The weblog’s greatest strength — its uncensored, unmediated, uncontrolled voice — is also its greatest weakness.”  This is the darkside of blogging. But, we can use the uncensored, unmediated, uncontrolled nature of the blog to produce insightful, creative and critical prose that helps us to understand the world better and moves (and provokes) others to think about the world differently (and perhaps more justly). These postitive aspects (making us accountable to ourself and others) are yet another reason why blog writing is a great way to engage in critical thinking and troublemaking.

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