how is a blog like a seminar, or, how is a raven like a writing desk?

Recently I wrote about how I discovered heutagogy and a love for learning, but there’s another piece to that that I didn’t really mention. One of the things that has made me love learning is the chance to be in classes and seminars with people who are also interested in the same thing. Because no matter how good a professor is, and no matter how interesting a topic is, a course will suck balls if nobody else in the class is interested in participating.

The first place I really had that was my Friday discussions in college; this was a random group connected by a common English adjunct who plucked us from his honors classes because we were worthy, essentially, but we became close friends who bonded over the esoteric readings we were “assigned” and, later, over the things we would assign ourselves after that teacher left campus and the dinners we’d make together, as well as the new artisan beers and wines we’d sample together. That group worked because we were all smart, creative people, all with different interests but a shared love for collectively working things out and posing and prompting questions, as well as an ability to talk in “low” language about “high” things, and vice versa.

As I mentioned that high school and college were often disappointing on that front, I can say that one of the biggest things that drove me towards graduate school was that desire for community, and I’m quite sure I wrote about that often on this blog when I was in that process. A good seminar creates a community and its own culture, and it also teaches you how to think. I think I’ve made myself known in my classes at Simmons for being the person who always raises her hand to offer an opinion–or, more often than not, who just speaks when moved because when things come to me, I have to get them out. But I also talk in class a lot because I know that a class sucks when it’s silent, and I’m willing to put myself out there with a not-fully-formed idea and pose it as a questioning statement as something to work from, and for someone else to confirm, reject, or challenge. I love that. For all that I am better at expressing myself and my ideas through writing, I have this natural desire to begin figuring out what those ideas are by discussing them or by listening to others discuss.

It struck me that that’s another reason why I read so much and in so many genres, because it’s like an asynchronous class in which I create the roster of attendees and let ideas talk each other out. It’s certainly why my links section has so many blogs of different styles and topics. I’m constantly adding new things and taking things out, but it invariably grows more than it shrinks.

But I’m a lurker. And all of a sudden I think that is total anathema to my stance on what makes a seminar functional and awesome, and that makes me a hypocrite. I know we all started our livejournals back in the day to get comments, even if comments don’t inherently mean anything, and no matter what we say our intentions are when we blog, we also have the desire to know that people are watching. Analytics and stats are nice, but comments are better. After all, whether it’s, “I agree that x is y, but I wonder if z is y, too?” or “This is the best way of explaining w ever! It’s very helpful,” or “I think maybe you should read x before going out and talking about y. You might find it interesting and informative, as it explains it through z,” it’s going to be appreciated.

Not only do I read the blogs on my blogrolls regularly, but I am also constantly clicking on links on Twitter and Facebook, getting newsletters from various sources that post roundups of sorts of articles of interest all over the Internet, and searching for random things. And so often, I read, find it interesting, and then close the tab, and that’s the end. It’s in my brain, and that’s all. But the blogosphere, at least for bloggers who are interested in ideas that prompt discussion, like literature, sociology, or feminism, is really no different from a graduate seminar. No idea means anything if it isn’t grappled with, shared, and responded to.

So tonight I’m pledging no longer to be a lurker. I’m not going to comment on every single thing I read, because that’s crazy. But if I don’t find something to be immediately awful, and if there is something in a blog post that makes me think, question, reevaluate, or confirm, I am going to participate in the conversation and comment. Bloggers deserve that and earn that with thoughtful posts. If authors get fan mail and interviews and columns in magazines, bloggers should get a piece of the collaborative pie, too. They’re also writers, after all.

So I made this cute little clipart button thing that you can take and put on your blog if you like this idea. Pledge to participate, like me. Pledge to be thoughtful about what you read on the Internet, and to support the person who writes the things you like by saying something substantive. That doesn’t mean saying “I agree; I wrote a post on my own blog, link here.” It also doesn’t mean writing a dissertation in response to one tiny thing. But what it does mean is being aware of whatever personal response you have to something you read and acknowledging the power of a blogger’s words (or photos, or memes, or whatever) by participating with them.

This is totally about me pledging to dig deeper into myself, to challenge my brain to engage with ideas, but I’d love to see if anyone is interested in joining in.

Comp Lit and Mediaphilia
<div align="center"><a href="" title="Comp Lit and Mediaphilia" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="Comp Lit and Mediaphilia" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

5 thoughts on “how is a blog like a seminar, or, how is a raven like a writing desk?

  1. So we are talking RIGHT NOW and I almost started telling you about how I read this post and agree with it, but then I realized that would be one million times ironic, so I better comment on the post instead 😉

  2. I won’t lie… I definitely have the habit of being a lurker on a lot of blogs. Sometimes I just feel like I have nothing to add, so why bother? Other times, I notice that while people comment, no one responds – which makes me then wonder why anyone would comment in the first place.

    I think comments = community. Not all comments lead to discussions (I sometimes reply with just a “YAY!”), but I think readers comment on blogs to feel like they belong. To establish relationships and friendships. I LOVE when the people who respond to my blog posts also talk to me on Twitter and Facebook. I love feeling like the blogs I contribute to makes me part of a community of people all passionate about the same thing. I used to be BIG on message boards (back in the old days :P), and I think I’ve personally just directed that into blogging now.

    But having said that, I’m still a bit of a hypocrite. I don’t always respond or leave a comment. In fact, I lurk. A LOT. But reading this post reminded me of how much I appreciate every time someone takes the time to leave me a comment – and that I should do the same to others.

    • Word! I still lurk or just say “I agree hurray for you” a lot, too, but I think just trying to participate more makes me a little less silent. And you’re definitely going to have a new twitter follower in a moment 😉

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