There seems to be a touch of meta-blogging going around. Some of it’s implicit and seems to have resolved (for instance, Bookphilia‘s transmogrification into Jam and Idleness). But an extensive conversation broke out around Dr. Crazy’s “what is the point” post at Reassigned Time 2.o, a post that clearly struck a chord with a lot of people who have been blogging for a while, including with Miriam Burstein, who wrote her own follow-up at The Little Professor. For a lot of people, changes in their situation have affected their time for writing, or their freedom to write, or their urge to write–some folks who were job-hunting or untenured are now tenured, for instance, and preoccupied in different ways. Changes in technology have made a difference: between Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr there are more ways to communicate online than were once dreamt of in our philosophies. For some, there’s also a fatigue factor, too, or discomfort with something that once felt liberating and expansive becoming routine or obligatory. Or, perhaps most simply of all, doing anything for a long time prompts reflection on the value of continuing the same way, or continuing at all.
I haven’t been blogging as long as some of these others (Miriam notes that The Little Professor has been around in some form for about a decade!). Novel Readings just turned five in January, and I’m not really in the mood for deep reflection or reevaluation. I’m doing more or less what I’ve always done, and I’m basically still fine with it: I post about books I’ve read, I post about my teaching, I post about academic issues that interest or vex me, I post once in a while about personal things.
That said, I am aware of some changes in my blogging habits. I used to write more short posts, for one thing. I also used to write more posts that jumped off from something someone else had posted, whether in the “MSM” or at another blog. And I used to do more round-up posts of links to other things to read.
I’m not sure why my book posts have gotten longer, but I don’t really worry about that. I write what I’ve thought of to say, in as much detail as I feel like writing! For some books, that’s a lot. For a smaller number of books, that’s not much. Lately, sometimes, it’s nothing at all. I like writing the longer posts better, by and large, because they are more satisfying to work on and to look back on. They do take time, though, and that’s probably why I don’t post as often as a number of the other book bloggers I follow, who seem to manage a post every couple of days at least. Though I have friends who say I must read very fast and all the time, I also feel, reading other book bloggers, that I actually read slowly and not nearly as much as they do! I also used to post about pretty much every book I read–in fact, for the first couple of years that was kind of a principle of mine, as it kept me posting and prevented internal debates about which books were or were not worth posting about. When I finished a book, it went in the “to be blogged pile” and stayed there until it was done! If I thought I had nothing to say, I still had to give it a go–and it was surprising how often I found I did, after all, have at least something to say. That would probably be a good practice to revive, not least because it was good for me intellectually to be surprised in that way.
I never made a deliberate choice not to write more response posts. Since in theory that kind of cross-blog conversation is a big part of what I like about blogging, I wonder what happened. Perhaps it’s that reading blog posts by lots of different bloggers over the past five years tired me out a bit, especially because conversations come in waves–fads, even. Do I really want to have another exchange about the sorry state of contemporary book reviewing or the off-hand assumption that academics contribute nothing of interest to it? Or if a conversation is going on vigorously on something I am interested in, I don’t feel very motivated to add my two-cents’ worth just to be in the game. Right now, for instance, Jonathan Rees is writing all kinds of great posts about the wrong-headed embrace of technology, including Blackboard, on our campuses. I’m not anti-technology but I’m anti-Blackboard and skeptical about lots of other things getting a lot of hype from corporate-ed types. But Jonathan Rees is covering these topics just fine and I don’t really expect anyone is aching to get my perspective on the same issues, at least not in more depth than I can offer in a comment on his posts–so commenting makes more sense. Still, I do think conversations are one of the great things about blogging, so I’m going to be more self-conscious about my decisions to blog or not to blog about something seen elsewhere, and try to make more decisions to blog rather than not. Just blogging about my own thing all the time does not exemplify the ethos of generosity and expansiveness that drew me to blogging in the first place.
The same goes for linking to and commenting on other people’s blogs, which I have been doing far too little of. Link posts don’t need to be as overwhelming as zunguzungu’s Sunday Reading lists (which leave me feeling that I don’t spend enough time on the internet–not a feeling I get very often!): they can be a nice way to point anyone who stops by my place to some of the good stuff I’ve enjoyed, and they are a way, too, of acknowledging the pleasure I get from the efforts of other bloggers. As for commenting, well, I blame Google Reader, actually, for a decline in my commenting: I faithfully read everyone on my blogroll and then some, but because I read them all handily aggregated, I’m not actually there at the other site, which means commenting requires a little extra effort. But it’s not much, and I should do it more. Again, conversation is a big part of the point, and I really appreciate it when someone comments here. Mind you, some of the sites I’d comment on already get a healthy dose of comments, and again it sometimes seems pointless to join the chorus if I don’t have much really specific to say. But when I do, I should say it, even if it’s just a little thing, because it’s good to make connections as tangible (and as generously) as possible.
I guess if I do have a concern about Novel Readings, then, it’s that it has become a bit hermetic. I don’t want to perform blogging and hope people do me the favor of reading: I want to be involved in blogging as an activity. I still am, but not as much as I once was. We’ll see what happens about that. My overall interests as a blogger haven’t changed, though, and my experiences on other forms of social media haven’t really affected the way I feel about this space, though they do let very welcome air and light into it.