Blogs are widely embraced as a tool that has revolutionized publishing on the web. It’s easy and it’s fun to keep a blog, two elements that are always attractive. I like blogs, but what I’m going to write about in this essay is a way in which I think blogs don’t work; or, at least, a way in which blogs didn’t work in my teaching in the way I tried to allow it to happen. Just to telegraph my points clearly: First, and I only want to touch on this point briefly, I learned that the logic extreme of the “student-centered classroom” doesn’t work that well, even with electronic tools that you would think would facilitate it and even in a class of advanced students who you would think would know better.
Second and more importantly, web log technologies like blogger are designed to be single-authored online journals, dynamic sites that nonetheless publish static texts written by one person. While this sort of writing has a place in writing classes (and I’ll talk about that too in my presentation), I don’t think it is a substitute for the dynamic and conversational exchange made possible by a rather “old fashioned” technology, email—specifically, a listserv-style mailing list discussion.
(Here I gave a brief description of the class I discussed, “English 517: Rhetoric and Culture of Cyberspace.”) Here’s the description I gave to my students about the blog writing project:
“For this project, students will break into groups and, collaboratively, create a blog on a topic of group interest and one that makes connections to the subjects of the class in the broadest possible ways. We’ll be using the “blogger” interface, which is linked to the class home page. It’s quite easy to use, so I am...
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...s an important point to make because a lot of the blogs that I’ve seen and heard about recently seem to be that: porting over the discussion of a mailing list over to a blog space.
I think that ultimately, most blogs work best as single-authored and/or static texts. There is a reason why they are often called online journals or diaries. And even while it is very possible to have a multi-authored blog of sorts (I’m thinking of kairosnews or hotwired, for example), these sites are more or less wire services, they aren’t “collaborative” in the sense of people writing texts together, and they aren’t really “dynamic” in the sense of exchange of ideas and discussion with each other.
I don’t know if I really have much of a conclusion to offer beyond this. Blogs are great spaces for electronic publishing, but they are not a substitute for electronic discussion.
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