Wednesday, October 1, 2008

On Journals and Journaling, Part 2: Vulnerability

So I'm diving through a bit of grad school trench warfare here, so I need to dive back down into the textual mud soon, but I wanted to complete this post, talking about the "reporting" aspect of journaling.

I became keenly aware of this aspect last week, when for my archival theory and practice class I had to treat some of my own papers as archival materials, and write an aid to guide them about it, and then write about both who might use them and reflect on the experience of having done that.

It's just interesting, viewing what is so often private as potential fodder for others in the future. I now totally empathize with T. S. Eliot's desire to have so many of his papers embargoed for so many years after his death. Makes sense when one thinks about being so vulnerable, or about hurting people in one's life through things said in one's less guarded moments when one was just venting.

All of this reminds me of the vulnerability associated with any kind of writing. I think this is because of the time-delay of response to written text (and the possibility of no response at all). It's often-discussed among writers, but seldom is discussed as the results of text in media studies/media ecology circles.

The thing is that this textual inheritance, I believe, has passed to much of our time-delayed electronic communications as well--without being able to see how our audience (intended, or unintended--as with future researchers) is responding to something like a Facebook status or blog post, we worry what they'll think of us, much like we did with pretty much everyone all the time in junior high. An age-old concern transposed to a new setting.

As electronic readers, I propose, we should keep this vulnerability in mind and respond accordingly, as much as we're able (considering the busyness of our lives, of course). As writers, I think we should chill out a bit, and keep our lives and our writings (of whatever kind) in perspective, and try to have a little faith, while still being aware that yeah, vulnerability is often scary and often has consequences, some of them good, some bad.


Barbara Martin said...

I arrived via Kevin Alexander's Commenting Adventure Part Deux.

Your take on the vulnerability of writers is correct in some circumstances, while in others not. My viewpoint is a writer who feels vulnerable is allowing themselves to be so. I tend to be objective toward other writers, especially bloggers, of which I am one.

All writers can be of benefit to other writers, and this is true of writers who blog. Each and every writer's blog contains information to assist another in some way; which this one is doing for me.

I will be returning to read your other posts.

Deborah Leiter said...

Barbara: Welcome and thanks for commenting. I can definitely see the informational side of the writing world, and some writers are certainly more sensitive than others to the question of vulnerability.

I suppose I'm speaking more of the vulnerability of putting one's work for other people to respond to than I am speaking of vulnerability of putting personal information out in the world (though that is certainly another consideration). My sensitivity to others' vulnerability in this respect would lead me to engage them in conversation about the content or form of their work, since I see that writing, particularly in online forms (including the blog), is an interpersonal form, in which it can feel awkward to be speaking with no awareness of people's response.

That doesn't mean I'd respond to everything I was reading, but I've tried to become more intentional lately about this form of participatory reading.

Anyway, I'm glad you're enjoying the blog, and I look forward to "seeing you around."