Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Blogging (Again)

I sip a Dr. Brown's root beer, munch on a handful of cheddar cheese goldfish, wait for my chicken and herb dumpling Progesso soup to heat in the microwave, and ponder the impact of blogging and Google on life. In the past two days I have received unexpected communication from famous and infamous people because of what I put on Glass Incarnate. I write a couple of names out there on one of the pages in the billions and billions of stars in the anonymous ether(net), and lo and behold, the owners of the names know! (Do you think if I write 'Mel Gibson' he will know? Not that it matters. He has gone downhill since Lethal Weapon when he sauntered to the fridge in his altogethers.)

(Side Note: I was in graduate school at the University of Chicago when that movie came out on vhs--there was no stinkin' dvd then--and Karen Deaton and I were watching it as we prepared mounds of little Greek appetizers for the annual linguistic society conference. When the Mel-to-the-fridge scene came on we scrambled for the remote and made him walk up and back and up and back and up and back. Mel does his own buttwork you know. He doesn't use a stunt butt.)

Back to Important Things. I work alone. I do not commute or go to an office of any kind. The only times I make it out of the house/studio are to take Jessie to school in the morning, to drop off work at a gallery (once a month or so) and to drop pieces off at Dixie Glass Hoppers to be drilled (again about once a month). So while other people interact around the 21st century water cooler, my sole window to other people and the world until Dave gets home is the internet.

Before blogging, I obsessively read news and human interest stories on CNN.com. (Another side note: if there is something weird that happens in the country, e.g., a story with the headline "Girl Found Running Naked in the Street: Victim of a Failed Exorcism"-- the location will be Atlanta or France. Really.) I cheered when the whale was safely carried out of the Thames and cried when it died anyway. I think one of Dave's biggest concerns on arriving home everyday was what I had read during the day which would affect my mood (and thus our evening).

Women of previous times (and still now I suppose) in similar situations to mine (often they were called housewives, now they are family managers or some such) watched tv. In both the CNN.com and soap opera (pardon me, 'daytime drama') scenarios the relationship is one-sided--everything flows in one direction with complete disregard for and disinterest in the participants on one side by the other (I am sure the whale-rescuers never even had a hint of my existence).

I also IM, but that activity is more analogous to talking on the phone (see women of previous times above). When I was a teenager and there was one phone in the house (same style as at left) I would lay in the hallway outside my bedroom door, which was as far as the cord would reach, and talk for hours to my best friend or the boyfriend du jour. Now I hate to talk on the phone. When the phone rings I regard it as an interruption, a nuisance and I usually can't wait to get off it. My mother might disagree with this as I still call her every couple of days. I have set her up with IM but it's not much use as she still has a dial-up modem and so is not often on-line. And we email, but there are times (many of them) that I just want to talk to my Mom. Dave and I do not talk well on the phone together.

I like IM'ing because it is the perfect multi-tasking communication medium: I can IM as many people at a time as I could wish and I rarely type the wrong thing on the wrong screen. And I can type something or someone can type something to me, an if the recipient doesn't type back right away, it's ok. The phone does not work like that, you have to keep the conversation flowing.

But, really, IM'ing is still just an alternative form of an existing communication technology. Blogging is a whole 'nother animal of a different color. When I blog I do so with the knowledge/hope/expectation that someone else will read what I wrote. When it is someone I know--my husband, family, old friends, etc.--the experience exists within the parameters that I expect from communication. But when someone else comes in and reads and comments, the standard dynamic no longer works. Then the experience becomes more like talking at a party, having a random stranger overhear you and chime into the conversation. I like it when that happens.

I have not been blogging for that long. But I have already made cyber-connections that have become as real to me as the friend and acquaintanceships I maintain in the real world. Yeah I know, this from a woman who got all excited about the kidnapped penguin in Britain and followed the story for days (do you know the parents just had another chick?). I read their blogs (the cyber-connections, not the penguins), they read mine. I comment on theirs, they comment on mine. We interact in this dystemporal way, and as time passes, I begin to count them as friends. I value their feedback and opinions, and I look forward to sharing with them.

Where am I going with this? I have no clue. I can see the edges of a Bigger Idea, but I haven't fleshed it out yet. I feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle: There have been other cyber activities which encourage the forging of relationships and/or exchanging of ideas which essentially passed me by--e.g., chat rooms, online dating, online gaming, sim worlds, and most discussion groups. I occasionally post on WarmGlass.com, but I do not read the posts daily or even monthly. I usually only go there when I need to find or share technical information because otherwise it is too much and too big. It would take all my time to keep up with what everyone was writing and it would be, well, boring. Unlike blogging (which I am defining for my purposes as the activity of writing, reading and posting comments on blogs) which can be as intimate or as social as the blogger wishes, as big or as small.

So I dwindle the post to its end and I mull over my thoughts. I have no conclusions other than blogging is a cyber activity that is different than other cyber activities and interesting to me. It is a new form of communication rather than an updated version of an old form. You are never too old to learn how, and it is never too late to start. Now I just need to get my Mom to post her comments on the blog entries on the blog itself rather than sending them to me in email...

4 comments:

Jodi said...

"If there is something weird that happens in the country...the location will be Atlanta or France.

I've heard a theory that it's Germany or Florida!

I hate the phone too, but like to IM, even if it's a "hi, how are you" and that's it. I do use the phone to talk to my sister and mom who don't IM or email much.

Chris said...

Most of my blogging feels more like I'm writing to myself although I think I have a dedicated readership of around 5 people now (thanks guys!).

I have a core group of friends from high school that are scattered around the country (mostly in the southeast) and we regularly correspond via e-mail - probably exchanging from 1-50 e-mails per day. Some of them (even the ones who live in Huntsville) I don't see face-to-face or talk to on the phone very often, but we still feel very connected. They don't comment often on my blog. Most of the blog communications (via comments) are from people that I've never met face-to-face.

I am also active on a few forums, notably NikonCafe.com. Even though that forum has thousands of users around the world, I have met a dozen or more people from that forum in real life since they regularly schedule photo-shoots and social get togethers or I've just ran into the local members while out shooting pictures of bald eagles or something. One member from Arizona stopped by Huntsville while he was in the state on business and he and several of the local members went out to dinner. It's always weird meeting people you only know online in "the real world".

Bill Paley said...

Dear, you missed the phenomenon of BBSs back a decade or more ago; when folks would do things similar to blogging and have discussions with a number of local people similar to what's happening with blogs.

However, we have a large number of friends locally who blog, and therefore we keep up with what they are up to, and keep in communication more easily. It also allows us to be more active socially with this same group.

Wait until some of your neighbors find your blog...

Barbara Muth said...

Electronic community fascinates me. My first introduction to an electronic community was in the early nineties (before I had Windows) - a bulletin board for people all struggling with the same issue. It was fascinating how real these people all became to me. I never met any of them IRL.

From there I discovered mudding – text-based roleplayer gaming online – in a world based on a series of fantasies I had read. It was a world in itself. I made some friends there, met a few in real life. One of them one day sent me a message that he thought we would make a good couple. Knocked me right out of my socks, I had no clue. We met IRL and today he is my husband. I am one of the lucky ones.

Today I have a small group of friends and a larger group of acquaintances who come from the world of glass artists, the majority of whom I met online long before meeting them in person (if ever). I count my life rich because of the wealth of interactions that the internet has given me.

But I don’t IM. I tried it once or twice and abandoned it. Invariably someone I didn’t want to chat with would see me online and start bonbarding me with messages. If I didn’t answer I heard their complaints later. If I did answer then I had to do what I didn’t want to do at that time – chat. It’s just too distracting and interruptive (is that a word?) for me. Besides, I am a way faster thinker and speaker than I am a typist.

What I like about blogging is that it’s easier to journal when I have an audience. I process ideas out loud in conversation, not on paper. Blogging affords me a certain amount of anonymity when I process "aloud". And people who connect with the ideas can comment without being in my face about it. Plus I love that it has introduced me to fascinating people like you...