I don’t think for a moment that blogging is going away. In fact, I’m surprised by how quickly some folks seem to embrace that. (I wonder if it’s because blogging is hard. I’d like to give up plenty of hard things – but I won’t because they’re good for me.) Ryan Bretag writes that, unless "blogs evolve" then they’ll drift away. I don’t agree with him. In fact, in the spirit of constructive debate, and because I’ve got lots swirling around in my head at the moment, I’m happy to provide the constructive criticism that Ryan was seeking in his post.
In his piece, Ryan argues, on one front, that blogging is dying because we as a blogging community were never able to all agree on goals and objectives:
There are times when I ponder what the goal is for the edublogger
community. Obviously, there will be those that immediately move to the
power of blogging is that it is about the individual; it is about
whatever that person wants it to be about. While this is true, I would
hope the end goal for edubloggers is improving education and that the
goal of individual blogs or community blogs will focus on how they are
helping to achieve this larger community goal.
There are multiple problems here. The same assumptions that inform Ryan’s argument above are present in many of the important and interesting conversations taking place within my personal learning network now and in the past. Mostly, the assumption that’s troubling me so much is that there’s one group (community – whatever) out there that exists for educational conversation via electronic media, and that we should all try to engage and involve everyone in that one (fallacious) group so that we’re all friends and reading and commenting each other. And that we’ll all agree on where that group should go, when they should meet, and what we’ll all do when we get there. Or that we ever agreed in the first place.
Ain’t going to happen. Not now, not ever. Never did happen, in fact. We all construct our blogrolls, our Twitter friends, or our other social networking relationships for our benefit and to meet our own unique needs. That leads some folks to add everyone as a friend. Others, no one. And whichever way you want to go is fine for you – but please don’t require that I or anyone else goes with your system to meet our own needs.
However folks decide whom to add as a friend, a trusted source, or whatever, dictates to some degree which bits of the "conversation(s)" one receives. (And maybe it’s not even a "conversation" in the sense of the word that we’re all most familiar with. Bakhtin’s a good guy to get cozy with to follow this conversational, or dialogic, view of blogging. If there is such a thing. Yet. I’m still wrapping my head around this stuff – have been for a while.) So context itself gets funky in a network situation, leading to instances where, in my friend group, something would be totally okay, flattering, in fact, and in another, the same act would be a serious social violation. And different readers, responding to different network contexts (because every one of our networks is unique), will react differently to the "same" information. Add in the fact that a piece of my network exists inside of a piece of yours, or vice versa, or used to, or soon will, and things get messy pretty quickly.
Despite the fact that this makes for some seriously complex audience(s) analysis every time one puts fingers to keyboard (or at least, I hope that it does for you – sure does for me), I hope it’s pretty clear that there is no such thing as "one" edublogosphere. I used to think that perhaps there was – probably before I started blogging in 2005 – but there’re too many of "us" and so it becomes more than impossible to keep track of it all. That’s a good thing, once we recognize the reality.
It’s actually dangerous to believe that we can stay on top of all of the information. Some do better than others, of course, but I don’t know that there’s any one person that’s got all of the necessary information for world domination at their fingertips. (Sorry, Steve. – And that’s a reference to an inside joke that you’d only understand if you’d been reading Steve Dembo’s Twitter stream for the last several months.) One stance I’d urge folks to consider, if they haven’t already, is that we can and should accept that there’s plenty we’re going to miss, lots of it quite good, but that we’re doing no one a service by trying to read everything or make declarations about the "proper social norms" of the "edublogosphere." Since there’s not "one" and we’re all a little bit different, then lots of the "we musts" only make sense in particular contexts.
And there’re plenty of contexts to go around.
Other people, smarter people than myself, have attempted to explain this before. Stephen Downes, for one, continues to be helpful to my understanding of just how wicked complex such a simple act, that of blogging, is.
But I certainly don’t get it. At all. I’m still fumbling along, as best as I can – and that’s a good thing.
This will sound horribly selfish, and I’m overstating it just a bit for emphasis, so I hope it’s taken with the grain of salt that it deserves – but I’m not writing or reading or thinking for the benefit of all mankind, no matter how selflessly I say otherwise. I’m doing it for me, for my personal learning and attempt at understanding. Now, there’s a certain benefit for others if I’m able to better teach, to better serve my students, or the grown ups with whom I work. But they are not the primary beneficiaries of my labors.
Like I said – that sounds selfish, and there’s certainly a large piece of me who works in this space because I believe in the value of sharing and collaboration. Heck, I’m a teacher because I believe that education helps to make a difference in peoples’ lives. The paradox of "the edublogosphere" is that sometimes, the best thing I can do to build community/group/network capacity is to serve me, myself and I and trust that such self-service will be of use to others. I’ve seen time and time again that it can be.
(I’ve also seen that Ryan’s probably right about folks’ desire to be in agreement with people rather than in conflict about ideas, but that’s another blog post.)