It’s interesting to see the way that some writers reflect on their writing process and the meaning of the journalism work they do in a blog form…and also how this relates to the difficulty of classifying blogs as narrative types.  This musing is from  Elizabeth Withey at the Emonton Journal, who in the same weeks wrote about topics as diverse as being a bridesmaid and Edmonton provincial politics: 

I’m having trouble writing about all my Ontario adventures last week because I feel preoccupied and distressed about the situation in the Middle East. Everything I’d write about — the humidity, the dizzying (and nauseating) abundance of multi-coloured Crocs footwear, the wine sampling in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the sour milk I accidentally drank at the CN Tower — seems so trivial. I can’t imagine going on summer vacation with my family only to find myself stuck abroad in a war zone, terrorized by air raids, unable to get to safety until the government came to rescue me.

In some ways the blog form reminds me of the emergence of the novel as a literary genre, in the sense that suddenly there is a proliferation of personal detail and personal consciousness available through that form.  And it’s neat that so many journalists manage both to do “straight” commentary about politics mixed with personal musings. 


Bruns on ‘user’

July 6, 2006

Bruns explores this topic in the conclusion of Gatewatching:  from user to ‘produser.’  

The first casualty of openness is the idea of journalistic objectivity. “  (Bruns – in Gatewatching)

Brun’s view this is a good thing because as Chomsky states, the global media “permit, indeed encourage spirited debate, criticism and dissent, as long as these remain faithfully in the system of presuppositions and principles that constitute an elite consensus, a system so powerful as to be internalized largely without awareness.”     I think here about the roots of the word consensus – sharing together some kind of feeling.  This is interesting to me because the common use of the word focusses on sharing an idea and an agreement as if we are speaking of assenting to parameters or norms [ideas in the mind, rationally agreed upon precepts].  But I hadn’t so much considered the role of feeling in this –  consensus as rather a common agreement to barricade one’s vantage to only be able to see, hence feel certain things.  Confessional J-blogs…

Narrative addiction

July 6, 2006

“Interactivity…reduces our dependency on fixed narratives while giving us the tools and courage to develop narratives together.”    (excerpted from Douglas Rushkoff, Open Source Democracy: How Online Communication is Changing Offline Politics, in Axl Bruns’ Gatewatching).

I wonder what it means to be dependent on a narrative structure — socially, politically, existentially, spiritually.   I think it’s a reality but it’s almost unimaginable how western culture could be transported to a place where unfinished narratives are as satisfying as finished narratives.  Some people might argue that this happened centuries ago, but this doesn’t change the fact that the culture industry (including les medias) make their millions off of closed narrative structures with closure — the modern cohesive subject seeing one thing, reporting.  

“When the one becomes two, what will you do?”   I read this saying in the Gospel of Thomas — people have been asking that for a long time, since the very foundations of a monolithic synthesizing teleological narrative in western culture, but it’s been shunted to the side.   

Many days, I read the paper and I think “what a great lede,” and in the next moment, I think, “why does this story need to be cast so dualistically?”  There is something so compelling, yet so forgetful in the kind of mindless addiction in the kind of rush one gets reading a great lede that just pulls you to resolve the question and finish the A section before work.  I think of Sherlock Holmes: this great detective compelled by clues to find the end resolution was also the opium addict;  the flip underbelly of his scientific precision and chain linking of events, those shadows of crime, the history and back story that won’t be named that in some stories keep him bound to his couch in a haze.  I tend to think of Holmes the individualist racing about and solving things, and in so many ways that kind of detective is the also the reporter archetype — yet in those books, Watson’s voice illuminating the cost to Holmes’ being as as much of the story as Holmes’ detective work.  

Usually I think this when the lede has that pattern of “y thought that z would be the case, but y never knew a.”   Then I ask myself, “How would I write that under deadline in the same news context in a different way?” and I have absolutely no idea.  I don’t know if the daily news context affords that kind of possibility of creating different kinds of stories? 



Sports media watchdog

July 4, 2006

More notes towards the “can’t exactly classify blogs” sense – James Mirtle does mostly hockey commentary but here there’s some media watch:

Abby and I were talking about the “user” issue.  She mentioned that she sees “reader” as being passive whereas a user takes something, crafts it, produces it, responds to it. 

My background as an adult education literacy worker & a journo I think means that I have come to see reading as very active – in the literacy worker context, reading IS making meaning, is coming to the place where one is able to voice one’s needs, aims, and understand oneself as a social, involved, engaged, heard being — but surely, that isn’t the experience of those who have been forced to learn to read, and who found no pleasure or acceptance in it.

In the literacy work I did in Sask. women’s prison all that became clear to me.  A lot of women had terrible experiences with reading because they associated it with being forced to learn English and abandon their Aboriginal language.  So there was a lot of waiting and letting the person drive things and that was my own learning about reading. 

In the best-case scenario there, the “reading” context wasn’t only learning what the words on the page mean in a closed circuit between letters and a person’s mind; the reading also involved trying to create a context of mutuality and support between myself as a teacher (teacher-learner) and the learner (learner-teacher).  Sometimes it worked– one day Angelique would announce, “I’m ready to learn philosophy — what you learned in school, show me…..” [“What was wrong with them?  They sound like very unhappy men, wandering around Greece, abandoning their people.”]; or Lori said, “I’d like to do a project on wolves,” or Angela remembered Neil.

Other days, just mistakes, resentment, bitter power relations, starting to talk a lot softer.   

Witnessing that reading of words, or the refusal and despair about reading words, the cultural baggage around English, all the emotions around the learning, the entrhrallment of learning to read words that meant something to oneself, also became reading people in a new way.   [The technique we used for learning to  read was that the learner would narrate their life story.  It would be written down and then typed up in large print.  It became the text for learning to write and read new words].   

That context reminds me always of an interview w. James Baldwin: Interviwer:  “Before you knew you were a writer, who did you think you were?”  Baldwin:  “A witness.  A very despairing witness.”   I think this is about not only professional writers, but all of us in our ability to act on the world with language — before you knew you had the power to describe and name things back to the world, who did you think you were?   

My issue with the “user” is around a sense of consuming and commodifying what one is receiving so it is automatically categorized, numbered.    To me there’s a sense of closed circuit between the individual and the object being taken up.  

But I can see how just as easily, someone might make this argument about reading — Abby noted that reader can sound like a closed circuit betwen a person and a text.     

What would be the words to name that kind of activity….


June 28, 2006

Every article i am reading is rife with this word and it’s starting to really grate on me. Maybe some of us still want to be READERS?  Not USERS?  I feel like the lead character in that British series, The Prisoner:  “I am not a number. I’m a free man.”

There is something so, yes, obviously utilitiarian about this vision of a way of being in the world.   Where is the sense of inner understanding…agency….attentiveness…hearing….co-creation…..becoming human with this type of mode?  Did the idealistic journos of the past go to the line to bring into being a world of….users…..? It brings out such the hard core, anti-enlightenment medieval anchoress always trapsing barefoot to Italy inside me…– what about my hazelnut — ?       

On the one hand, this seems Orwellian to me, though reflected in contemporary contexts where it seems the internet is consulted as the omniscient source.  [Not Orwellian in the sense of Wigan Pier – in the sense of 1984].  The dirth of eyewitness and personal accounts of things, the distance of news discourse from events themselves, the filtering of levels of government, “media events.”   Quoting from Hartley, a short history of cultural studies, quoted in Bruns:

“Hartley describes this [gatewatching]filtering guiding work as ‘redaction,’ the social function of editing,’: it means “bringing materials together, mixing ingredients to make something new- a creative process in its own right.”  Where redactional practices are used, he writes, “reporting is the processing of existing discourse.  But redactional journalism is not dedicated to the same ends as public-sphere journalism inherited from previous media; it doesn’t have the same agenda-setting function for public affairs and decision making as does traditional editing by editors (which is why I am avoiding the more familiar term.'”

On the other hand – something about this explication of reporting is linked to earlier notions of memory, rhetoric, reading [legere, gathering].  Picking, gathering what is known to be in existence: the world of ideas is already contained, finite:  a finite number of representations or parts of the real that the person re-arranges.  St. Paul, etc: One’s prowess as rhetor in the particularlity of the arrangement, not in the originality.

But google isn’t all the elements of the universe – it only seems that way.  If we believe it to be so – how is this kind of technology shaping our view of possibilities, horizons [lonergan notion – “the field is the universe, but my horizon defines my universe”].

The place of the modern scientific notions of objectivity in this?

One interesting thing I’ve observed in reading all old CBC lockout blogs and up to date blogs is the commentary about journalism, objectivity and observation. 

During the lockout one journalist writes that he just couldn’t get into the picketing because for his whole journalistic career he’s been trained to be an observer.   So what would it mean for a journalist to start marching in the Labour Day parade?   Those musings are found:

The radio host from Roots and Wings, Philly Markovitz writes extensively about her support for Jim Loney and the CPT during the abduction:

Finally, this interesting comment from a B.C. CBC TV journalist during the lockout:

“It’s television aimed at the politics of pleasing annual mandate, development and regionalism reports. But BROAD casting, it ain’t. Most of the people working on the program(s) don’t watch. Yet they are the first to defend the ideas and principles of what we are doing. There must be a connection between viewing (listening/reading) and mandate. And we have to get back to that place (in TV, we’ve rarely been there).”

Is there something about the formal environment of institutions like the CBC that makes it difficult or impossible to really take risks with ideas?  Is there something in blogging that helps people break out of those formal ways of thinking?  

I can’t help but draw an analogy here with the experience of theolgians with the church.   It is amazing to me how much the discourse around the CBC among journalists is almost identical to discourse about the church among theolgians.  

Everybody hopes to belong to it to fulfill some kind of broad service and vocation to the public, the past, and the future, but nobody feels that the structure really represents the authentic voice of the people….in both cases the sign of commitment seems to be a lament for a deeper transformation.      


Whiteness and blogging

April 18, 2006

This article synopsis by Kathleen Ethel Welch (Uni. of Iowa) contains some fascinating ideas about how blogging is breaking down traditional spheres – and in this, how it may lead to challenging whiteness and /or journalism as a traditionally racialized white practice.