Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Getting an Audience, or Why It's OK to be a Big Whore

Over at Leuschke I managed to get fingers typing madly with my post of yesterday.  I posted a comment over there in response, so I won't repeat myself about that here.  However, reading what the others in the blogosphere had to say in the course of the discussion got me thinking about whether this blog is

a. A "true" version of myself in "real" life. 

(I should note here that I think that the notion of a "true" self is a bunch of crap, and, actually, that "truth" itself is constructed.  I know, I'm a dupe of poststructuralist theory, but it's really hard not to be after years of graduate training and after seeing the way that it enables one to justify nearly any stupid actions and/or things one might say.)

b. A character I've constructed in order to "get an audience."

Ok, where do I begin?  First of all, I'm not sure whether it matters if I'm one or the other.  But, for the sake of inquiry, let's say it does.  And let's say that I can give an answer to which I am that isn't completely ambiguous.  First, let's address whether I'm "real" or whether I'm a character:

I think the best answer I can give is that this blog constitutes a performance of the self that I give in my personal life with close friends (many of whom are not academics) mixed with the performance of the self that I give in a more collegial setting, but with colleagues with whom I am more friendly than collegial.  In other words, is this the unfiltered me?  Of course not.  Or, rather, parts of the unfiltered me seep through, but that is not the bulk of what the blog is.  Instead, I guess, I'm constructing a version of myself through which to explore a certain range of my current preoccupations. 

This, however, does nothing to answer the question of whether I'm writing salacious posts in order to "get an audience."  Hmmm.  This is a difficult question.  If I'm going to be honest, I've got to admit that I want an audience, and that I want to entertain people, and that I want people to tell people about my blog.  The great thing about a blog is that you get immediate response - you know how people respond to you and you know that people are in fact responding.  This is a pleasure compared to the constant postponement of response in my academic life.  But am I writing what I'm writing in order to "get an audience"?  Am I the equivalent of The National Enquirer?  And, if I'm The National Enquirer, or maybe more appropriately Britney Spears, am I engaging in crazy behavior in order to support The Chronicles of Dr. Crazy?  Or, even more sinister, am I just making shit up?

Well, I'm not making shit up.  And I don't think I'm doing crazy things to facilitate Dr. Crazy, as I've been doing crazy things for years.  But am I writing about the crazy things in order to get an audience?  Am I whoring myself for attention, even if that attention is only going to a persona I've created?  Oh, hell.  Who am I kidding.  Of course I am!  Who of us isn't?  I mean, yes, it's not the primary reason that most people do this or start to do this (unless one is a total narcissist, which I may be) but don't we all like that we have readers?  Don't we all like that people pay attention to what we have to say about what is often mundane shit that even real-life people who know us aren't interested in? 

I should probably note that I actually keep a journal and have since I was around 12, so I don't think the blog fulfills that function.  Nevertheless, I think that journal writing also has this component of needing an audience, even though it's technically supposed to be "private."  I don't really believe that there is such a thing as "private" writing; I think there is always a desire for an audience or an audience for whom we write (even if that audience is only imaginary).  Otherwise, why bother?  A great novel that sort of gets at all of this - the significance of naming, writing for a reader, the idea of the author, etc. - is Patricia Duncker's Hallucinating Foucault. 
So yes.  I guess what I'm saying is that I am, to some degree, whoring my life experiences in order to get a readership.  But, as they are my experiences, isn't that my prerogative?

(Speaking of whoring, perhaps I should call up colleague-from-earlier-in-the-summer and see if he wants to have a drink?  We technically "broke up" - even though we weren't boyfriend/girlfriend - but I really would like to celebrate finishing my chapter, and what better way than to bang somebody I work with?  The only glitch would be if he's off watching the convention with socialists or something [he's annoyingly political].)

Yeah, I had two thoughts like this. First, who the fuck cares if you are making shit up? I mean, really? I haven't read the Leuschke stuff yet--heading over there afterwards, see how late it is? ugh--but jeez, the question of whether you are a big fictionalizing attention whore or "really" like this persona is un peu judgmental and misogynist, methinks. If anyone's asking that over there, which I don't yet know.

The other thing that has crossed my mind about the Leuschke comment thread is how long it is. And yet the blogs to which he is referring get very few comments, only from a small group of ppl who seem to be already blog-friends. This is fine with me--I like my blog friends and my comments make me happy--but I have indeed wondered why all the comments *about* these various anonymous blogs, including yours and mine, are taking place on someone else's blog. You know?
Interesting questions about what constitutes "private" writing -- and also about what the appeal of reading blogs is anyway. I think it's that blend of the constructed and the apparently private - - and the ability to "overhear" the conversations of, say, a group of blog buddies who communicate as if only to each other, but in front of all the rest of us.
Professor B.: I agree that all of this commenting happening on somebody else's blog is a bit discomfiting - I mean, it's fine, but I suspect the tone of the debate might be different if it weren't all over at Leuschke. One reason (apparently) that the comments on my blog happened over there is because the comment-function on my page in blogger wasn't working right when Graham tried to respond over here.

Mel: I definitely agree about the seductiveness of the-constructed-that-is-apparently-private. This is why (however many posts ago) I linked the pseudo-/anon-ymous tendency in blogging to pornographic writing. This is exactly the way that 18th/19th century (literary) porn is structured - often written in the 1st person, lots of claims about telling a "true" story of a "private" world, appealing to the reader's voyeurism and desire for a kind of intimacy. Interestingly, what these texts also do is draw attention to the economic consequences not only of sex but also of writing in the marketplace - I haven't worked this all out in my head yet, but there does seem to be a certain sort of economy at work in blogging, too - albeit more diffuse because it is even more "mass" than the "mass reproduction" after the printing press.... Hmm. Must think more on this.
You Wrote:

"If I'm going to be honest, I've got to admit that I want an audience, and that I want to entertain people, and that I want people to tell people about my blog"

Very cool and transparent, isn't it funny that more Bloggers aren't like this??

Take care,
Right on. I have been of this mindsent for a long time and I think this blog is right on the money.

keep it up.
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