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State of the Blogora Address

I don't know that I ever made the conscious decision to restrict my blogroll to the "one name, one blog" kind of list that it's turned out to be lately. Whatever the reason, it's kept me from throwing down a link to the Blogora, a cooperative effort from the Rhetoric Society of America, the CWRL at Texas, and Jim Aune, Diane Davis, and Rosa Eberly, an effort that's been taking place for the last month or so.

Anyhow, in honor of Webster's inclusion of "blog" in their next iteration (and in grand meta fashion, a decision which has been blogshausted over the last week), Rosa offers some "state of the Blogora" questions and reflections:

What's "a public blogspace for and about rhetoric and rhetoricians" supposed to be? What's it supposed to DO? How is and could The Blogora be different from other blogs? And how might The Blogora (need to) be the same?

For one, and despite its limitations, The Blogora is more collaborative and public than most blogs. At least that was our intent, despite the structural limitations of the best blogging software we could find.

I have my own feelings about the appropriateness of top-down sorts of designs in blogspace, but I'll let them fade while I respond to the second para here. My gut response to these claims is, of course, yes and no. (and yes, nes and yo.) The idea that any blog is more public than another strikes me as a category mistake, but Rosa goes on to suggest that

Many are autobiographical. Until recently, most blogs involved "expressive" and "personal" rather than "argumentative" or "deliberative" and "public" topoi and tropoi.

and while I think that this is dubious at best, I understand the point she's making. If I'm allowed to talk about the early days of blogging (despite not having been there myself), I'd argue that regularly updated lists of links are themselves implicit arguments (this has value), deliberative (you should visit), and public (this is worth sharing beyond myself). Check out Jill on links and power if you don't believe me, or reflect for a few minutes on just why comment/ping spammers are so damn persistent. This type of argument has more to do with network literacy, though, and ultimately combines the expressive and argumentative in ways that we're still coming to grips with.

Network literacy raises questions about collaboration as well, our model for which tends to be multiple authors and single texts. So is a weblog collaborative if there's more than one person posting there? Again, yes and no. Yes in the obvious ways, but "collaboration" in blogspace is more than that. For instance, I cannot send a trackback ping to Rosa's entry, much as I'd like to. I don't claim to have collaborated with her on the entry, but trackbacks enable a collaboration that's distributive; they encourage a conversational engagement that I take to be one of the most productive forms of collaboration, similar in kind perhaps to citation, but of a far more immediate degree. Or, to take another example, my blogroll is not perhaps a direct act of collaboration, but it provides a symptom of the influences on my own blogging, and in a way that's more immediate to me than saying I'm influenced by the work of Barthes or Burke. Implicitly or explicitly, these are the people with whom I collaborate in the production of knowledge (whether they like it or not--heh.). I was going to say that collaboration online is more than production or invention, that it's also distribution and circulation, but I'd tweak that slightly, saying instead that circulation becomes a form of production in blogspace.

I don't have any answers for the questions that Rosa asked, although I suppose that there are some implicit answers buried here, and probably not too far from the surface. One such is that there are some subtle ways that I'd re-ask those questions--at the least, I'd interrogate the questions a little bit more. To be fair, that's one of the things that I think Rosa is calling for--I don't mean to sound as critical here as I probably do. That is all.


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I said a little about the Blogora's separation from the network a while ago on Kairosnews and made the same observation about trackback. Since my Knews post they've added a list of links similar to a blogroll with a few blogs on it, so I guess it takes time. :-)

Ya, I of course agree about the expressive/argumentative distinction. This is simply a print based distinction. Ulmer's whole point in Internet Invention is that rhetoric (argument) in electracy happens in a more "personal" (expressive) manner. The distinction just doesn't hold in the new medium. And I of course think circulation is a form of production/invention as well. Nicely put.