Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Can We Be Taken Seriously?

I did it at some earlier point in my blog and I think most of us go through very introspective spells, during which we ask why we have a blog, why we write about the things we do and what we want to achieve through it. At least most of us with a blog do.

Now, as one of the "old timers" in the Sri Lankan blogosphere, which means that my blog has existed for over 4 weeks and that it's read by most of my family, I smile inwardly when I see someone else put out a "why do I blog" post. It's almost a right of ritual, invariably saying the same things that many of us have said, or thought at the least.

Lately though there's a lot of talk about Sri Lankan bloggers, seemingly ignited or fuelled by the session scheduled at the Galle Literary Festival to talk about bloggers and whether we should be taken seriously. I'm rather gutted that I won't be able to go to the GLF in a few weeks' time as I've spent many hours perusing the itinerary and have picked out many sessions that I'd dearly love to be at.

I hope that there'll be a GLF in 2009, it's a bit anal to plan that far ahead but I'm giving it a go anyway and have all but booked my flights.

My thoughts on blogging versus literature are like the average Sri Lankan politician's commitment and dedication to their party; confused, muddled and easily influenced by other people and money.

The Missing Sandwich put out this post recently that got my attention. Our red haired heroine asks

"I pose this to you - is a blog not a place for personal expression? Can I or can I not express my thoughts and musings on what I see/hear/read around me?"

And, even though she has asked a question, to me it summarises what so many blogs really are; merely a means of expressing our thoughts and musings, whatever they may be. The Missing S asks the question in the context of her post about a seemingly harsh attack on something she wrote. I think her question is an interesting one and my answer to it is simple; we have blogs and we (usually) allow anyone to comment on them. Therefore we have total control over what we write and what we publish but we give others the right to criticise us. We don't have to but we choose to.

But, back to the subject of writing and blogs. There are many that I read regularly, you can see links to most of them at the left of this post and their variety is one of the things that attracts me to each of them. Frankly I always feel in awe of people like Sach, Theena, Java and Lady Luck. These chaps have proper writing styles and techniques, they've been to colleges and Universities and learned how to write. Of course Java and Theena have had some chemical and herbal help as well.

I read the little nuggets that they post and marvel at their use of language and the way their minds work and the vocabularies they possess. My blog isn't one of those types at all. I'm like so many out there who just type words as we think them, I don't have a style of writing and I just write things as they zip into my head, largely in the same way I'd say them. Fortunately I'm occasionally a fucking funny bloke with childish tendencies, otherwise things would be pretty dull around here.

Since I started blogging all the things that I paid scant attention to in English at school have started to come back to me. Well they would have if I had paid any attention to them but it's just bits and pieces now. I do remember being taught about planning what you write, about beginnings and middles and those things at the end, I just don't know how to do them. So I think of something and jot some words down and see what comes of it. My blog currently contains about 35 posts that are at various stages of completion. I just bung words down when they come out, sometimes they get posted but often they don't.

Can we be taken seriously?

It's just inappropriate to categorise all blogs within one group and ask the question of the group. The quick answer is that some writers are good and some are crap. We take the ones that we like as serious and reject the others.

The bit I love about blogs, blogging and the blogosphere is also the bit I hate; that anyone can write anything and put it out there for all to read. It's all about choices.

I suppose we all have different aims and ideas for our blogs. Some may see their's as a stepping stone to getting published or to getting a "proper" writing job, some may see them as a means of advertising their services online, others may use it as a restrospective diary, some folks like to stimulate political discussion and intellectual debate. The fact is that blogs are brilliant means of achieving these things for anyone with access to a PC.

Mine is just an online outpouring of thoughts. I started it with one thing in mind; to keep things positive and not to slag other people off, which is two things I know.

In the back of my mind is a vague idea that, at some point in the future, some ancestors will stumble across my little piece of me in cyberspace. They'll read it and learn about me, my life and those around me.

I wish I'd listened to Mr Whittekind in English when he taught us about good endings.


Rumbling said...

Its not clear what you mean by being taken serious ? If you are talking about not many people reading your blog I think that has to do a lot with your content. You have a personnel blog covering lots of subjects. If you blog to a target niche you can have a lot more readers coming through. Then again I think this is a personnel blog your maintaining at your leisure so its your choice I guess.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

rumbling - I'm not sure myself what the term "taken seriously" actually means but it's the issue being discussed at the GLF.

I think you're correct about my blog merely being a personal record of things, but I've never set or chosen any objectives for it too. Like so many it's just an ongoing rambling.

Anonymous said...

Testing anon comment

Java Jones said...

No one be teachin Java how to write maan, dis sheet jus flows down dat stream, like I be tellin yo ass. Same as be happenin wit yo – we jus be tinkin in diffren styles an maybe dat vocabulary be helpin some. An dere’s no ‘plan’ eider. Tanks for dem compliments too.

An hey, you seem to be getting more readers than anyone else on kottu an Ach – if uo look at dem stats. Well done maan!

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Java- I'm as puzzled as anyone about the readers. I have visions on my Mum spending all day driving round to various people's houses and reading my blog.

Thanks though.

N (childof25) said...

Tough call on the being taken seriously...sometimes I write political/environmental stuff that is serious adn sometimes I write...well random stuff that is faar from serious....having the cake nad eating it too I guess?

I tend to respect bloggers who have opinions they can support with evidence, who can argue why they have those opinions out clearly and respect other's opinions...something I believe TMS has missed out on.

themissingsandwich said...

Thank you for answering my question RD. And must say, was very flattered to be called "our red haird heroine" :-) And in terms of being taken seriously and writing styles, I don't think that matters much as long as you write what you feel. Which you do so exceedingly well. As do Theena and everyone else whose blogs get a lot of attention. I think people read you for substance, way more than technique.

N : I guess I may have handled the whole situation badly, but in the case of respecting other opinions, I do. Very much. I'm very sorry if it came out the wrong way. Its just that when I write about something, I do so passionately and in the process I guess I forgot to tone down the harshness. But I won't deny that I wrote what I felt.

Theena said...

"Of course Java and Theena have had some chemical and herbal help as well."

Hehe. Now how earth did you come to that conclusion? :)

On topic: I think in time blogs will be treated very seriously worldwide. The mere fact that a prestigious public forum like the Galle Literary Festival is devoting time to discuss bloggers and blogs, I think, is a testament to their rising importance in public discourse.

Traditional media is realizing it as well; every major newspaper and magazine in the world now has a blog associated with it. In Sri Lanka, Daily Mirror has got the ball rolling and it’s only a matter of time before the other local publications jump on the bandwagon (as an aside, I’d love to read a Lakbima blog just for the hilarity of it all).

It's happening in the US and Europe. Heck, even the Middle East is beginning to realize the importance of blogs (refer Egyptian blogger and his YouTube videos documenting human rights violation by the government).

At the end of the day, though, context is important. A blog can only be as serious (in substance) as its owner allows it. If the blogger writes predominantly on esoteric – okay, inconsequential – subject matter (like raving about an album/artist he is listening to *ahem*) and then, out of the blue, writes a diatribe on matters of national/international interest, it would be hard to take that blogger/blog seriously. Such blogs are outlets for personal expression. Nothing more.

At the other end of the spectrum, blogs like Groundviews are, I believe, essential in hearing the many (often rarely heard) points of view on issues that need to be discussed. In this day and age where seemingly every traditional media organization has an ulterior motive, where it’s quite difficult to separate fact from hyperbole, it’s heartening to know that information origination is becoming decentralized; no more is it left for the traditional media to decide whether or not an item is or isn’t newsworthy.

I see that trend continuing and welcome it.

Pink Mist said...

I could be entirely wrong here, but methinks that perhaps the phrasing is the issue. its not a question of whether individual blogs/bloggers are to be taken seriously so much as whether blogging as a medium is to be taken seriously and regarded as mainstream in sl. It seems to be catching on. And from there you get all the subgroups - the nyt is read seriously, which one can hardly say for ..randomly picking here.. cleo [aussie].