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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Blog-itation exercise

Steven Johnson ("Use the Blog, Luke") got a good bit of attention last year upon publication of his book Everything Bad Is Good For You. Steven Shaviro, a professor at Wayne State University, offered a in-depth and balanced review of the book last May, beginning with this overview:

As its title and subtitle indicate, Everything Bad Is Good For You is a polemical defense of the value of contemporary popular culture. Johnson contests the all-too-often repeated claims that American popular culture is vile and debased, that it appeals to the lowest common denominator, that it is all about sensationalistic exploitation and dumbing down. He argues, instead, that popular culture is actually making us smarter, in ways that can even be quantified by intelligence tests and the like. Johnson’s method of analysis is basically McLuhanesque; that is to say, he pays attention to the medium rather than the message; or (in the Deleuze/Guattari terms that he cites briefly in an appendix) to what works of popular culture do rather than what they mean, what connections they make rather than what symbols they deploy, or what ideologies they express. Rather than lamenting any alleged decline from print/books/literature to the various multimedia modes in vogue today, he asks the McLuhanite question of how these new media engage us, what modes of perception, action, and thought they appeal to and incite, and how this makes for a qualitative difference from print/literary sensibilities.


What do new media forms *do* to us? How do they work on our brains, on our emotional states? Asking these questions presume that spending time interacting with a new media will *do* something to you: it can even make you smarter!

With that assumption in mind, I would like to encourage you in your blogging to try out new things. My fellow writing teacher blogger, Jeff Rice, (also, coincidently, at Wayne State) recently published a short essay arguing that blogging as a medium demands experimentation: none of us really knows what a blog is. We have to play around to figure out what can be done. He cites Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow's group blog, as an example of the good things that can happen when you let yourself experiment:

Some of the most provocative and exciting weblogs are, in fact, those that experiment with content and form: Boing Boing’s daily juxtapositions of Internet oddities and current events, Warren Ellis’ s explorations of fetish, comic book culture, sci-fi, and related topics, Oliver Wang’s Soul-Sides, an archival replay of forgotten soul tracks (and which incorporates music into the blogging experience), dETROITfUNK’s photographic exploration of Detroit’s ruins, forgotten sites, and surprising charms, Wonderland’s mixture of game related and consumer items, and Drawn’s highly visual, daily updates of cartoon and graphic art developments are but a few blogs functioning in a fairly experimental manner. By experimentation, and not by seriousness, they explore how blogging may change or enhance their interests.


With the goal of experimenting and potentially positively effecting the way you relate to the onslaught of information represented on the web, I would like to ask you to spend part of classtime today composing an experimental series of posts. You can mimic what Boing Boing does, or you can do something else. Whatever it is, make it unlike any of your previous posts in the way it manipulates the medium of blogging.

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