Saturday, January 22, 2005
Been trying to think of a way to explain the intellectual level of my posts for ages. It became apparent - though not easily expressed - I was somehow, without being conscious of it exactly, writing to an intelligent sixth former [= High school high flier] (myself when I was younger?) or first year undergraduate. Even the links, which admittedly can be used for later reference by me to go over old topics, are put there with this in mind: for an averagely intelligent reader (who is to say what the author's intellectual capacities are? He may be deliberately downplaying his intellectual capacities by using simpler language) to see some of the sources of my ideas: to be able to follow the arguments through - such as there are any - from other authors' writing; to seek out the other sources from which the post's arguments might have come, addiing them later. A hint of the pedagogue, I fear.
The 30-minute Rule
....suggested to me by Brian. It is that up to 30 minutes after posting something you are allowed to alter it. Which I think is reasonable. Certainly, in my case, it is only after I have published something that I start to notice the spelling mistakes, typos, missing words etc. Often it is only then that you find how it truly looks. Usually you find that new line breaks have magically appeared and old ones have (equally magically) disappeared.
What I don't think is reasonable is either changing the wording or the meaning - especially the meaning. If you didn't mean it you have to retract it either through a new posting or an update (which I think is OK).
If you are thinking about the integrity of a diary which is kept under the bed, locked, this view of immutability is understandable. But this, actually, is just an image. Diaries are always a source of embarassment. Who, writing in pencil, does not alter or delete a few words or phrases later? Are not dated comments added to old diaries or commonplace books? Circumstances change. A very big and interesting set of questions: why do we write diaries? Who are they for? What happens when we change our views? Are we prepared to leave our old notions open for public viewing? Or, are we intent on maintaining the currently accepted view of ourselves, our ideas, hopes, desires, dreams, ambitions? If the last is true, then we either keep our diaries and other writings to ourselves, throw them away or confine them to he flames, or finally not write them in the first place.
Our opinions change, so our digital posts will change because they can be changed, quickly and easily. In some cases, since not wanting to add new posts to deal with the same topic, I add text (dated, of course) to an old post. What harm have I done? Sometimes it is simply a case of not having thought it through carefully before posting, and realising a flaw in the argument later; sometimes, a new fact appears. In the long run, which is better: original positions or final conclusions? Whatever is written down is a story of who you are. What is left out or removed is part of the part of the story you can only tell yourself. it is quite easy to add a ost dated entry to a diary years later - I do often - to set the record straight.
Isn't the whole point of the web that "It is possible, therefore will happen": I think, therefore I am: it is a weblog so I can change my text/views? Your reader may stop reading you as a result: another issue. Most writers have a consistency, integrity - call it what you will - within certain stated or overt bounds, such that their readers recognise text as being "from this writer" rather from "that writer": there is an expectation, a predictability, they will write in a certain way about a certain subject. If a piece, supposedly by John Pilger, full of praise for America and capitalism, appeared on a website, one would begin to wonder if it had been written by him.
The trouble with webloggers is the idea fixee that it is a diary: it can be anything you like. It is text in digital form, easily modified. My weblogs are mostly of an essay type post. Sometimes I feel the need to retract or alter. My mood or ideas change. Why am I obliged to stick to a protocol - decided by someone else or in advance, immutable - for my entries? Even the greatest diarists have been known to edit their work for publication. The only difference here is an opportunity for someone while reading a weblog regularly to notice the changes: whereas the reader of the diary, when published, has no idea it has been changed simply because this is the first time it has been read.