A friend of mine is teaching a Creative Nonfiction course this semester and he's asked me to cover a couple of classes while he's out of town. He wants me to focus specifically on blogging and the aspects of writing creative nonfiction in the blog format that make it unique. I'm delighted to have the opportunity - and not just so I can be the cool, fun substitute teacher - but I could use the collective wisdom of the blogosphere as my plans come together.
I'll be teaching two classes. In the first, I thought I'd introduce elements that are characteristic of the medium and decisions that bloggers make and debate as they craft their voices and shape their blog personae. I'm thinking about things like:
- The decision to use your real name or a pseudonym, and the pros and cons of each decision. (There have got to be some great posts out there that dissect this issue. Can anyone point me to one?)
- The ethical implications of using other people's names - or, even, other people's stories, even if the names are changed.
- The further implications and considerations for bloggers who write about their children: Where does the blogger's story end and the child's story begin? What rights of privacy should a child automatically be afforded? What happens when the cute story you wrote about naked five-year-old Sally is discovered by the classmates of awkward eighth-grade Sally?
- The many ways that parent-bloggers negotiate and balance the right-to-privacy or safety-and-security issues with the establishment of veritas and the bringing-to-life of the narrative: real names with photos; fake names with photos; real names without photos; fake names without photos - and the potential benefits and pitfalls of each.
- The self-referential nature of blogging - the ongoing narrative, the link-back to previous posts, the assumption that the reader already has - or knows how to find - the backstory, the presumption that there is always backstory.
- The phenomenon of comments - the dialogue that can ensue between author and reader, or between readers - the way that the best, meatiest, most heartfelt, most meaningful part of a post often appears in the comment section.
- The communities that form through blogging - the circles that emerge - the politics of the blogroll - the danger of creating "insiders" and "outsiders" among one's readership. I remember reading a post somewhere long ago that talked about how blogging was like being back in eighth grade - and then reading a response post on a different blog about how blogging is, in fact, nothing like being back in eighth grade. Does that ring a bell with anyone? Can you point me to a link?
- The existence of blog trolls - people who seem to stalk your blog obsessively, waiting for new updates (and the fact that you know about their existence because you have been tracking your blog stats obsessively) - and people who leave nasty, hurtful comments - almost always anonymously, with no reply address, like grenades lobbed through the blogosphere.
- Flame wars and the way that misunderstandings can escalate quickly and divisively, with lines drawn and opinions entrenched within hours.
- The crafting of a blogging persona and the assumption by some that because you are writing about your own life, the blog reflects exactly who you are - and the reality that blog writers shine spotlights on the areas of their lives that they want you to see, leaving the vast majority of their lives - and themselves - in the shadows.
I'd be delighted - and eternally grateful - if you can point me to any blog posts you've read that delve into these subjects and capture well any perspective on them. I'd like to avoid turning these into classes on autism blogging or mommy blogging, so I'd especially welcome suggestions from further afield (though, by all means, I'd be happy to have examples from closer to home as well).
At the end of the first class, I'd like to assign each of the students some reading, asking them to read a post or a series of posts that captures a quintessentially bloggy phenomenon - something that could only happen through writing on the web - that they can showcase them for us in the second class. Some ideas:
- Real-life implications of online writing - how the same things that make for a wonderfully snarky post can really come back to bite their author. I'm thinking, especially, of things like being Dooced (or, fired for blogging about one's job), pointing them here - or more recently, the blogger who found Child Protective Services at her door because of a post that she'd written.
- The collective power of blogopshere - The Bloggess's recent response to spam mail from a PR firm comes to mind, though I'm sure there are examples with greater heft and import (Like...? Help me out here.)
- The equalizing power of the internet and the instant access that blogging can grant to the often unsuspecting blogger - there was some story I read once about a kid with autism who got to meet his country music superstar hero. And, of course, the one in which the autism mom got invited to the White House to share her thoughts and expertise.
And what else? What posts out there capture the essence of blogging? What are the things that happen in the blogosphere like nowhere else? What makes us who we are?
Oh - just thought of another one. There was that blogger who enlisted the blogosphere to help her teach that class...