The author of the article on blogging and the body I posted about a few days ago, danah boyd, has found my blog and left a couple comments. As they are interesting ones, and ones that clarify what she was getting at in the article, I thought I’d link to them and encourage you to read them, but then I thought I could just copy them here to make it easier on you. I’m encouraging you to read them because she said she’s interested in the comments people left on my post and would like to hear more. So here’s our exchange; first, danah’s comment (she blogs under the name zephoria):
I want to clarify what i meant when i talk about blogs as bodies. It’s not that i think that people see their blogs as bodies per say. It’s that the properties that we take for granted as embodied creatures are lacking when we go online, namely presence. For example, i walk into the room and my body signals my presence to others around. Had i not posted a comment here, you wouldn’t know that i was lurking. You may get an IP address, but what’s that mean? Part of my presence though is not just my comment on your post – it’s the link back to my own blog where my identity resides in many ways. In this way, i reference my blog in my comments on your blog to create a culture of presence. I do think that the spatial metaphor is a lot easier for thinking of your own blog directly. You can think of decorating your blog like decorating your house. Yet, when people visit your blog, it’s a mixed view. They don’t just see the space you’ve created – they see a facet of you. In this way, the decorations serve as fashion accessories to a body as well as decorations on a room. I do think it’s complicated and sticky but it’s presence that connects things deeply to bodies. And the fact that you have to write yourself into being online… you don’t just exist by appearing and reading… your presence goes unnoticed.
Anyhow, i hope that helps in some way.
Here’s what I said:
Hi Zephoria — thanks so much for stopping by and commenting; this is the first time an author I’ve written about has commented back, and I’m pleased to hear your explanation (and also to hear another aspect of your voice, outside of the academic article — I was wishing to discuss this stuff as bloggers rather than in an academic context, after all). Thinking of the blog as a way to create presence when the body is absent makes sense to me. It’s interesting to me the way other commenters felt uncomfortable thinking of the blog as a body or as the thing that creates presence — as though that metaphor is too revealing and intimate. And I wonder what image people have of me from reading the blog — I guess we’re all sorting out this new way of presenting ourselves that’s very different from the usual way of being physically present, and so things like posting pictures and revealing names and choosing blog templates can sometimes be anxiety-inducing.
And her response:
No doubt there’s a lot of anxiety-producing effects. This is why a lot of folks try to play ostrich. If you pretend like you don’t have an audience, you can just keep writing. Or if you imagine that you have an audience of people exactly like you want, you can keep writing. If you are told that everyone who has ever met you is reading your blog, it’s paralyzing. This is the problem with unknown audiences – we have to envision who our audience is to write… it’s an imagined community rather than a defined or bounded one like a room. (I still want an invisibility potion though for meatspace.)
I read your commenters and i’m curious to know more. I wonder if the concern about it being too intimate has to do with the assumption that we are revealing everything. It’s not a naked body unless you choose it to be. My digital body is cloaked in professional wear with the occasional goofy accessory. Why? Because i have to face that audience. It’s not that this is not me but there’s another “me” on LiveJournal that is far different because that’s the me wimpering about life with my friends while my blog is me musing about things that the professionals who read my blog want to see.
Further thoughts anyone?