11 OCTOBER 2006
i R E P O R T — C O N F E S S I N G S E L V E S
Thursday, August 24, 2006
What is it about blogging that appeals to so many of us? Letting it all hang out in public is the strangest of things, and I continue to be dumbfounded at some bloggers' utter disregard for an audience that might read them. At the same time, does the Internet qualify as "the public"? Does having a blog ultimately mean having an audience?
It is difficult to imagine a confessional blogger whose reason for writing is the possibility of readership. When the treatment of the genre is that of a diary, then that audience is in fact irrelevant. In truth, given the vastness of the Web, it is impossible as well to expect an audience. What can be expected is a fixed set of readers mostly made up of friends and acquaintances who are interested enough in what a certain blogger-friend may have to say — even if it's only about the last movie she saw or that crazy coincidence of meeting an ex-boyfriend.
In the academic and literary world I move around in, blogs are linked to each other, authors are known, and coming full circle is quick and easy. The six degrees of separation may be cut down to three or four, and it's no surprise. We keep to the circles that are familiar, within and beyond the Internet. That this one is not only quite small, but also quite forgiving, is indicative of the kind of literary and academic world we have in this country. Everyone is doing exactly the same thing, and no one is about to point out that we are all rather apolitical or too self-centered.
Forgiveness, in fact, seems to be beside the point. And criticism is obviously uncalled for. Given the confessional blog, it is difficult to even comment on the things that people concern themselves with, mundane as these things usually are. Confessions, while now on the Internet, are still pretty limited to very personal things — from family to work, art and craft, new shoes, and whatnot. And it is in this espousal of the personal that the confessional blog escapes criticism.
As reader and observer, as voyeur if you will, my existence is irrelevant to these blogs. These existed before I started reading them, and they will continue to be produced beyond my prying eyes. I am ultimately part of that invisible audience — the Internet public — that can exercise its freedom to stop reading any of these confessions if I think they're a waste of my time.
That's the truth.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
I've been told often enough that anonymity is a cop out: if there's something that needs to be said, that person who speaks must have a name. Anyone who remains anonymous does not deserve a decent response or an audience. But on the Internet — particularly in blogs — this discussion is subsumed by an even touchier topic: the visible writer. Those who identify themselves to an audience who are, within the blog, disallowed from doing criticism because they will be told: this is my blog, don't tell me what I can or cannot write about.
This is a subversion of the writing-reading process altogether: the writer cannot be held accountable for what has been said; neither is there a responsibility to the reader that must be upheld.
But self-centered as these discussions on the author are, what this glosses over is the question of what is important. Is it about who's talking? Or is it about what's being said? The struggle with anonymity really happens only when there is an issue that needs to be talked about, and those involved assert ascendancy by saying they will not argue with a penname. And yet, we celebrate writers who had to write with pennames to distinguish one type of work over another like Quijano de Manila (National Artist Nick Joaquin); and those who needed to use pennames in order to get published, like the women writers of old. Anonymity does not put into question the issues that are being raised; the other side of that coin asserts that the lack of a known and named author allows for the issue to be highlighted over and above personalities.
The author is dead, we are told. And this, the blog teaches us well. What we are left with then is the blog as text, which can be viewed over and above the author that speaks within it, and which ultimately allows for criticism. What does the confessional blog's content prove about its writer? What is the context of the confession? How do we even begin to deal with something as personal as the confessional blog?
Well, apparently we don't.
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