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Category Archives: readings & writings

Announcements about readings and presentations. Thoughts on writing and blogging.

“Bloggers are not writers,” Rebecca states in reaction to Jaron’s assertion, “blogging is not writing.” But his words are taken out of context. He’s talking about journalistic writing – Modes of recording observable, quantifiable facts – retraceable truths.

Bloggers can be writers. Bloggers can imagine (and thus create) something “meant to last” or  “legacies that enthuse, provoke, and delight.” But should they? Should bloggers be writers? Is that what they set out to do? Writers? Create legacy? Write for posterity? Their work might break the binds of time and survive the public’s fickle passions, but is that what writers set out to do?

Kafka sold insurance.

I think their wants are more immediate. I think writers write. I think writers write to exorcise, to purge, to unload subconscious weights or spirits – ghosts.

Maybe I’m a writer because I’m desperately trying to clean up my mess. Other people do other things, going to therapy or becoming psychiatrists just to clean up the mess. Well, I couldn’t afford therapy at the time I needed it the most so I started writing. And now I know that the writing helps me a little because why do I write about these things? Why do I choose those characters? Why am I so desperate to tell that story? Because there’s something inside of me that is bothering me, that gives me a lot of pain and that I need to solve. And by exploring it through writing and other people’s lives I might reach a particle of truth. Maybe. If I’m lucky. That’s the whole meaning of writing. So, the dream about the messy house, I know it’s my dream. It’s me. (Isabel Allende)

Writer’s write. It’s the public – “the hive” – that determines the legacies. It’s the snarky little joke shared with a coworker: “I guess it just sounds better coming from you.” We can tell the same story but the hive determines which sounds “truthier” – a settlement on reality simply based solely on who we like to picture reporting it.

It’s the hive that Lanier warns against. It’s the hive as a collective “truth creating” entity – instead of “truth editing and reporting” -that he questions in Digital Maoism. He also asks indirectly why as a skeptical modern society we are so eager to accept the words of our bloggers as truth.

Bloggers are not writers like poets are not journalists. But they all report. They all suppose a reality and then superimpose a truth – make sense of the tragedy – share the comedy. Everyone seeking that “particle of truth.” Everyone coming together with their piece of the puzzle in hand.

Everyone “on the road” going the same way but taking different cars.

[This is the speech I wanted to give to a group of grade 4 – 12 students but didn’t because I thought an outline would suffice.]

How many of you have heard of Twitter?

Who can explain what Twitter is?

Do you know what it’s called when you post on Twitter?

Now, can anyone tell me what Twitter means?

In just a short period of time Twitter has managed to change our “social vocabulary.” By “social vocabulary” I mean the supply of expressive techniques and devices we use to get our messages across to one another and not just the words we know. It is how we choose to use our words in addition to the number of words we know.

In a recent New York Magazine article, Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, speaks of it as potentially being a “new form of communication.” Twitter CEO, Evan Williams said Twitter was “another step toward the democratization of information” and that he believes “if you make it easier for people to share information, more good things will happen.”

The author of the article, Will Leitch, writes:

Are we really becoming a nation of people who reflexively share information with everyone the minute we have it? We might be. Twitter has no choice but to hope so. They might be right.

I had asked earlier, how many of you have heard of Twitter? Now, I would like to ask: How many of you text?

There’s been a lot written about the impact of text messaging on child development and how people learn. I am among those educators who believe in the educational power of texting. If you think about the act of texting, it is a very sophisticated skill. I am not even talking about the new shorthand-like language that students continually create to convey their messages. I’m talking about the sophisticated cognitive skill of squeezing potentially complex ideas and information into  a mere 160 characters – that includes spaces!

Recently I had the pleasure of hearing Tony Loviscek, a professor from Seton Hall, speak on risk as it relates to investing. He said there were two four-letter words that impacted investing most; Time and Risk. He illustrated his point with the story of The Ant and The Grasshopper. However, he did not judge the grasshopper as bad like we have been taught to do. Tony simply said that the grasshopper made a choice just like the ants did. Both chose what was right for them. The ants chose to receive their rewards at a later date, while the grasshopper chose to receive his reward in the “Now.”

It is these same two choices we must decide between when we text or Tweet. Do you want say it now or later? There are consequences both desired and undesired to our decisions just like there were for the ants and the grasshopper. The ants chose to “say” what they had to say later and as a result they did not get to play in the sun now. The grasshopper chose to have his “say” right now and as a result struggled as time passed and the weather soured.

As the author of the New York Magazine article put it: “we are living in the age of instant communication.” Everything that can be said, is usually said in the “Now.” Whether it is Tweeting or just a quick text message to a friend, we can say what we want to say instantaneously. In the era of Twitter, texting, and online social networks like Facebook, we can say what we want to who we want further and faster.

With this in mind, it also becomes more important that we are aware enough to think about what we say before we say it. We can say things further and faster but what exactly are we saying?

The effectiveness of our ability to communicate with others from diverse backgrounds in clear and concise ways is the new capital, the determining factor of how well we live. In tomorrow and the day after that, as you live your life after today, take a deep breath and reflect briefly about that text you are going to send before you send it. Nurture this new capital with time and thought.

Thank You and Congratulations on your achievements!