After the initial shock of seeing my English assignment creating a mini-stir in the blogosphere, I’ve recovered nicely. Class discussion actually went pretty well, and somewhat by accident, we were able to discuss the question of unexpected audiences on the Internet. Most of the bloggers who came across our class blog were very supportive of or even excited about using blogs to teach writing and critical thinking, but I still feel a bit like I’m under a microscope–I’m having a difficult time composing this entry, which usually means that my reaction hasn’t fully been resolved.
I think part of my difficulty stems from my awareness that I now have some unexpected audiences. That points to one of the potential risks assocaited with blogging, articulated very effectively in this comment by George as part of a larger discussion (debate?) about a proposed private discussion of professors who have public blogs that students might (or, in my case, almost certainly read). There’s a great discussion of public vs. private identities, and I’m not quite sure how I feel. Like George, I don’t consciously create a persona when I blog:
I don’t use an (explicit) mask when I post, although as the identity thread makes clear, we’re all aware of the performative, mask-like elements that blogging entails.
My contact information is also available on my blog. I’ve probably been a little less candid about certain aspects of my personal life, but I’m sure that an attentive reader could figure out quite a bit about me (my politics? my interests? my background?) by reading between the lines. Still, I think that careful attention to audience is a vital part of good writing, and while I’m happy to have conversations about student-teacher relationships in a semi-public space where my students might be reading (hi, students), I think that conversation would take on a much different tone in a more private space where I’m with colleagues who share similar concerns (often having to do with employment issues). There are many potentially interesting conversations (including the current one about power relations) about this topic, but the decision to have a private conversation about personal blogs and teacher-stuent interactions is far from elitist. After all, there are many important conversations that students (probably) have about college that don’t and shouldn’t include me. That doesn’t make my students elitist; they’re entitled to some measure of privacy in coping with the challenges of college.
Still, I’ve learned quite a bit from keeping a blog, and I enjoy seeing my audience grow and change, but that consciousness of an audience may have an effect on what I say, on the self that I perform when I’m writing in this space and in my course blog.