Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bloggy Commenting

Jeana posted an open invitation to talk about commenting on blogs, and I couldn't resist putting in my two cents.

I feel certain that my post will not be exactly what she had in mind, since I am thinking in terms of literary theory, interpreting literature and literary criticism. Some might argue that blog posts are not literature, but I feel that in our age of electronic communication, internet blogs qualify as a form of literature; in fact, blogging seems to be overtaking traditional publishing in both volume and content.

For many years, the interpretation of literature was based on the idea of figuring out what the author, the writer, meant. This process involved close reading of the text, exploration of the multiple meanings of the words used, and then extended to examination of the author's life to put the piece of writing in context.

However, as literary theory evolved during the twentieth century, the deconstructionist view began to take over. According to the deconstructionist view, the author is not necessarily the only or even the best source for discovering the true meaning of the text. The reader brings his/her own life experiences to the interpretation of the writer's work, and the reader's interpretation is considered as valid as the author's interpretation.

For most published authors, writing was a sort of one-sided conversation. The writer "speaks" through his written works, and retains possession of the original work, as well as the authority to reinterpret his/her meaning in response to literary critics. The "conversation" might take place over a long period of months or years, as each writer contributed to the exchange.

Now, with the advent of blogging, the author can receive almost immediate feedback, finding out how others interpret his/her work while the ideas are still fresh in the author's mind.

If you are a regular reader of blogs and their comments, you already know that people can take totally opposing views on what the blogger "really" meant. The blogger may or may not try to interpret the original intent of the post, may respond to the comments, close the comments, or delete comments that seem inappropriate. Those who comment can create their own posts, linking back to the original source, thus keeping the conversational connections intact. Others may then comment, or post in response, and so the conversation continues until everyone is satisfied--or exhausted.

I enjoy the comments almost as much, if not more than, the original posts. The exchange of ideas is so fresh, so immediate, and so often takes the readers in unexpected directions, possibly unimagined by the original poster.

The down side of comments is that some people feel entitled to browbeat the blogger into changing his or her position, by arguing the issue, or by personal attacks.

As my grandmother used to say, if you can't say anything nice, maybe you shouldn't say anything at all.

I don't mean that it is wrong or rude to disagree; I'm just saying, let's try to express ourselves civilly and kindly.

We are all entitled to our own opinions, but if we can't have civil discourse, ...
well, if we can't be civil, I'll close my comments ;)

Jeana's take on bloggy responses focuses on the issue of manners. I chose to focus on the conversational aspects of blogs and responses. What's your take? Be sure to link your response through Jeana's Mr. Linky.