The English Department is holding a grad school colloquium on Wednesday, and my proposal was accepted about a month ago. I’m struggling in how to narrow down a 30-page rough draft of a chapter into a 15-minute talk (which is probably about 7-8 pages). It’s kind of fun to figure out what to cut, what to summarize, and how to set up the argument in a different way, but it’s also kind of taxing. We’ll see how it goes. I can’t remember if I put my proposal on my blog, so I’ll re-post it here:
Metaphors of the Blogosphere: Conceiving and Traversing the City of Blogs
Experts in online communication and the teaching of writing have proposed many ways of conceiving the blogosphere during the surge in blogging over the last ten years, most of them metaphorical or comparing blogs to previous genres of public writing or public spaces. Additionally, many people are quick to look to this new technology as something revolutionary, liberatory, or radical. Rather than laud the blogosphere as inherently a location of radical democratization, this talk will explore the criteria of an inclusive, democratic public sphere, as originally laid out by critical theorist JÃƒÂ¼rgen Habermas and revised by feminist critical theorist Iris Marion Young. If we want to view the blogosphere as a location for democratic discourse, we must ask how we envision and discuss the blogosphere. As Lakoff and Johnson claim, the metaphors we use in life construct how we live and interact with each other. After critiquing some popular metaphors for the blogosphere for their inability to promote full democratic publicity, I propose a new metaphor, drawing from the work of Young in Justice and the Politics of Difference. Instead of viewing the blogosphere as a collection of communities (the conception most in vogue), I propose that we conceive of the blogosphere as an ideal city, which allows for social difference without exclusion, a variety of uses for the public, an ability to traverse freely among neighborhoods that do not have clear boundaries, and an openness to all. I conclude by arguing that the blogosphere can be a public sphere, or a public of publics, of radical democratic change if conceived of as a cityscape, but we must also be cognizant of issues of access, of the material reality of hardware manufacturing and sales, and of colonization of the Internet by the market and state.