In recent separated-at-birth posts, Tim Wilson and Will Richardson express similar kinds of angst and doubt about the meaningfulness of their blogging efforts. Tim’s concern is that his writing has begun to lean too much toward the "geeky" IT world of "servers, software, and tech support," betraying his original emphasis on curriculum. But, he reflects, this shift in thinking is understandable since it reflects the realities of his current job. He continues:
"So what does it mean to have a “successful” blog? Is it the number of readers? The personal reflection that happens in the writing process? There’s no one answer, of course, but part of the measure for me is my perception that what I write here is useful to the people who read it."
Every writer reflects on these kinds of questions about purpose and audience. It’s that much more immediate for a blogger, of course, since a blog is such a flexible and accessible space. It’s easy to wander off-message, if you’re focused enough to even have one. Will Richardson’s concern is more about the medium than the message. Or really about whether the medium—blogging, and to a lesser degree podcasting—is the most effective way to deliver the message.
"But the final irony is that I’m feeling compelled to blog less and write more. I know I’ve said this before, but as heady as all of these new voices in our community feel, we are still a decidedly small minority in the grand scheme of education. And I have to say that in many ways, while the community is growing, the conversation feels stalled. To me, we are on the cusp of a huge opportunity for real reform, but it’s not going to come online. It’s going to come in print, through writing articles and writing books, and finding ways to present a vibrant alternative to teachers who aren’t online, to preservice programs who are preparing the next generation of teachers, to the local community leaders who don’t have a context for change, and to politicians who really don’t have a clue as to the complexities of these changes and what they mean for education."
Ironic, yes; surprising, no. Will is really pointing out a variation on a familiar theme: we live in multiple modalities and with evolving technologies. And the modes and technologies don’t always line up. We have to be effective communicators, (especially if we’re teaching our students to be Effective Communicators 2.0), and that means being able to navigate and finesse every communication technology from pencils to podcasts, and make connections across all of them. We’re in a constant state of transition and translation. You could rev up the old tried-and-true cliches about having one’s feet in two different worlds, or straddling a fence, but the analogy breaks down quickly. Actually, the anatomy is what breaks down—two feet just aren’t enough to express the necessary complexity.
I think this is the crux of Will’s point: if the power of the read/write web is so transformative, it feels incredibly dissonant to have to make the case for it in an old-school mode, perhaps using old-school language and metaphors. An implicit concern, too, is that we may be self-limiting our conception of what’s possible with Web 2.0 technologies if we continue to use Web 1.0 language. On the other hand, language has a way of rolling with the conceptual punches, coalescing into all sorts of surprising and meaningful patterns. There are plenty of examples of quaint terminology that’s found a new way to describe a new phenomenon. Hey. . . how many horsepower under the hood of your car?