I’m still working…

I'm still working through with my students on their experience of reading my blog; I just read their typed responses, and wrote some notes on them. Thought this part might interest you guys too:

Most of you had no trouble with the disclosure-level of the blog generally, although a few would have preferred not knowing so much about their professor. I did warn you on the first day. :-)

But more seriously, I wanted to briefly repeat a few main reasons why I gave you some of what I did:

a) Part of what's most interesting about blogs is the way they make the personal public, and in order to really analyze that, we need to talk about where the line is, what is 'overly-personal', or 'disturbingly inappropriate'. Especially in the early days of the blogs, there was no real sense of where that line might be -- some people exposed far more than I did, others, far less. Only a few of you seemed to think that what I gave you crossed the line, which is interesting -- if I'd taught this class ten years ago, I think most of the class would have thought that. I'd argue that the public privacy boundaries have shifted radically.

b) Why not have that same discussion just reading someone else's blog, not your professor's? Two reasons, really. One is purely historical -- by accident of fate, you're taking this class with someone who was there at the beginning, and whose blog is in an almost-unique position as both extremely long-running and still-continuing. But more importantly, it's much easier to read about a stranger's sexual or other escapades without being disturbed -- but it's not just strangers anymore. Now it's your best friend or relative posting skimpily-clad photos of herself, your minister having a few too many at the church picnic and being photographed for posterity and the world to see, your kids writing about you. So one of the things I was trying to do with those early readings from my blog is to attempt to disturb you. To show you, viscerally, how blogs have fundamentally shifted the way in which we experience community knowledge of each other.

You may or may not agree that that's interesting and worthwhile, but I wanted to be sure you understand the pedagogical rationale behind those assignments. Hope this helps.

Mary Anne

4 thoughts on “I’m still working…”

  1. Interesting that you think future generations have different notions of privacy. “To attempt to disturb you” – well, okay then. The analogy I was thinking of, just because I’m catching up on my back-TV-viewing, was the doctor on Grey’s Anatomy who had posed in pin-up magazines; it’s one thing to acknowledge some patients may see it and be uncomfortable with having her as their physician. It’s another thing to offer that evidence to every patient after said patient has paid for her services. If you aimed to disturb, then so be it. I’m not sure the disturbance is quite accurate; you don’t want your authority questioned, you want people to wonder if you’ve disclosed too much for your own personal zone; this disclosure is about giving TMI to your students. I’ve had a few too many male authority figures offer exactly such information as a way of harassment to take this as lightly as you are.

  2. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Well, I did warn them what they’d be reading on the first day; they had the option of opting out of the class. 474, topics in pop culture, isn’t a requirement to graduate or even fill the major; the students had plenty of other options if they didn’t want to engage with this material.

    And I’m not sure how relevant it is, but for what it’s worth, I do want my authority questioned, which is something we talked about, and something I try to do in all of my classes. Breaking down the teacher-authority is an important part of my teaching practice, and has been for years.

  3. I should take a look at your blog’s early days, to see what it was like in the early days. I came to the blogosphere in 2005, long after the likes of GEnie had been left in the dust, which is ironic because I’m a computer programmer. Or maybe not so ironic because my job was so exhausting that the last thing I felt like doing was to sit at a computer if I didn’t have to, and especially when all I had was a phone line. One thing I would not want to do is to read my earliest attempts at commenting.

  4. (That last bit wasn’t to suggest that *your* earliest comments would be embarassing. I doubt your words ever embarassed you, and I’ll stop this comment before I do embarass myself again.)

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