Wednesday, June 20, 2007

On Blogging

While I was transferring some of my photo-blog posts over to this, my talkie-blog, I found something I said early on in my blogging days:
"Is this about books or pictures? I really wouldn't know. I keep having a lovely internal discussion about web-blogs. I won't replicate it here - I would have to spend some time composing an essay." That was on my photo-blog.

I said this on *this* blog: "Clearly, I have somewhat altered the purpose of this blog, by mere fact of this post. Who knows what it will bring."

I started this blog to document my family story. I stopped because I got a computer in which to store my family story and because it was difficult writing and delving into that story in such a public environment as a blog. The blog started becoming about race and identity - because that's a key theme in my family story. Then it kind of evolved (devolved?) from there to be generally about me - this was the fault of writing some things about LAW. I'm not quite a Blawg (law-blog) - nor do I want to be - but I am a law nerd and I do love the law, so I think about it a lot. And sometimes, I just needed to shout out about the law. I think the fact that I started writing about books also drifted the theme of the blog away from race and identity.

I still am very interested in race and identity; it's just hard work thinking about those issues all the time. And somehow (and so far), in the UK, it's less of a concern. Perhaps this is because I AM a foreigner here. So whenever anyone asks me where I'm from, Australia is the answer. And people permit me to respond with 'Australia' (they're kind like that). They don't proceed to ask me where I am *really* from (not like in Australia ...). I am not bothered about clawing for belonging here, because I do not belong. I belong elsewhere, but the clawing there has been suspended.

Rather, I continued with the blog because it was a wonderful exercise in writing, and I let more of myself onto it. I think if you read this, you know me pretty well. I am still reasonably careful not to reveal too much (ie. my address), but sometimes I wonder about the extent to which we are worried about privacy.

One of my greatest bugbears is when a client won't tell me something, using rights-wielding words such as "that is my private information." I have no qualms explaining to people WHY I need to know the answer to the questions I am asking. I have a duty not to go blabbing about their personal affairs to all and sundry, and, indeed, I have a duty not to even tell anyone that they have come to me for legal advice. I want to scream at him/her: I am your legal advisor: you must tell me everything that is relevant (and I am a wee bit better placed than you to judge whether it is relevant). So can I have that information now please? It's not me pruriently prying into your private life. It helps me to advise you fully - and you do want that, don't you? Because I don't want it to come out in court and have me standing there smacking my forehead for not knowing about whatever it is that was oh-so private.

I wonder how 'private' such details as my home address or phone number actually are, when I tell you in florid detail how I feel about a book, or how an individual has treated me. Surely my thoughts and feelings are more private than my contact details? But I don't intend to reveal my contact details. *I* have consented to revealing information about myself. But the people around me have not.

I am also reasonably careful not to write about my employer, or my clients (except to rant in a general way about their existence). I am careful when writing about my family, and friends. And I let my partner vet anything I write about him.

As I have said before, I consider myself to have a digital persona: she has bits that are more exaggerated, or under-emphasised than the me-in-real-life who gets on with her daily life: her household chores and her paid work. We are the same person, but our representation is slightly different. Equally, my representation alters depending on whether I am in a social environment or a professional environment, or with my family, or with my partner. We're all me, but I'm not a lawyer when I'm with my parents, and I'm not an aunt when I'm at work (except that there's a picture of one of my adorable nieces on my workspace). The digital environment is just another place where, though I am still me, I won't behave as e.g. Oanh Lawyer or Oanh Girlfriend.

I did discover that as I wrote, my categories and labels became fluid. I could not really separate race, from law, from gender, from literature. They're all part and parcel of how I see the world, and how I want to explore that in my writing.

Ah, but I digress.

Why do I blog?

The pre-dominant reason is because it is structured writing. Of a different kind to what I do in my daily work, and different again from my dead-tree journal writing (although a lot more like it).

I don't have the kind of blog that tells you what I am doing and thinking moment-by-moment (because I find those blogs riveting for a while and then just mind-numbingly boring). Taken to the extreme, it's Twittering. Which is an inane phenomenon, according to toi (that's me in Viet - bada bam bada boom). I don't even have, anymore, a themed blog. It just is.

I do like each post to be unified - to begin, and to end - and to be *about* something (even if that something is mundane).

I also enjoy the phenomenon of the blogosphere - my commenters and the places I comment; how my thoughts are enriched and expanded upon by others; how things I haven't considered are brought to my attention. I love that I am connected to people all over the world from where I am: the obvious places (Australia, UK, North America), the less obvious but still 'I get it' places (Viet Nam, Malaysia, Philippines) and the bizarre: Uzbekhistan. Granted, the visitor from Uzbekhistan might have been a friend checking in on me while she was travelling - but I don't know that for certain. And my Uzbekhi visitor might not visit again but s/he found me! How did s/he find me? Did s/he get something of value or did s/he roll her/his eyes (just another Viet-Australian lawyer in the UK moaning and groaning about books, movies, identity, and law. ho hum.)

I have many more regular visitors than I have commenters. I am, naturally, very curious about them. Who are you guys? How did you find me? Will you stay? (This is not a plea for you to de-lurk. You are more than welcome to continue lurking; I don't mind. I lurk on plenty of blogs. I am curious though.)

But it is also the commenters in the blogosphere who have me the most worried. On my own blog, I'm yet to encounter trouble - but I'm worried about it. On other blogs, I occasionally get myself bogged down in the comment stream - you get sent off in all kinds of directions - and then you just have to stop. I find the endless comments exhausting. Like the moment-by-moment blog, I am initially riveted and then I am drained. Like watching a car crash, or a pub brawl: it's fascinating, but ultimately does not add anything to my character (or shames me with my own voyeuristic tendencies).

I also get worried about how my time gets sucked into the whirlpool of other blogs - what I like to think of as the Charybdis of the blogging world - and my own blog writing. I think of myself sometimes as Scylla - blogging monster of many heads, grabbing ships of inspirations and sailors of ideas, spitting them out again with vim and some venom. Sometimes, I am Ulysses (or any other mythical Greek sailor who did not make into the canon): I have to navigate a path between Charybdis (reading too many blogs, sinking and disappearing off the edge of the world) and Scylla (self-destructive castigation about blog writing).

I think there is value in blogs: the reading and the writing win out over the inanities, misinformation and time-sucker. But then, I'm biased - because I am a blogger and I think I'm here to stay. There is a world of rubbish out there: rubbish which is equally present in published media whether it be newspapers (here's looking at you, News Ltd) or novels or non-fiction. There is also a panoply of wondrous stuff - more than you will ever read. You find your place, like you do in the real world, and then you enjoy it, learn something and hopefully enrich others too. But the best part is: it's you who makes your blog world - you don't have to be a passive absorber of stimuli: you can create and participate. (I'm so Web 2.0.)

Inspired by Sophie at Sarsparilla, Pavlov's Cat, a snippet from a very brave post by Galaxy and as challenged by Cee, many moons ago.


Veo Claramente said...

well i just found your blog, and wanted to say i read, though i may lurk...

good luck in the uk, moving to a foreign country was one of the hardest things i have ever done.

Oanh said...

Thanks for de-lurking Veo :-)

So far, still doing well on the living in another country part!

Wandering Chopsticks said...

There's always room for thoughtful, well-written blogs. :)

As for race and ID, oh man, in real life I'm sure we'd have much to say. But I tend to keep my more opinionated stuff off my blog.

I think everyone ends up finding their "voice" and deciding what they want to reveal about themselves. And what they're not comfortable revealing about themselves. I admit to lurking on the more personal blogs, even though I would never go there myself.

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