Know How to Ask

Filed under: — Joe @ 10:27 pm

In the course I’m co-teaching in the CUNY Graduate Center’s Interactive Technology and Pedagogy program we’ve been talking about some of the skills and tools that students need to know and use in the media universe. We discussed (it was a digression, as I remember) how access to information sometimes can be a curse as well as a blessing, if students don’t have the appropriate questioning, critical, and researching skills.

And then serendipitously I was reading Robert Silverberg’s Nightwings (I read the first part long ago, when it was a Hugo-winning novella, and only recently discovered that Silverberg had added another whole section to expand it into a full novel.)

In Silverberg’s imagined post-lapsarian world, some kind of pickled human brains take the place of networked computers…but there’s still that same problem:

Any citizen has the right to go to a public thinking cap and requisition an information from the Rememberers on any given subject. Nothing is concealed. But the Rememberers volunteer no aid; you must know how to ask, which means you must know what to ask. Item by item you must seek your facts. It is useful for those who must know, say, the long-term patterns of climate in Agupt, or the symptoms of the crystallization disease, or the limitations in the charter of one of the guilds; but it is no help at all to the man who wishes knowledge of the larger questions. One would need to requisition a thousand informations merely to make a beginning. The expense would be great; few would bother.

For larger questions, neither the Rememberers nor the internet can be of much help…at least not without the real skills, almost enough to be a Rememberer, or more than a Rememberer, yourself.


Real-Name Blogging

Filed under: — Joe @ 11:56 pm

A long pause in blogging lately, and one not entirely motivated by laziness or busy-ness, although both did play a role.

I’ve always kept this blog using my own real name, and with my own institutional affiliation and (some degree of) personal identification right out in front. It was something I thought hard about when I started the blog, and I felt pretty strongly that I wanted this to be public and not anonymous. There are some great anonymous blogs out there, and some blogs which are great because they’re anonymous. But one of the reasons I wanted to do the blog was to make contacts with people, and I wanted to contact those people as myself–with my real name. So the blog has always been my own, and it’s on a website that I own and pay for.

I’ve always been aware that my blogging was public, and always felt that what I said here should only be what I was willing to say publicly. And that worked well for me, for a long time. Sometimes some people didn’t like what I said, but they were always willing to address it with me head-on, in the comments or by email, and often (not always) we came to some better understanding because of it. We each learned from the experience.

This blog has never had a huge audience, and that’s been OK, but I’ve valued the audience I’ve had, and I’ve valued the fact that I was always real, always honest here.

Something happened, recently, though.

I wrote a post (no need to try to find it. It’s not here anymore–it’s private now and only I can see it. It may stay that way forever. I may make it public again sometime, and if I do I’ll edit out this little parenthetical comment). It was a post that I thought about a lot. It was personal. It was reflective. I worked on it and I posted it because it said things that I wanted to say and to say publicly.

I had mixed feelings when I wrote it–some sadness and nostalgia, some hope and ambition, and some anger and resentment. I think all of those feelings came through in the post, and I won’t deny any of them. They were all justified.

There were also some judgments about another person in that post, and while those judgments were negative, they weren’t nasty, they weren’t rude or offensive, and they were certainly (in my eyes) fair and well-deserved. The person wasn’t named–but anyone who knew the person and who knew me would know who the person was.

As it turned out, though, there is one reader of this blog who posted a comment on my post. That comment was rude, was nasty and offensive. And it was posted anonymously. But the cute pseudonym the commenter used was transparent, as was the IP address from which the comment came, as was the particular style of rudeness, so I do know who that commenter is. But I won’t name that commenter, either. I deleted that comment, as I’m sure the commenter expected. But the commenter went farther–the commenter printed out my post and passed it to the person about whom I had made the negative judgments. I know the motives of that commenter. I know the character of that commenter, and what that commenter was trying to accomplish.

There weren’t any real consequences, I didn’t suffer in any real way. But it was a cowardly and devious attempt to hurt me, to use the blog to hurt me, and although the attempt failed, it shook me. It made me think twice about blogging anymore. And it did make me move the post in question out of the public area of the blog.

But as I’ve thought more about it recently, I’ve decided that there’s no real reason for me to stop the blogging enterprise. For whatever small public voice and tiny audience this blog has, I like having that. I’ve got more things to say, and I’m going to continue to say them.

This has never been the most active of blogs. But it’s not going to be a silent blog, either. I don’t think it needs to be.

And it will continue to be in my real name, and with my real thoughts and honest reactions.

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