Blogging form and content

Stephen Downes and the many bloggers and educators he quotes in his excellent recent article Educational Blogging confirms and extends my thinking on blogging.

What I love about blogging as both a reader and writer is the linking process. It creates a rich depth of ideas that is almost endless. Meg Hourihan quoted in Downes’ piece helped me think about this in a slightly different way when she talks about this as “distributed conversation.” One of the weblog’s characteristics is both that this conversation is distributed across a community of readers in tag team but also it is distributed across posts in each blog. Blogging is a cumulative conversation that may begin with a link in one post and then be developed a couple of days later and then developed further after others have made comments.

Both Downes and Hourihan emphasise that the blogging provides a format and a process not just a type of content. Blogging is not just online writing.

As another one of Downes’ sources, Will Richardson, writes:

Blogging starts with reading. It’s easy (at least for me) to forget that sometimes. I know that I’ve articulated the blogging process in that way many times before, but it still does seem very writing centered to me. But as Ken accurately points out, “blogging, at base, is writing down what you think when you read others.” And maybe that explains the disconnect I’ve been feeling between the act and the tool of late. The tool requires writing. (There is no blog without writing.) The act requires reading. (There is no blogging without reading.) Without reading, you’re just writing, not blogging, and that’s a pretty heady distinction (at least in this head.) And that really does change the expectations we have of our students, I think. They can use a Weblog to write, but in a different way they can also use it to blog, and in doing so they can develop an important skill that is not as easily taught with pen and paper or even the Internet and a word processor.

Ken Smith who is part of both Richardson and Downes’ blog conversation grounds what this conception of blogging might mean for educators:

And maybe that means that links are vital for new bloggers for a completely non-constructive reason. Instead of assigning students to go write, we should assign them to go read and then link to what interests them and write about why it does and what it means, not in order to make a connection or build social capital but because it is through quality linking (not the flaccid A-list stuff I spoofed above) that one first comes in contact with the essential acts of blogging: close reading and interpretation. Blogging, at base, is writing down what you think when you read others. If you keep at it, others will eventually write down what they think when they read you, and you’ll enter a new realm of blogging, a new realm of human connection.

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