For my Digital Humanities class, we were asked to pick up one new technology to engage with regularly and reflect on it. I chose blogging, which has been an interesting exercise for me in terms of notemaking, social writing, and invention.
As a new Ph.D. student in a new department, I wanted to amp up my reading notes. Initially, I saw this blog as a form of notemaking that would force me to synthesize and engage with the texts I had read. In “Sociotechnical Notemaking: Short-Form to Long-Form Writing Practices,” Brian McNely cites Christina Haas, who defines notemaking as “the creation and manipulation of planning notes prior to, and occasionally during, writing” (98 qtd. in McNely). Haas also describes notemaking as both formative and generative, allowing the writer some initial steps to work through ideas prior to attempting something more complex. This is what I wanted to gain from blogging. After I read James Berlin’s “Rhetoric and Ideology in the Classroom,” I blogged about it to work through some of the article’s denser ideas. Trying to communicate the ideas for an imagined audience was helpful for thinking about how to convey the article’s more important messages.
Audience wasn’t on my rhetorical radar when I started posting. My posts were about my class readings and were all text—not very interactive. McNely argues that through social media platforms, we can write something that will immediately be seen by others. I didn’t think about this until I got my first comment. I was shocked that someone had found my blog and realized I needed to think more carefully about what (and how) I posted. I still want to engage with notemaking, but I also want to think about how I can better utilize the “sociotechnical networks” that blogging encourages. It’s important to reach out to actual (rather than imagined) audiences.
Haas describes notemaking as a practice that allows writers to work through particular ideas and then develop arguments that are more sophisticated and complex. This could be valuable for generating project ideas, but it’s not something I’ve started yet. I think this may be connected with audience: If a blogger has a strong following (a group that consistently reads posts), invention could be more useful because there’s more potential for feedback.
McNely asks, “What if notemaking was a public, interactive practice?” At this point, my blog is public, but it isn’t the most interactive. I want to continue blogging in a way that taps into the sociotechnical networks and benefits for writing that blogging supports. However, I know that will take time and effort to maintain interest—both on my behalf and to potential readers. And like Jason B. Jones discusses, it will take a lot of effort to maintain a sustainable blog, although it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I stopped blogging post-Syracuse: I would still have an awesome archive of my work and identity as a graduate student.
Jones, Jason B. “Blogging Extinction, and Sustainability.” ProfHacker: Tips about Teaching, Technology, and Productivity. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 29 Nov. 2011. Web.
McNely, Brian. “Sociotechnical Notemaking: Short-Form to Long-Form Writing Practices.” Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society. 2.1 (2011). 28 Sep. 2011. Web.