A Modest Bit of Navel Gazing…

March 6, 2006 | 23 comments
By

I try (or at least I think that I try) to avoid posting on the bloggernacle as bloggernancle. Generally speaking, we are not as interesting as we think we are. What I do find interesting is the extent to which Mormon blogs almost immediately began identifying themselves as a community. It is as though Mormons are congenitally incapable of not conceptualizing any collective activity in terms of community. In addition to my dabbling in Mormon blogging, I have also — from time to time — participated in the world of law blogs (blawgs). What is interesting to me is that blawgers don’t see themselves as being a member of a community per se. Their model is not the singles ward or the potluck or the family reunion, but rather the mainstream media or the law reviews. For them blogging is a form of publishing, albeit an extremely fast paced, informal, and interactive form. You can see this in the ubiquity of commenting on Mormon blogs. Many extremely high-traffic blawgs have no comments at all, and those with comments consistently have a lower comments to hits ratio than Mormon blogs. In other words, Mormons seem to come to blogs as much to chat as to read. I suspect that at least some of the farcical little melodramas to which the bloggernacle is prone hinge on a basic set of disagreements about what this medium is about. For some people (and for the same person at different times), hitting the post key is about starting a conversation, which will require one set of expectations about participation. For another person (or at another time), hitting the post key is much more like publishing an op-ed piece, which creates a different set of expectations about participation. However, from simply reading a post it is difficult to figure out which is which.

Tags:

23 Responses to A Modest Bit of Navel Gazing…

  1. Jim F. on March 6, 2006 at 12:09 am

    Would the proper response to this be not to respond?

  2. Adam Greenwood on March 6, 2006 at 12:39 am

    “I try (or at least I think that I try) to avoid posting on the bloggernacle as bloggernancle”

    Well, stop avoiding it. I for one have never read anything on the bloggernacle as bloggernancle and would be delighted to try. Is it anything like those essays on the tabernacle as tabernancle? And do painful attempts at humor based on spelling errors come into it at all?

    “For some people (and for the same person at different times), hitting the post key is about starting a conversation, which will require one set of expectations about participation. For another person (or at another time), hitting the post key is much more like publishing an op-ed piece, which creates a different set of expectations about participation.”

    What do you think the different expectations are, Nate? To me, conversation expectations are (a) meandering topics and (b) avoiding serious disagreements, working from shared assumptions, etc. Publishing expectations are (c) responding to the substance of the piece and (d) full-bore argument, shredding assumptions, etc. But when I and other people get exercised, its almost always by (a) and (d).

  3. Nate Oman on March 6, 2006 at 8:21 am

    I think that it is the difference between starting a conversation in which you are expected to participate and publishing an article that is expected to speak for itself. Of course blogging is a half-way medium, neither just like a conversation nor just like a printed publication.

  4. Stephen M (Ethesis) on March 6, 2006 at 8:50 am

    which creates a different set of expectations about participation

    Nicely said. One thing that is interesting is the way that blogging and the larger group blogs have taken over the energy that used to drive places like the Nauvoo forums ( http://nauvoo.com/ ).

    Interesting thoughts.

  5. Adam Greenwood on March 6, 2006 at 9:05 am

    Another question: is it really possible to modestly gaze at navels?

  6. jjohnsen on March 6, 2006 at 9:16 am

    Adam, navel gazing for yourself or with a spouse is modest as long as it is done in the privacy of your own home.

  7. J. Stapley on March 6, 2006 at 2:52 pm

    I think the distinction between Mormon blogging and anything else is that Mormonism goes beyond the scholarly and cultural. If I start a food chemistry blog and I write about some change in chemistry that no one knows about, no one’s world is crushed. No one gets divorced or feels like they have to break their friendships. Mormon blogging has the potential to drastically change peoples relationships with each other and institution.

    This is the reason that the MHA is, despite the great scholarly endeavor, still subject to community influence. Look at the 1990′s when the Church backed away from it. It is inherently communal.

    Now, I consider the Mormon Wasp to be the most intriguing content in the nacle. You don’t see people getting miffed over there. No questions about community. Why, because Justin writes solid material that is hard to engage the same way that a post extolling the virtues of a Young Earth creation is.

    So, if you want Mormon posts that are treated differently, write solid material.

  8. Ariel on March 6, 2006 at 2:54 pm

    LOL

  9. Nate Oman on March 6, 2006 at 2:57 pm

    J.: The distinction that I am getting at is not between getting miffed and not getting miffed. It is about the extent to which blogs are seen primarily as points of social interaction, and the extent to which they are seen as publishing outlets.

  10. Ariel on March 6, 2006 at 2:57 pm

    That was directed at #6. As I hit the post button, I wondered “why am I posting this?” I really have no idea. I don’t think I’m trying to start a conversation, but the sheer lack of content in my comment implies that I had the ward-party-conversation mentality. Hmm.

  11. Nate Oman on March 6, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    “the sheer lack of content in my comment implies that I had the ward-party-conversation mentality.”

    There is no shame in that. I am not arguing that one mode is somehow superior to the other. Simply that there are different modes.

  12. Kaimi Wenger on March 6, 2006 at 3:03 pm

    J.,

    Yes, but. Mormon Wasp is great. It is also dry and sterile in a way that makes it less accessible. It’s written psuedonymously; it’s all pretty much straight Mormon history. If it were an e-zine rather than a blog, it would not be significantly changed.

    On the other side, a blog like Feminist Mormon Housewives is all about the lived Mormon experience. And that sort of blogging tends to be community building in nature.

    I don’t think either genre is necessarily superior to the other. There is a place for the “just the facts, ma’am” blog. And there is also definitely a place for the community-oriented blog, particularly in the bloggernacle.

  13. Kaimi Wenger on March 6, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    You can also gaze at your kids’ navels, particularly if they’re wearing shirts that are a tad bit too small for them now. And then you can start the “I’m going to beep your belly button” games that make them giggle. And then you can pretend to eat their toes, too, just for good measure.

  14. Stephen M (Ethesis) on March 6, 2006 at 3:34 pm

    One thing that does leave me adrift is when I write a post and no one comments. A comment no one responds to is pretty normal, in the old days those used to get RAEBNC notes (read and enjoyed but no comment, people would just post the initials).

  15. Clark on March 6, 2006 at 3:47 pm

    Kaimi, I have to admit those are the kinds of blogs I like the most. Mormon Wasp is definitely among my favorite. I’m not sure the e-zine parallel is bad. Some see blogs more as the successor to forums where topic is controlled. Others see them more as e-zines where letters to the editor are kept with the post.

    I know which ones I favor…

  16. Howie on March 6, 2006 at 7:07 pm

    Adam, navel gazing is OK, just so long as you have a navel. Do you??

  17. queuno on March 6, 2006 at 11:06 pm

    Just curious as to how large the ‘nacle really is… 1000 people?

  18. Stephen M (Ethesis) on March 6, 2006 at 11:26 pm

    Good question. I’d say that there are at least two hundred LDS blogs. But the core, of people who, if they comment, someone will respond, I’ll bet that number is closer to forty (I’m not in it, nor are many others, though DKL seems to be solidly a part of it).

    So, I’d put the ‘nacle at somewhere between three hundred and forty, depending how you want to define it.

  19. Ariel on March 7, 2006 at 1:22 am

    Stephen, I’m not sure why you don’t consider yourself part of the inner circle. (I think we should start calling them GNA’s- general nacle authorities.) Your blog is one of my favorites. Often, though, you write about sensitive things and I’m afraid to comment. Not because I don’t read and enjoy, but because it’s so outside of my sphere of life that I don’t know whether my comments would even be appropriate.

    My theory is that the Nacle is kind of like a ward- it has different places for different kinds of interaction. We enjoy each other’s company, and the same group (for the most part) interacts in each of the spheres. There’s always a place to go for chat, and a place to go for deep doctrine, and a place for speculation. Even at three in the morning. I think we’re all trying to get out of the Nacle the things we miss in our real life interactions.

  20. Stephen M (Ethesis) on March 7, 2006 at 11:43 am

    Your blog is one of my favorites. Often, though, you write about sensitive things and I’m afraid to comment. Not because I don’t read and enjoy, but because it’s so outside of my sphere of life that I don’t know whether my comments would even be appropriate.

    That is very kind. From other types of writing, I’ve just assumed that if I’m not hearing from people, I’m missing the boat on my postings, at least as far as the ‘nacle is concerned. I have people I’m writing for, and it connects for them, so that is what I continue to write and the reason I have my blog — it continues what http://adrr.com/living/ ended up becoming.

    Everyone on the ‘nacle seems so young, at least to my fifty-year-old self. Well, off to enjoy more of spring break.

  21. Christian Y. Cardall on March 8, 2006 at 6:49 am

    I try (or at least I think that I try) to avoid posting on the bloggernacle as bloggernancle.

    Hence, a post about the bloggernacle!

    I find the logical structure of this post fascinating: there is the first sentence, and then the rest. Since Nate is a fan of literary theory (and speculative psychology), let’s deconstruct it. There seem to be two possibilities behind the structure.

    The first is that, as hinted in my first sentence above, the entire post past the first sentence is a wild (if delightful) non-sequiter. Nate probably not being liable to such lapses very often (and also probably not very interested in the wild non-sequiter as a delightful literary art form), this doesn’t seem very likely.

    The second option is that the rest of the post explains the first sentence, which is not an offhand exculpatory preliminary, but in fact the driving idea behind the post: despite his protest to the contrary (#11), Nate doesn’t like the concept of “bloggernacle as bloggernacle,” viz., bloggernace as “community.” He wishes Mormon-related blogging could be a semi-scholarly, respectable enterprise in which those with something interesting to say publish and others read, rather than a mundane conversation at a glorified virtual Ward social. He doesn’t mind that people have conversations, but the problem with the ghettoization of Mormon blogging as a “bloggernacle,” a “community,” is that his preferred mode gets lumped in with the rest etc., painted with the same brush and so on. No matter how many advanced-degree colleagues are gathered ’round an elite site, and how many aggregator banners are kept off the page, the dreaded association with a banal “bloggernacle” persists, making it hard for a blogging instantiation of Mormon studies to distinguish itself and get off the ground. Even some of his advanced-degree co-permabloggers have bought into the “community” model… Damn them!

    Well. We know Nate rarely feels a need to criticize Church doctrine or practice, and we also see that he has little use for community as well; so it seems he is not subject to bloggernacle pathologies (1) and (2). ;-) Though, even he may need community once in awhile.

  22. Nate Oman on March 8, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    Christian: Very nice. I do think that emphasis on bloggernacle as community has a ghettoizing effect (how many Mormon blogs have serious interactions with non-Mormon blogs?). This is unfortunate. On the other hand, I think that you are wrong to suppose that I am trying to make a distinction between elite conversation and plebian conversation. Despite all of the glittering temptations of deconstruction, I really am just trying to make a point about medium, about the perils of viewing blogging merely as conversation or merely as publishing device. It is an odd duck and neither analogy works correctly. I do think that it is possible to become too fixated on bloggernacle as community, but this hardly means that I am against community or against using blogs as a way of having conversations. Indeed, I probably spend for too much time on both activities…

  23. Christian Y. Cardall on March 9, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    Ah, but the “genius” (?!) of deconstruction is that what the author was trying to say doesn’t count for squat. It’s what the author wasn’t trying to say, but was saying only indirectly and subconsciously (maybe even to himself), that turns out to be interesting. ;-)

    Having said that, in this case deconstruction turned out to make a testable prediction, and as usual it has been my privilege to have been proved wrong, and so soon: comment in the morning, aggregator banners up that afternoon…

    By the way, since Mormon Wasp was mentioned above, for all its overtly historical nature it’s really a blawg. Or at least, it’s written by a lawyer.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.