Last Friday and Saturday, I participated in a panel at the Miller-Eccles group, on the topic of Mormon blogging. The other panelists were my co-blogger Nate Oman, and Caroline Kline of the Exponent II blog. It was a lot of fun.
The audience contained a number of people completely unfamiliar with blogging. So I started out and spoke on a number of the basics: What a blog is; what the bloggernacle is; why people blog; and so forth. I spoke from a set of powerpoint slides which I’m including in this post.
From there, Nate spent some time discussing the question of whether blogs represent a Habermasian public space. He pointed out that the negligible cost of entry makes blogging a different type of discourse than traditional print media. He pointed out advantages and disadvantages in the blogging medium. He suggested three areas in which blogs can excel – short drafts; discussions of books and articles; and “gateway” discussions that bring readers into the broader world of Mormon studies discourse. Finally, he discussed the “graying” issue – pointing out that forums like Sunstone symposiums are not catching on with younger participants, and that bloggers and blog readers may represent the younger generation of people interested in Mormon studies.
Caroline discussed Mormon feminism. She has an excellent write-up of her remarks, over at her own blog. Her comments were very interesting. She pointed out that blogs allow women to receive ministering and support from other women. And she suggested that blogs build bridges, and make Mormon feminists less frightening.
Finally, I closed up with a short presentation on how to start blogging.
The questions and answers were great, both evenings. I think that the most thought-provoking question came from Mike McBride (Caroline’s husband) who asked whether blogs would continue if the readers left. That is, do we blog for our readers, for ourselves, or for some combination of the two? Other questions included whether blogging is a distraction from “serious” scholarship (yes); whether blogging is a good way of ministering to others (one reader suggested it is a lot like the description in Moroni); how much time blogging takes; how we get readers; whether blogging will ever lead to “sea change” in the church. And there were also a lot of how-to and how-does-it-work questions (“do I have to pay to read a blog?”).
The people were great, too. In addition to Caroline and Nate, we saw (I’ll try not to leave anyone off the list; this is from memory) Dave from DMI, Heather Oman, Carrie (Tales from the Crib) and Todd Lundell, Mike Parker, Manaen, Armand Mauss, Rob Briggs, Russ Frandsen (a.k.a. Rosalynde’s dad), Lorie Winder Stromberg, and a bunch of new faces. It was a lot of fun. Mardell and I had a very pleasant dinner with Rob Briggs, Armand and Ruth Mauss, and Mike McBride. I also had a great discussion with DMI Dave, Heather, and Todd and Carrie, about blogging.
So I thought the event was quite successful. I had fun talking about blogging – who doesn’t like to talk about blogging? – and I think the attendees enjoyed the discussion. Plus, I saw great people. What’s not to like? Now we just need to find some Mormon Studies group on the East Coast (New York? Boston?) to bring me and Caroline out East for an East Coast panel reprise.
My powerpoint presentations:
Both are also available in Word format, if you don’t have Powerpoint. (The formatting gets a little strange in the transition, though, and the screenshots aren’t included.)
Both presentations are copyright 2006. If you would like to reproduce them or otherwise use them, please let me know. Thanks to J. Stapley and to the PTB at BCC and FMH for information on readership numbers which was used in the slides; thanks to Dave Landrith for SQL advice on how to crunch the numbers from the T&S database to obtain statistics also used in the slides.