As I was walking around the conference Thursday, ducking into panels and training sessions that started even before the official opening, I kept thinking about a famous passage from Christopher Lasch, the great social critic and historian who died in 1994— before the rise of the Web. In the Revolt of the Elites, he said we learn more from argument than from information, not because opinions are weighter than facts, but because to argue for your ideas (in public) puts those ideas at risk. And that is how we learn.
Well, there you have it. If blogging can be anything, it is an arena for putting things at risk, for destabilizing oneself as much as anybody or anything else. Blogging, as a form of public writing, should be something like a journey without a map, but which is in the process of making the map as you go.
When I started this blog I stated that it was an experiment to see if a sustainable space could be made that began from a position of empty-handedness, even confusion, with no predetermined positionality (certainly not that Foucault was infallible).
This puts me and anybody who cares to join in, at immediate risk, due to the fact that expertise and authority are more highly valued than critical enquiry and asking.
There’s a dead funny scene in one of David Lodge’s novels where he describes a group of academics at a dinner party playing a game called “humiliation.” The object of this game is to name a book that you haven’t read that everybody else has read (not, as the braggy Americans in the group first assume, to name a book you’ve read that nobody else has). Since these are Eng. Lit. profs, the only way to win is to humiliate yourself by naming some major book or Shakespeare play such as Hamlet and admitting you haven’t read it. The eventual winner in the novel in fact names such an important book that he shocks his colleagues and eventually is fired! Talk about putting yourself at risk.
But this blog is like that game. The only way to win is to fail… the standard system of arbitration and to make space for a different set of rules.
I will tag this under “technology of the self” and hope that’s not too pretentious!
Filed under: Technology of the self