Should This Blog Live? Where Do We Go From Here?

There is a structural conundrum to confront.  I was clear from the moment I launched MBE—and have not wavered—that it cannot be one facet of a multi-pronged social media campaign. Emphatically, I did not sign up for the distraction of joining Facebook or promoting MBE via Twitter. Rather, I had a triple zero-sum choice—invest time in Facebook, Twitter, or writing this blog—and I chose MBE.

I am not so naïve as to expect that many people will find MBE, unless it is through Facebook and Twitter networks of others who find their way here. So the “success” of the blog, at least if measured in readers, is fundamentally parasitic on the social networks that I shun and fear.

This feels odd, but maybe not any worse than living in this strange world (where the value of ideas is ruled by the logic of counting Twitter followers) while not articulating my thoughts here at all.

From the outset, I was far from clear about the future of this blogging experiment. It truly was experimental, with a few associated “what if” ruminations:

  • What if I liked having a “first draft” outlet to think out loud about bigger projects?
  • What if I could spoon out and centralize links to otherwise far-flung publications—such as this review that just came out! —and/or repost earlier ones relevant to emergent issues—such as this essay about Björk  on the occasion of her recent release.
  • Since I try at once to work as a scholar across multiple disciplines, contribute around the edges of “the public intellectual,” write about music, create music in my own right (with songs that no one will hear if I don’t circulate them)—plus be a teacher and/or friend to people who care about all this—what if a blog could gather all this in one place?
  • What if this resulted, not in a train wreck, but some emergent clarity about how it all fits together?
  • What if friends, family, and colleagues—plus a few of their contacts—found MBE worthwhile enough that the good energies released into the world outweighed the downsides:  lost opportunity costs and the specter of unleashing more words into a world that is already a flood of words. Clearly we need less distraction and more space for quality reflection—what if, on balance, MBE can help more than it hurts on those fronts?

It seemed completely unclear whether these “what ifs” could prove true—nor, if so, they would be mutually inconsistent. That was part and parcel of the experiment.

Where Do We Go From Here?

So, what now?  When I last reported, I had two ideas lined up to keep MBE moving. I’ve written a couple of Christmas songs that deserve to be known more widely. (I hate how Christmas songs could put forward a robust sense of peacemaking in the face of empire, but they hardly ever do; my songs help fill the gap.) I hoped to post a video of the more important of the two [Update: it is this one] then follow-up with the other song, which is lightweight but funny. But I was unhappy with how the recording turned out.  Would releasing a flawed version have been better than nothing? My perfectionism won this debate.  

I also intended to write a reflection similar to this one—but addressed not solely to the people who blunder here by accident, but also emailed to a wider group in the hope of shifting MBE into a higher gear. I had always hoped to take that step eventually, after experimenting for a while to build momentum.

But, once again, what now?—since all I accomplished lately is getting stuck and letting momentum dissipate.

Our Structural Conundrum

There is a structural conundrum to confront.  I was clear from the moment I launched MBE—and have not wavered—that this cannot be one facet of a multi-pronged social media campaign. Emphatically, I did not sign up for the distraction of joining Facebook or promoting MBE via Twitter. Rather, I had a triple zero-sum choice—invest time in Facebook, Twitter, or writing this blog—and I chose MBE.

I am not so naïve as to expect that many people will find MBE, unless it is through Facebook and Twitter networks of others who find their way here. So the “success” of the blog, at least if measured in readers, is fundamentally parasitic on the social networks that I shun and fear.  Also, feedback loops will be odd, since if anyone reposts something from this blog via Facebook, I may never know.

This feels odd, but maybe no worse than living in this strange world (where the value of ideas is ruled by the logic of counting Twitter followers) while not articulating my thoughts here at all. Either way I seem doomed to fail in terms of this brave new world. I vacillate between being stubbornly proud of that or too despairing to do anything about it.

I’m aware that some friends whom I imagine as part of my best-case scenarios consider my resistance to Facebook perverse. This could reduce their sympathy for my endeavor. Perhaps in a future post I will say more about why I am adamant about my zero-sum choices—why engaging Facebook/Twitter is not a road I am willing to travel so that, by extension, there is no remedy for my hypocritical parasitism. Lately I have been thinking with students about social media quite a bit—see this and this—and it has made me more stubborn than ever, while also giving me an impression that my long-running hesitations are gaining traction.

Insofar as Facebook and Twitter have “won” our culture, and insofar as this implies that MBE has little value without trending on their platforms, it may turn out that this experiment will be a huge waste of time.

However, if I were to embrace their victory and join their war of all against all for attention, I’m pretty sure I would end up as a casualty in their Hunger Game anyway.

Meanwhile, if I decided to stop working on MBE, would that be any better? Why not write (even for myself alone) and see what happens?  These are not simply rhetorical questions, I conclude this discussion of MBE’s future with them hanging.  If there are any readers who have any thoughts about it, please let me know.

Meanwhile, let’s be clear. Facebook and Twitter are not going to push MBE posts to you. Either you need to follow this blog yourself (which will send posts to your email) or bookmark it and follow up.  Also no one who is your twitter follower or in your facebook network is likely to notice anything on MBE unless you share it with them. Parasitic as this may be, these are the real conditions under which MBE will either find readers or not.  

 

 

 

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