From the outset, I was far from clear about the future of this blogging experiment. It truly was experimental, albeit with a few associated “what if” ruminations:
- What if I liked having a “first draft” outlet for thinking out loud about my projects?
- What if, little by little, I could spoon out links to my publications—such as this one that just came out! —or repost older ones relevant to emergent issues—such as this one on Björk’s second-to-last record on the occasion of her new release.
- What if—since at least in my own mind I manage simultaneously to be a scholar working across several disciplines, a writer who occasionally brushes the edges of the “public intellectual,” a commentator on music in both modes, a musician in my own right (with songs that no one is likely to hear if I don’t circulate them), plus a teacher and/or friend to people who care about all these things—what if a blog could gather all this in one place? What if this resulted in some emergent clarity about how they fit together, and not simply a train wreck?
- What if some of my friends, family, and colleagues—plus some subset of their contacts—found MBE worthwhile? What if the cumulative good karma released into our world outweighed the downsides: opportunity costs in time/energy or the specter of unleashing yet more words into a world that is already a flood of words. Clearly we need more silence, less distraction, and more space for reflection—but what if, on balance, MBE could help more than it hurt on these three fronts?
It is totally unclear whether any of these “what ifs” will prove true, as well as how many will turn out mutually inconsistent. This is part and parcel of the experiment.
So, what now? —especially since I’ve gone four months since my last entry.
When I last reported, I had two ideas lined up to keep MBE moving ahead. 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 after playing it at my church, then follow-up with the other song, which is lightweight but amusing. Unfortunately I was unhappy with how the recording turned out. No doubt we could debate whether releasing a flawed version would have been better than nothing, but my perfectionism won this debate. So stay tuned for next year.
I also intended to post a reflection similar to this one, about where to go from here—addressed not solely to the few people who blunder here by accident, but also emailed to a wider group in the hope of shifting into a higher gear. I had always considered taking this step sooner or later, but had wanted to experiment for a while, building momentum, before telling many people.
So, once again, what now?—since all I accomplished was getting stuck and letting momentum dissipate.
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 campaign for social media followers. Emphatically, I did not sign up for the distraction of joining Facebook and building a network there, nor promoting MBE via Twitter. Rather, I was faced last summer with a zero-sum choice—experiment with Facebook, Twitter, or a blog—and I chose the blog. More pointedly I chose writing for MBE, with a proviso that major distractions in promoting it would be a deal-breaker.
Nevertheless I am not so naïve as to expect that many people will find MBE except via the Facebook and Twitter networks of others who find their way here. In other words the value of this blog, at least measured in readers, will inevitably be parasitic on the exact 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.
I’m not sure how I feel about this, but I suppose it is not any worse than I would feel about living in this strange world (where the value of ideas is ruled by a logic of counting Twitter followers) while not articulating thoughts here at all. Either way I seem on track 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 this scenario consider my resistance to Facebook perverse, and that this may reduce their sympathy for my endeavor. Perhaps in a future post I will discuss why I am so adamant about my self-imposed zero-sum choices—why engaging Facebook/Twitter is not a road I am willing to travel and why, by extension, there is no remedy for my hypocritical parasitism. Over the past months, I have been talking with my students about this quite a bit—for example see this and this—and it has only made me more stubborn while giving me the impression that my long-standing hesitations are gaining traction.
In any case, insofar as Facebook and Twitter have “won” our culture, and insofar as this allows them to stipulate that MBE must trend on their platforms in order to have value, it may turn out that this experiment will be a huge waste of time.
However, if I were to embrace their reign and enter their war of all against all for attention, I’m quite sure I would end up as a casualty in that Hunger Game. And meanwhile, if I were to choose not to work on this blog, at all, would that be better than simply writing (even for myself alone!) to see what happens? I will leave this question hanging. It is an honest one, and not simply rhetorical. If readers have thoughts for me, please let me know.