Speaking into the Abyss

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A prospective graduate student emailed me today to say he’s been avidly reading my posts here.  I was surprised.  Usually when I write these posts it feels like I am speaking into a vast and determinedly quiet void. (This fact is not helped be the amount of spam comments on Bits posts.  As I write this there are over 100 spam comments in my junk folder, mostly selling (of all things) Ugg boots). It’s strange to think about blogging into a void and I think I find it especially strange for me.  It’s been 10 years since I declared 2003 The Year of the Blog (and at least 8 since I even looked at that piece.  Kudos to me for coding a design that still reads well in a browser).  So much of the early scholarship on blogging in relation to composition talked about student writing for real audiences but as someone who’s been blogging here for years I have to admit I can’t imagine a more unreal audience.  I have no idea who you are and, frankly, I’m not at all sure you’re even there. Online writing has, of course, changed quite a bit in the intervening years.  There’s the rise of Twitter and microblogging, of course, but I am thinking more about Facebook.  When I write there I know precisely who my audience is because my profile is utterly locked down and because I have all my friends sorted into various lists.  Knowing the exact audience makes a huge difference. It’s no wonder then that I keep assigning papers in the courses I teach.  Students surely know that I am the audience, no matter what else we might pretend.  I used to find that somehow problematic but at this moment it feels enabling (though I don’t know my students would agree): there’s something extremely useful about knowing your audience precisely. So, void, how are you?  Ugg boots, you say?  Delightful.
About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.