immersion in narrative

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No time today to write the long, thoughtful post that's rumbling around in my head right now. But I can at least sketch out some of the ideas, so that when I do have time (perhaps while traveling to Albuquerque this weekend) I can expand (expound?) upon them. Or maybe not. Either way, some of this has to get written before the end of the day, or my head's going to explode.

I've been meeting people IRL ("in real life") after first meeting them online for a lot of years now--starting with the University of Michigan CONFER conferencing system back in 1986. Since then I've had in-person meetings with people I've encountered on CompuServe's CB Simulator, Usenet newsgroups. DC-area BBS systems, FidoNet echos, e-mail lists, and most recently, blogs.

But this weekend, meeting Joey deVilla, I had a very different reaction to the in-person encounter than I've had in the past. And I've had to think about why that is.

Weez has written about her sense of blogs as "first-person narrative in real-time." (Here, here, here, and here.) Of all the blogs I read on a regular basis (and yes, my blogroll is also my reading list; I'm not an aggregator kind of a girl), Joey's is probably the most story-like in its presentation. From the title of the blog ("The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century") to the self-as-narrator voice he regularly employs:

This was end-of-a-John-Hughes-movie moment, the sort of thing airline pilots would call a "textbook landing". It was time to close the deal. I put an arm around her waist and drew her closer. Our faces were closing, maybe only an inch apart now...

...when I felt a hand on my shoulder, pulling me back. What the hell?

I turned around to see who was trying to ruin the best date ever. (more...

Joey brings you into his story, with detail and--as KF put it--emotional authenticity. You know that it's real, you understand that this is autobiographical, but it's still a damn good story, not "just" a journal entry.

So meeting Joey on Friday night, sitting in the Tequila Bookworm, was a mind-altering experience for me. A through-the-looking-glass kind of thing. All of a sudden, I was in the story, sitting with my favorite character in his favorite watering hole. There are plenty of children's stories based on just this kind of fantasy--even TV shows based heavily on the premise (from Gumby and Poky to Steve and Blue's "blue skidoos" in Blue's Clues). But I have to say it's the first time I've ever had such an experience unmediated by a book or screen.

Happily, by Saturday night I'd gotten over that initial sense of disconnect, and was able to genuinely enjoy spending an evening with Joey and his friends.

Looking back at it, I'm still struck by the worlds-collide feeling that I had. It speaks to something being very different about blogs versus other computer-mediated communication. Email, newsgroups, bbs systems--they don't make it possible to create the kind of personal narrative and sense of place (note to self: go back and re-read Meyrowitz's No Sense of Place) that blogs seem to facilitate.

There are visual presentation issues with this, as well. I think reading Joey's posts in an aggregator would have changed my sense of him and his environment. That's an area I've not seen much work in--the extent to which the visual presentation of the blog affects the perception and representation of the writer.

But I'm out of time to explore this, so I'm going to hit post and go back to my crazy daily schedule.

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An interesting thing has happened over the last few days, maybe longer (Thing - yes thing). It's that these characters that have populated comments here, and those that I visit elsewhere have taken on increasingly tangible qualities. There is evidence... Read More


How cool is it (and disorienting it's true) to go through the looking glass without being in an altered state?

You've had your own personal visit to a magic kingdom.

Your description of the richness of Joey's writing is right on. The detail is evocative enough to create a rich imagined space.

One more space where narrative and RL met was in this post:

There ensued hints about what George really is like (as opposed to my envisionings) both on my blog and his.

Aw, shucks guys, I'm jus' tellin' stories.

I recently tried to explain to someone why I don't use aggregators (and ended up with something like "it's the difference between visting someone and getting an email from them. If it's someone I like, I'll pick the visit.) The visual presentation of the blog definitely makes a huge difference to me, enough of a difference that I want to see it each time I read whatever the blogger has written. I've never read anything about that though, and I'd like to. You wrote that it's an area you "haven't seem much work in." I didn't realize there was any at all -- I'm going to try looking for it. Thanks.

Wow, Liz. Thanks for compiling all of those links to weez's discussion of blogs as first-person narratives. Her discussion really helped me formulate my idea for the "Blogsophere" book and now that I'm writing the paper, I needed to revisit them.

I've been fascinated by (and jealous of) other bloggers' accounts of going "through the looking glass" and meeting their blog buddies IRL, too.

A soulful and provocative story; a meta-physical trip through the dynamics of perception and epiphany applied to the potential of blogs to involve one another. Very nice.

An articulate reason to prefer direct reading to aggregators--but I don't believe the "if it ain't in an aggregator, it don't exist" crowd will buy it. Certainly more articulate than my old "context enhances content" rant...

The rest of the entry is also great.




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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on October 21, 2003 1:54 PM.

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