Following up on our earlier post on Crampton's Political Mapping of Cyberspace, the book makes a good argument for distinguishing two modes of blogging: confessional and anticonfessional.
I. Blogging as confession: this refers to the Catholic practice, but also to Western speech practices influenced by it, from speak-outs to testimony.
It is clear that the West is a highly confessional society. We like to make confessions and to listen or watch them on TV, in the news or at church. (97)
Crampton quotes one P. Brooks:
confession "is deeply imbricated with our sense of the self, its interiority, its capacity for introspection, self-knowledge, self-evaluation" (98)
cyberspace offers boundless opportunities for the extension of confession... explicit places and spaces online in which to perform juridico-religious confession, discussion confession, or view confessions... More significant... are the procedures for authenticating one's true identity with passwords, encrypted network protocols, Accepable Use policies..." (99; emphasis in original)
Moreover, the classic model of cyberspatial bodilessness suggests the realization of a higher truth about the self through stripping away the flesh to reveal the spirit within.
[T]he digital is prcisely where the body does not enter, but where your true inner self can shine forth (99)
II. Blogging against the confessional: using Foucault's care of the self concept, Crampton sees blogs as performing a different type of speech act, one which resists the confessional mode. To begin with, blogging isn't solitary:
One is writing not as an academic exercise but to be in a community. This community is not ;the mass', but rather a set of people (constantly changing although it is) that pay attention to each other's blogs" (95-96)
Moreover, as my wife points out, Catholic confession is predicated on anonymity, rather than identification. Even a pseudonymous blog marks out a persistent, identifiable person.
Blog writing is not revelatory, in Crampton's view, but productive. Identity is not revealed, but produced:
"While the outcome of 'classical' confession... is to produce authentic discourse or the truth about oneself, self-writing such as blogging has no such target. Rather, they are part of the process of a 'life emerging'" (96)
That production occurs without normative control, as newspaper editors love to say. Clearly this goes against the foundation of the confessional:
"To confess is to be in a position of (1) being authenticated as who you say you are (real/false) and (2) being placed in a discourse of normalization" (97).
One blogs for others, not for authorities. Those others respond (by commenting, posting, etc) and in so doing "effect an ethos of care of the self" (98). Blogging is therefore "a deliberate strategy of resistance against the normalized, confessional conception of the self" (104). Bloggers "want to develp themselves rather than expose a previously hidden truth about their innermost self" (106)
This argument links well to Masserat Amir-Ebrahimi's paper on Iranian youth blogs, concerning the construction of selves in resistance to religious/state normative authority:
Through this narrative, individuals undergo a
process of identity-formation which the virtual world makes
increasingly possible. In transient interactions such as chatrooms,
these identities can be temporary and unstable. In weblogs, however,
identities are gradually formed, crystallized and transformed into
secondary identities (emphasis added)
One can readily challenge aspects of this argument - for example, Microsoft's Spaces platform is clearly normative in blocking certain words. Some people probably receive no readership for their blogs. But this confessional/resistance model sounds very useful.
Through this narrative, individuals undergo a process of identity-formation which the virtual world makes increasingly possible. In transient interactions such as chatrooms, these identities can be temporary and unstable. In weblogs, however, identities are gradually formed, crystallized and transformed into secondary identities (emphasis added)