Friday, May 01, 2009


an image of the letter A
There's a point to this post, and I'll get to it. But the peroration has to come first.

I spend all day on a computer ... in this I am not unique ... and I write more very day now than ever before in my life, even when I was writing a dissertation. This too is not unique, at least the writing-a-lot part. But I have to admit, or aver, that I part company with most when I say that I loathe sloppy writing almost to the point of obsession. Of course in "averring" this, I expose myself to the virtual scorn of those who might, inexplicably, think that I slop around in my prose. George-Costanza-like, I protest too much. But, fortunately, complaints on the new social media Internet are fleeting, Peter-Pen-like, if I may. So even the Costanza-being in which all of us participate to one degree or another dissolves before we can fulminate sufficiently to make it a hard fact. You cannot dissolve that which never congeals.

an image of the letter ASo at MRU, the major research university where I string pearls in exchange for just enough oyster meat to keep me from shrinking into oblivion, we had a little micro-contre-temps in which I was confronted with a couple of examples of sloppy prose. Sloppy prose, like the inexcusable driving that passes for navigation these days, depends upon proximity. If you are in the crosswalk, then the feather-brain on the cell phone in the giganto SUV planet-killer is a proximate threat to life and limb and deserves a full-voiced reproach. But in the office, the sloppy prose which invades one's space cannot be the subject of reproach ... people are sensitive, and one wants to be sensitive ... but still, you have to put paid to it. Sloppy prose is like a rash ... untreated it creeps and grows and invades warm, moist, private places that you thought you had under control.

an image of the letter AI cannot abide sloppy prose.

But abide I must because this is a world of sloppy prose, and it is a world in which sloppy pose is lauded and lavished and insufficiently lamented.

So, at MRU, there occurred a couple of instances of sloppy prose, and they came to my attention too late for effective intervention. In terms of proximity, this prose would be in web sites and on monitors which are immediately proximate to the one which I directly control, and in a zone over which I am supposed to exercise a certain oversight notwithstanding that the terms of authority are neither clear no exercisable. I was confronted with the need for a stratagem, and I could think of nothing better than changing the sight lines. I went into a meeting with my earnest, likable, engaging, and committed colleagues, and I regaled them with raw rhetorical theory on the relationship between authorial voice and postulated audience.

I live and breathe rhetoric ... and it was a little spasm of joy to spend a few hours perusing Aristotle on rhetoric in preparation for a meeting at MRU. And I practice rhetoric in my job all the time. But is is always the same rhetoric ... as it must be given my position as a content maker for a central office in one of the most important academic institutions in the world ... I do not exaggerate. The rhetoric at MRU consists of an authorial voice that is authoritative, cool, composed, concise, and a postulated audience that is attentive, open, pressed for time, and rational.

an image of the letter AThe problem in contending with people in the writing zone about audience is that they always substitute real or biological audience for intended audience ... and in any event, they ought to be talking about postulated audience. When you think that you write for an actual audience, you are condemned to pandering or ignorance, or both. But when you sit on the cusp of a dialectic between real/intended audience and the audience that you choose to invent, the postulated audience, you grasp at the possibility that writing is a mode of changing people. You pull an actual audience to the image of audience that you create in writing.

That's how I think.

an image of the letter ABut I have not been applying that in my blog. It bugs me that I seem to blog less and less, that each night starts with good intentions and ends with a promise to look at it again tomorrow. There is no excuse at MRU for not getting one's writing done ... that is the way of the work world, of course. And I write and I write and I write. But the blog is silent. I post on Facebook ... I have at least two Twitter accounts that I feed. I write dozens upon dozens of emails every week ... and I am such a punctilious little putz that each email is tightly composed and subject to non-negotiable rules of composition and form.

But the blog alone suffers ... and that must stop.

So in aid of writing, and blogging, I have come to the conclusion that the answer to not writing enough is to create the requirement not merely to come up to one's previous standards, but to exceed them. With this post, I am committing to posting something thrice weekly, with deadlines of Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday before I go to bed. And I have created a new blog where I plan to post collections of reflections on educational technology. I'll link to it when it gets a little more substance.

And that, dear reader, is the point I promised. I'm a-gonna blog like I mean it, because I do mean it. Thrice weekly, or else.
an image of the letter A
Photos by Arod, part of my alphabet series that is seeing the light of day right now for the first time.

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