June 29, 2007

Blogging and its relationship to personality

Tom Paine has written a very interesting post as one of the last guest posts to James Higham's blog. Tom argues that blogging particularly anonymous blogging is one of the most individual modes of expression- stripped of their identities, bloggers are revealed in their naked individuality- stripped of their identities as wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, workers, colleagues etc. Rather than appearing like that it is the bloggers' opinions online- particularly the anonymous bloggers' opinions- that form their personality in the eye of the reader. Most of us do judge people functionally- by their relationships to structures within society- and amongst other people- on the net we examine people especially anonymous posters by the text that they leave on their own and other blogs.

Tom's statement got me thinking- one of the interesting questions about this is the degree to which our personality can be emptied of that functionality. For instance my relationship to any woman is in a sense determined by the fact that I am male and twenty six- that means that I have a particular relationship to women that I don't have to men. I respond to women in different ways. Structure is actually useful for me in acheiving the ends that I have in mind as well- as a worker I need my colleagues to respect me in a certain way and to treat me professionally- no matter what they think of me in private. A colleague can dislike or dismiss me in private- but he has to work with me in the office because that is the function within which we operate with regard to each other. Functionality therefore helps us in many situations to advance our end- a kind of anarchistic interpretation of people where people are stripped of their functions would actually make living life more difficult.

But let's go a bit further- is Tom right about functionality disappearing on the blogosphere? I don't think he is quite right actually- with frequent reading its normally quite easy to guage a blogger's personality, their function in the sphere. I will give two examples of the way that personality is established and ultimately almost controlled in the blogosphere. The first is ideological- Bloggers around the world are very keen to label- this blog has been labelled before in all sorts of ways that I would consider to be inaccurate. Iain Dale recently composed a list of the best blogs- in his opinion- he categorised them into Labour, Tory, LibDem and other ideological or partisan categories. Often bits of the blogging world tend to want to only debate each other- people want to make an argument about what conservatives should think about x in order to strengthen conservatism- not in order to find truth in a completely open way.

The second way that blogging creates conventions which actually matters are the whole concept of the nettiquete. The British blogging world has seen the whole function of being a good net citizen has come up recently in all sorts of ways. Tim Ireland for instance has sought over the last couple of months to impugn the nettiquette of various rightwing bloggers- particularly Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes. One of the interesting things about Ireland's campaign is that he struck precisely at those two's reputations as good people on the net- leading many other bloggers to distance themselves from Dale and Fawkes. Another interesting example would be the high reputation that some bloggers- James Higham and Ellee Seymour come instantly to mind- have amongst those who disagree passionately with them but see them as good people on the net- both Higham and Seymour are the kind to throw you a link or offer a supportive comment.

In many ways therefore online personalities like offline personalities are bound by conventions- they are just different- how should I treat those who regularly read and comment on my blog, with whom I have exchanged emails, who I actually know personally- all of us face fitting those kinds of people into our reading whilst also reading blogs whose owners we don't know but whose ideas we respect. Many of the features of the outside world in terms of creating functions for people into which they fit their personalities thrive on the net. Ultimately one could argue that it is very different to separate function from personality- very different to say where someone's essense as a father stops and their essense as Gordon starts or very different to see where someone's function as a good citizen of the blogosphere and general facilitator stops and their personality as James Higham or Tom Paine starts.

I realise that this doesn't really critique Tom's article- but its more offering a thought which goes through his article and pulls some of his argument into further and what I consider interesting dimensions. Ultimately one of the problems that I face when discussing personality is separating the accidental from the essential- more and more I am coming to feel that it the accidental forms the essential- so that my status as a middle class white male whether I like it or not cannot be separated from my essense as Henry. Furthermore on the blogosphere that means escape is illusory- because its merely escape from that essense into another one- Gracchi- which I have created here. The distinction may lie in that Henry created Gracchi- but then again the second is dependent on the first, Gracchi's personality is a development out of the wishes and desires of someone who is governed ultimately by forces out of his control.

Trying to separate personality from situation and function is in my view a fruitless task- Tom's right the Blogging world offers some escape but how full that escape is I'm not sure.


Vino S said...

I do think that blogging does also reflect function. We are writing a political blog and so we write in a political mode of expression. We can also write to provoke reactions or to highlight what we saw as an interesting fact. No writing can purely be personality without function. I think that is a chimera.

Guido Fawkes Esq. said...

I'm not aware of anyone "distancing themselves" from moi. Who is this formerly close person who distanced themselves from me?

Gracchi said...

Guido I wasn't thinking of anyone close- just I had read comments by people who said they once thought a lot of you and Iain and then didn't. Apologies for giving the wrong impression- the main point though was about the second element of net identity which would be the element of nettiquette- definitely what Ireland however successful was aiming at.

Vino agreed.

Orined said...

-The distinction may lie in that Henry created Gracchi- but then again the second is dependent on the first-

What's the degree of Henry-dependence on Gracchi? lol
if there is any.

Gracchi said...

Orined well there is a lot of Gracchi dependence on Henry just look at the subjects of the articles chosen. But also there is the way that I deal with people- one of the crucial things for instance is that Matt Sinclair, Vino Sangripillai, James Hamilton, James Higham are people that Henry feels very affectionate towards and consequently that Gracchii doesn't argue much with in an agressive way even when both H and G disagree with them a lot.

By the way I'm writing this after consuming several bottles of wine- so if I've confused you then I'm more confused and also not making sense!

Lord Nazh© said...

Notice that I wasn't in that list :)

I try to potray LN as myself, no alternates.

Gracchi said...

Lord N you would have been- lapse of memory- apologies.

james higham said...

An example of this was last evening at the bar in SL. a Welsh nationalist, a Jersey based Conservative, DK and myself. What a combination. Many truths were spoken. I doubt this conjunction of people would be possible in RL.

bluerose9062 said...

I found your blog via your interview on Ashok's blog, and really enjoyed reading this post as well as it's comments.