Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Rainy Day Blogger Blues

Earlier today I posted on being a photographer on a day when photography's not a possibility. But it reminded me of an another issue I've been meaning to blog about.

Much of the academic work on digital culture, and particularly on blogging, has debated the extent to which social life online gets in the way, cheapens, or complicates life “in the real world," i.e., off line. Researchers have tended to argue that digital media either weaken existing social ties or create spaces for new kinds of (disembodied) sociality. Sherry Turkle (of MIT) has probably been the best-known proponent of the first line of reasoning, the "get out and live a little" school of digital critique. Henry Jenkins (formerly of MIT too, now at USC) is possibly the most vocal advocate of the "blogging will set you free" school of digital theory. But intrinsic to both arguments is the assumption that we are on an unstoppable trajectory towards spending more and more of our lives online. Blogging is one of the most commonly cited examples of this tendency, the self-obsessed habit of digital shut-ins. 

And yet, street style blogging is one example of an online medium that in fact requires people to get out there in the real world and do stuff. To have a street style blog you must be out "on the street" (to borrow a phrase from Scott Schuman), engaging with flesh and blood human beings in person. You have to introduce yourself to strangers, get out of your ordinary routine, and expose yourself to potential rejection and humiliation, not to mention the elements. That's one of the things that appealed to me about taking up street style blogging as a research project. I'm an anthropologist. We engage with real people in real places for a living. We get paid to get out in the world and experience new stuff. 

But as a digital medium that depends upon getting out in the real world, street style bloggers are also uniquely vulnerable to the whims of the weather. And so here I am, stuck inside, sublimating my desire to get out and do stuff by writing this post. It's a small compensation. 

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