Reading Cultures: Blogging and RSS Feeds

I’ve been thinking about reading. Thinking while I read, thinking about how I read. Reading is both a noun and verb: I’m reading the readings. So far, the readings for this class have all been available online, and perusing those pieces of writing has meant linking, linking, linking. Hypertext embedded within the blog-lecture. More links within the initial links…

Not too long ago, I read the The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age by Sven Birkerts. This book is dated, but its central premise is relevant: Cultures of reading are not stable, and mediums impact how and what we read. The author observes that a culture of deep reading is falling by the wayside in favour of skimming across the surface of a multitude of (yes, once again) readings (as both a noun and a verb). With so much to take in, sometimes aggregated in one online location thanks to RSS feeds, perhaps deep reading on a regular basis is becoming a less common practice. However, several of this week’s readings espouse the value of critical reading in the face so much ‘news’. I think that it is important to, as Meredith Farkas so eloquently puts it, create a “well-developed current-awareness strategy that fits into your workflow” (“Keeping Up, 2.0 Style,” 2011). Effective information management can lead to deep reading. And a strategically produced blog can be a very engaging forum for communication.

Maybe the first step in encouraging people to read deeply is to produce engaging content through an appropriate, carefully selected medium. The first three of Greg Schwartz’s reasons to blog (i.e. keeping current, advocacy, community-building) are excellent considerations. (“Blogs for Libraries,” 2007) However, I do not think that his final three reasons are as persuasive as the first three. Here’s how I would amend them:

– You can be unique. But you have to try. There are so many blogs out there that if you’re going to add another one, it may as well have something new to offer. If you want to add your voice to the chorus, there are other social networks that will allow you to have some sort of visibility as a communal voice (Facebook, maybe). As Darlene Fitcher puts it, blogs can be “interesting and insightful,” but they can also be “mundane and useless” (“Why and How to Use Blogs to Promote Your Library’s Services,” 2003).

– Do it for yourself, and for your readers. It’s nice to feel like you’re getting something off your chest and to get feedback and support from a like-minded community, but cathartic blogging is sometimes dangerous (and often tiresome to read).

– It’s easy to publish your own content, but it’s not always easy to write your own content. Also, blogging isn’t just about writing, it’s about producing an engaging medium.

It’s important to consider the nature of a blog-as-medium, and to think about the capacity for the medium to communicate what you (and/or your library) want to express. Simply using a technology that has the potential to be engaging and fun doesn’t mean that the product will be engaging and fun. It’s also easy to pick up a pencil, write some words on a poster, and slap it on the library’s front doors. If you want to be read/interacted with, you have to read what your readers are looking for and interact with them.

Speaking of which, I completed the RSS feed task for this week without any hitches, and I got my very first comment (thanks, Andrea!). My social media skills are definitely still a work in progress, but I’m on my way. I’m adding feeds to Google Reader, and I’m finding the whole process to be user-friendly. Maybe too user-friendly…I’m wondering how many feeds I’ll amass in my account before next week…

Meredith

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