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Sometimes the hardest thing about writing is just writing – getting the words down.
Because of that I’m going to give this a try out tomorrow. A clever idea with some fun and useful features. It could be a PhD essential, or it could just mean that I write great quantities of what is largely un-thought through nonsense.
As I’ve said before, though, sometimes it is better to write than to be right.
We’ll see how it goes.
Norman Geras, over at the frighteningly frequently updated normblog, has quite rightly pointed out the unattractive ranting and lack of argument in David Gelernter’s lament over the destruction of the English language thanks to ‘arrogant ideologues’ on a mission ‘to defend the borders of the New Feminist state’. That we can no longer write ‘he’ in the comfortable assurance that it is meant to be non gender specific (?), is, according to David, a sad shame.
Instead we use the likes of ‘he or she’s which ‘keep bashing into surrounding phrases like bumper cars’ whilst ‘related deformities blossom like blisters’ (‘chairperson’, ‘humankind’ etc).
Aside from the fact that this is a rather nice use of simile (if a tad aggressive), does David have a point?
Yes and no. Yes, because feminist worries sometimes lead to the use of ‘s/he’ which I struggle to see as anything but a barb in the way of smooth reading. I think it’s ugly and syntacyially strange. So there.
No, because language is organic and is clearly in a state of flux and upheaval in this area. We can expect it to settle, but we can’t look longingly at the past as some ideal of purity and rightness. For better or worse ‘he’ is for (me at least – born in the 80’s) very rarely gender neutral.
I quite like the recent trend in philosophy to use ‘she’ whenever gender specificity is not important. At first it jarred as a bit laboured and deliberate, but now I see it so often I think ‘why not?’ or else I don’t notice it at all. Go philosophy!
I was having a conversation yesterday with Richard about blogging, and he pointed out how few Manchester based blogs are actually about Manchester. Why does the blogging community not blog more about its immediate geographical location? There are some very notable exceptions, of course, but generally geographical focus does not abound.
Before looking for an answer, however, one might wonder why that might be an expectation in the first place – why would bloggers blog about their local area?
Here is a speculative suggestion: Blogging is, to some degree, seen as a form of media. In the world of media, small productions (of which few are smaller than most blogs) must find a niche market to survive. Content relevant to immediate geographical surroundings has traditionally provided a natural niche. Ergo, a natural niche for blogs will be local issues.
Ok, perhaps. So why are there so few geographically focused blogs?
Here is my speculative answer: Bloggers are Internet users (that bit’s not speculative) and internet users are part of a culture that is increasingly living uninfluenced by geographic locality. How many of us still live in the town that we were born in? How many of us know more and engage more with local government than with national government? I’m sure you get the gist. So perhaps we do not blog about our locality because that is not where our heads are.
This may seems obvious, but it represents a challenge to modern society: How do we find peace when our heads are all over the place?