Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Voice for Everyone

"There are many languages besides those that are written or spoken. By learning a new language, a person acquires a new way of knowing reality and passing that knowledge on to others. Each language is absolutely irreplaceable. All languages complement each other in achieving the widest, most complete knowledge of what is real" (Boal. 1985, p. 121).

Diaries open the inner self to the same inner self. They speak, yet are silent with words only heard by the author. Entries are reflections safe from feedback. Vulnerability only occurs when trespassers violate the privacy and expose without permission. When this happens, it is an abuse, and like a rape the result is shame, fear, guilt and accusation. Diaries are life stories locked and hidden within unshared secrets.

Words that are written to fit an educational objective are locked in a predetermined product that cannot escape an assessment of one. The product is static with an identity shaped by standards of sameness,

Blogs are diaries freed of locks allowing the inner self an escape, still founded in “self-reflection, releasing pent-up feelings, and witnessing personal growth” (S. Stern, 2008, p. 101). Identity is defined by the author and the label ‘adolescence’ “negotiate[s] the boundaries of public and private spheres” (S. Stern. p. 97). Self-expression becomes the backbone of social networking and the possibilities to empower are embedded in personal site symbolism that can become a part of “the public culture” (Stern. p.97).

Are the risks worth the rewards? Are blogs, as Stern suggests, “therapeutic” (p. 102)? A former student of mine has given me permission to use her blog as an example of the powerful, insightful, and symbolic possibilities.

Part Two

You now know the story. My current students, many who are Anna's friends, know her story,and can follow her story. They are reading. They are writing. They are discussing, debating, grappling. I have to wonder how powerful this would be if allowed into the curriculum.

“Self-reflection is, perhaps, the most commonly cited reward of maintaining a personal site among youth authors” (S. Stern. P. 102). Stern speaks of a self-induced obligation blog authors have that drives reflective updates, discussion to feedback, and creative additions. The Internet author works with multiple literacies that redefine Aristotle’s peripatetic. She is a storyteller, travelling through cyber-space from computer to computer. Though the creation is for the self, it is meant to be read by a vast audience that further empowers self-expression through the reflection of self. The authors are their own directors as well as their own primary audience (p. 105).

Erving Goffman (1959) saw “all self-presentation as performative” (p. 106). The blog author becomes a performer, controlling how the self is represented and directing how words impress. The author creates a role, performs through writing, and presents a self-directed, personally designed, product (pp. 106-107). The “everyday self,” is revealed as the “authentic self,” and the performer searches for “validation” that “relieves [his] fear about being different or abnormal” (p.108).

The blog becomes transformative, as the author is in control of her identity, no longer dependent on false masks of protection. Online authors reveal a self-perception of truth and identity that can be revised as deemed necessary. Unlike a diary, a blog is alive. Blogs are learning experiences for the author as introspection is genuine, expressed through a “youth cultural production” that reveal perceptions of an authentic self.

A teacher's perception of a student's potential can also transform as a new sophistication of reality embraces words, and literacy becomes owned by the individual, not defined by an institution. Critique, too, is allowed a new found freedom, and can be answered, as desired, by the youth author.

A blog is, a new cultural experience and produces a discourse of literacy that, because it is important to youth, needs to be acknowledged by educators.