Archive for April 20, 2009

Blogging: Misunderstood, Misrepresented and Maligned

Bloggers are the snowboarders of the Ivory Tower slopes. Blogging is akin to graffiti on the wall to those in sterile, writing labs who insist on compositions being in a particular format to be assessed by a thorough going scoring rubric. Today I will blog about blogging because I think it is too new for many people in Kazakhstan to fully understand its merits in an academic setting. In fact, Microsoft hasn’t caught up yet, the word “blog” keeps having the little red squiggle line under it as if a misspelled word. I have found there is not much research out about blog writing yet. However, the same names keep popping up with frequency in the journal articles I’ve been poring over this weekend. Even less is known about blog readers. That would constitute my daily group of 125 people who check in every day to see what new or unusual thing I report on about Kazakhstan. Yes, I know too well that the world outside of blogosphere, well, bloggers are clearly misunderstood, misrepresented and maligned.

In order to encourage future bloggers to just DO IT, I would be the first to admit that blogging is freeing and part of my therapy of living in a foreign land. For those Kazakh students who live in this land, I would submit to you that blogging is a way of transmitting information to the unknown masses of the Internet who are curious about Kazakhstan. Occasionally you might get a response or a comment. Nice to know when people write to let you know what they REALLY think, for the most part I have only gotten positive feedback. Those who growl or grumble about what I write because they don’t care for my particular political views, well, noone forces them to read this blog. Freedom to choose to read my blog or not, is entirely up to you dear readers. I have a fairly good idea who reads this daily commentary because of the personal responses I receive from those friends of mine who check in every now and then. It used to be when I first started this blog in August of 2007 that it was only my friend who got me started with and my Mom. They would read just to make sure I was doing okay. Now, I know there are people from all over the world who are educators, journalists, aspiring writers, students, businessmen and curious others who want to know more about Kazakhstan.

My main objective is to tell the rest of the world what a great land this country of Kazakhstan is, while I continue to find out about its history and as a result know its people better. I guess in a sense if I feel that blogging is disdained by those in academia who believe that blogging is not scholarly enough, I suppose that is how Kazakhstan feels to the rest of the world, misunderstood, misrepresented and maligned. Since I don’t know the Kazakh language and barely know about the Kazakh culture, I can only write what I learn in English. I will encourage and ask my students to submit their stories to me so that I can turn around and “self-publish” it on the Web for them to participate on my own blog. A kind of “hybrid blogging.”

In the future, I would hope that more Kazakh students would start their own blogs by blogging in English. Never mind the correct grammar or on the structure of each daily entry. I had tried an experiment with my Ukrainian students several years ago where I insisted they write three blogs a week. Making it an assignment took away from the freedom of blogging but I’m glad that some of my former students have continued the discipline of keeping it up even as I have done. The important thing is to just write what you know and have a passion about it.

I do understand the inhibitions to write for a public audience are latent from all the years of paranoia which accompanied the Soviet “Initative is Punitive” concept. My older, teaching colleagues would not DREAM of putting their words out there for the rest of the world to read!!! However, our younger students are seeking their identity and want to carve out a place to show they are proud of their national identity. I think that makes blogging a good fit for this developing country of Kazakhstan. Tell the story about Kazakhstan or this foreigner might get some things wrong. If I do, I stand corrected with comments from my readers.


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