Wow. ::jaw on floor:: When I posted my article last night, I sent it to some friends and academic lists figuring that it would stir a conversation. I figured that some usual suspects would read it and offer valuable critiques. I was not expected Slashdot, Digg, Metafilter, del.icio.us/popular, Reddit, and other aggregators to pick it up.
Meme flow on the web intrigues me. When I post a well-thought out, well-written analysis, I get a few thousands hits and maybe a BoingBoing mention. So far, I’ve received 90K hits for this latest piece, the most problematic of essays I’ve ever shared publicly. Figures.
I know that there are problems in that essay (and I tried to caveat and caveat away till I annoyed myself). So I am not surprised that folks are up in arms about all sorts of things. Still, the response is fascinating. I guess there’s nothing like something problematic to get a conversation started, eh?
I can’t decide if the response is good or bad. I’m clearly getting raked through the coals by lots of folks from lots of different perspectives. I actually find this quite constructive and helpful. I’m getting a lot of feedback from teens, parents, teachers, youth ministers, and other non-tech audiences which is extremely thought provoking. The feedback varies tremendously in tone and content. Some folks are saying I’m completely right; some are telling me I’m dead wrong. The latter clearly gives me an opportunity to follow up with folks that I’m not representing well and I hope that it’ll be a chance to learn what I’m missing.
I think some folks misinterpreted this piece as an academic article. No doubt this is based on my observations from the field, but this is by no means an academic article. I did add some methodological footnotes in the piece so that folks would at least know where the data was coming from. But I didn’t situate or theorize or contextualize this at all. It’s more like publicizing field observations. There’s much work to be done before this can be anything resembling an academic article. The “citation” note at the top of my pieces also confuses this. That was meant for when people picked it up and stole it whole from my page or when people got to it indirectly. I put that as a standard for my blog essays a while back because of this issue. I guess I see my blog as a space to work out half-formed ideas. I just didn’t expect 90K people to read it. Blog essays to me are thoughts in progress, blog entries that are too long to be blog entries. But I can see where there’s confusion.
I also clearly pissed off the academics by inappropriately appropriating academic terms in an attempt to demarcate groups. I intentionally picked two that have a political valence meant to hit at some of the crunchiness; I went back and forth with terms and decided to repurpose academic ones since they work as better metaphors than most everyday terms that I could think of. For example, I hate how poorer populations or marginalized populations are always framed as powerless so I appropriated an academic term (“subaltern”) that comes from post-colonial studies when work was done to give power to the voices of subaltern soldiers in India. Still, I want better terms and am hoping someone has suggestions.
I’m still wading through the responses. I’m still floored by the responses. I’ve been in the air and offline all day so I haven’t had a chance to go through everything. But in the next few days I will and I will respond. And I *really* appreciate the feedback and critique. I think some good can come out of this unbelievable feedback.
I also need to get my head around the fact that sharing something problematic has sparked more of a conversation and reflection than being precise. In some senses, this bothers me. At the same time, inciting people to think is exactly what I want. So I am feeling very bewildered. Is the way to make change to present something problematic so that people have to engage by disagreeing? Hmm..