In a brief exchange today with Adam Croom, he asked me who I considered to be my public – and who I considered to be the public of “student voice.” It’s a question that challenges the often-times insulated communities of writers and tweeters. It’s a question that challenges “open” and “public” as not any more open or public than ~350 followers. It’s a guard against becoming comfortable in a “public” niche where those who read you like you, because you’re “a student writing in public.” That world might not offer many challenges.
So who is my public? I, a public student writer. And what does that mean for me?
At the moment I presume it’s a small group of educators who are either my friends or fans of these sorts of experiments. There aren’t students reading these bits. And so, with this knowledge, of course I’m writing with the educators in mind. I’m learning what you all like reading. You could say I’ve been learning for 2 years (since a first conference). My writing is a playful embodiment of “reclaimed identity”, the “power of open”, and a github-worthy “digital literacy.” Woop woop.
But it’s also true that this reclaimed identity has developed in relation to the educators reading this work. There’s been mimicry of language and web design preferences (thanks David McClure). My simplistic understanding of movements around OER and distributed network learning have led to this blog or UNRH or all my recent ideation on student voice.
My identity hasn’t risen out of this deep place of ultimate truth inside myself (something something Nietzche/Rorty/Derrida something something), but only ever in relation to the work being done around me. You could say I ‘own’ my identity. But it’s still certainly modeled on folks I admire. I feel successfully socialized and thrillingly free – properly “made in the image” and flush with choice.
And so the “public” learning that I do in this space could be better framed as follows: I’m writing to my small – rather insulated – network to sharpen my opinions and my medium-style-writing by mimicking, extending, and attempting to “complicate” the ideas passed around by this world of educators (mentors). This writing – more than anything – is an informal apprenticeship. And before I go “truly public” I’d love the challenges of my current “public.” This current public that educates for a living. There’s so much to know.
I’m going to leave you with a brief section from Susan Sontag’s introduction to “Against Interpretation” which has helped me to reflect on these writings even before I’ve written most of them:
Before I wrote the essays I did not believe many of the ideas espoused in them; when I wrote them, I believed what I wrote; subsequently, I have come to disbelieve some of these same ideas again— but from a new perspective, one that incorporates and is nourished by what is true in the argument of the essays. Writing criticism has proved to be an act of intellectual disburdenment as much as of intellectual self-expression. I have the impression not so much of having, for myself, resolved a certain number of alluring and troubling problems as of having used them up. But no doubt this is illusory. The problems remain, more remains to be said about them by other curious and reflective people, and perhaps this collection of some recent thinking about the arts will have a certain relevance to that.
Sontag, Susan (2013-10-01). Against Interpretation: And Other Essays (p. 2). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.