Something funny occurred to me the other day as I taught a bunch of ESL students how to blog (and this was not a good thought to have at this point in my process): why are we doing this? More specifically, why am I teaching these students learn how to blog? What need is it filling? I started this project with the optimistic, if misguided, idea that blogging is, a priori, a good thing for people to do, so teaching it to recent immigrants will “help” them. It’s not that those things aren’t true, but I developed that line of reasoning almost entirely on my own without first seeking out the people I was talking about, relying solely on the input of the echo-chamber that is the blogosphere, a place where one cool idea about cooking can quickly seem like the solution to world hunger.
I obviously like blogging, and think it can be used help bring people into the political fold and help them actually participate in the politics again, something Lakshmi Chaudhry recently wrote about. But I wonder about the wisdom of blogvangelizing. Taking a random group of people and telling them that blogging will “help” them is, in retrospect, a little weird. Why would it help them? Why aren’t I going around telling people to write in their diaries more often?
The answer, of course, is that blogging serves tons of functions. Even if you’re a student like those that I’m working with whose only stated need is to talk to their family more often, you might find that the accessibility and ease of blogging opens people up to the larger world of social computing. One student showed me the pictures of her and her friends that her friend emailed her. I told her she could put those pictures up on her blog; she didn’t realize this and was excited to hear it. Blogs are flexible that way; they can help you whether you want to communicate to a group of ten friends or write a political manifesto to the masses. I guess I’m hoping my students will do a little of both. The challenge is to introduce the idea to people without making it sound like you think it’s the solution to every problem, and without becoming the white helper-man who wants to help the non-white immigrant-people.