What Does It Mean to Be a Reader?

So, last night I had dinner with KF from Planned Obsolescence and since she is a big media guru we spent a lot of time talking about blogging and other online dohickies.  

I think she and I are both struck by how, if done well, how we do what we do online has the ability to draw together groups of people who share common interests and who can benefit from all of the mutual intellectual energy, but who otherwise wouldn’t ever be on each other’s radars. 

We were talking specifically about Television Without Pity, which is an enormous well of people who love television (or hate it, in some way) and who can speak articulately and critically about what they’re seeing and how media scholars, who also love television and can speak articulately and critically about it, have readerships in the low 1000s, if that. 

Plus, Television Without Pity is current.  The shows under discussion are on the air.  The big Buffy conference they had down at MTSU, though, for instance, even thought it got a lot of attention, happened long after the show was off the air.

Scholarship, as is usually done, has a certain model that doesn’t necessarily map well onto the ways people experience the things under study* and feels out of date to a large portion of the population who otherwise has a vested interest in what scholars are doing.

And so we talked with optimism about the internet’s potential for increasing the speed and shape of scholarship and for bridging the gaps between the academy and the real world (in the sense that any world is real).

And KP is considering writing a book about blogging, because she has all these exciting questions about what it means to be an author, what it means to be a reader, etc.  Are the people that lurk readers in the same way as people who comment?  I’d say that both are extremely valuable, but to me they feel like two different groups that share a population.  Lurkers can become commenters.  Commenters can go back to lurking.  But each activity, to me, seems very different.

Anyway, I’m excited about her enthusiasm.

My day was filled with talking to really energetic and interesting people.  I was exhausted when I came home, but I felt like I didn’t have enough time with any of them.

Which, I think is a good sign. 




*This had been a topic all day in various ways, about the tension between traditional scholarship as a useful framework for disseminating knowledge and traditional scholarship as a way of keeping really radical (in the pleasurable sense of the word) work from having any real power.  I really cherish my ability to be the place where a lot of usually disparate trains of thought must come together.  There’s a lot about my job that drives me nuts, but I am constantly shook (in a good way) by the privilege I have of seeing how things connect behind the scenes.  Sometimes, I’m in the high seat, just like the volva, seeing what is normally invisible.  My work is, in the grand scheme of things, not that important, but I’m honored to do it, nonetheless. 

2 thoughts on “What Does It Mean to Be a Reader?

  1. Yep. And, if you study popular culture, media, and so forth, it was pretty good. Here’s a brief "get you up to speed" on the state of the field of Buffy Studies:http://www.slayage.tv/Not really my cup of tea, but I have philosopher buddies that use Buffy clips as ways into complicated ethical and moral debates. Whatever works, I guess.

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