Today I have spent some time researching abandoned blogs. As I mentioned in my first post, this can be somewhat of an uncanny experience. Reading through these blogposts allows us to gain a window into both the past and peoples’ lives. In many ways, it reminds me of John Berger’s concept of the painting as a corridor that bridges temporal disjunctures (if you haven’t watched his excellent Ways of Seeing, I recommend it highly). These blogs speak to the present, they are signifiers reverberating through time. And they ring out for me, here now, today.
As I began to trace the contours of the exhibition, I was struck by the pervading sense of loss that underpins the project. While the cultural-historical discoveries afforded by digging out dead blogs have been fascinating, it is the feeling of stasis and abandonment that has provoked the most thought. In other words, the studium, to borrow Barthes’ term, has been second to the punctum.
This mourning for digital mortality is compounded by much of the blog material I have encountered. Seeing the creative efforts of people exist in a purgatorial vacuum gives rise to a nagging fatalism – as Nabokov once wrote, ‘the cradle rocks above an abyss’ . In one final blog post, a woman discusses her struggles and desire to post regularly. ‘I am busier than ever’, she writes, ‘but think of and long for my Blogging everyday'. She laments the fact that ‘((Due to sleep depro))’, it is difficult to have an ‘original thought to pump out to put in print'. Given that this is the last post, it would appear that the wish for creative expression succumbed to the pressures of her daily routine. But it is impossible to say, we can only guess what has happened to the people who leave their blogs behind. It is this enigmaticalness that draws me in.
Pathos can extend beyond the inability to realise one’s own creativity. On a blog titled ‘mymusings-becky’, I read a post that mourned for both a family member that had taken their life, and a young nephew that had died. Throughout the post, there is a search for solace in religion, an attempt to find a glimmer of meaning in a time of desperation: ‘And in those moments you can still proclaim with absolute certainty that God is still good!! In the midst of it all He never changes! He is our steadfast hope! He is our salvation! He is the one who scoops us up and holds us tenderly'. No more posts have followed.
However, and this is what has left pause for thought most, I have been forced to consider the ethics of my research. Although these posts were shared within the public domain, I cannot help but feel like a voyeur rifling through diaries. Many of these blogs are deeply personal. They are confessions. There is an overwhelming sense of catharsis, with each blog serving as an outlet where internal strife can be expressed. And when reading through these textual exorcisms, I often reflect on whether I am invading a private space. Moreover, I have also had to question whether these posts even qualify as waste. Is it ethical to declare these expressions of grief as obsolete? Does the authors’ abandonment facilitate the blogs’ becoming-waste?
These are particularly knotty dilemmas. I have never felt the need to question the ethics of my research before, but it warrants consideration. As I progress through the project, collating the various abandoned artefacts of the digital age, I hope to find some answers for the problems raised by my research.
Until then, I will, with a feeling of unease, continue my digital ragpicking.
. Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited (London: Penguin, 2016), p.5.
. Available at http://thegreeneyedgirlonplanetearth.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/come-on-sunshine-do-your-stuff-mid.html?m=1, [accessed 28 February 2017]
. Available at http://mymusings-becky.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/pain-and-loss.html?m=1, [accessed 28 February 2017]