Just got off the phone with a colleague who is organizing an interesting event. What I should have said at the end of the conversation is “Can I blog this?” But I didn’t. I don’t think I’ve ever said that to anyone.
Self-disclosure in blogs — not just of one’s personal life, but of things directly related to one’s work — is difficult enough to manage: Do I tell you when I’ve done something incredibly stupid (yes, I usually do), or do I present myself as infallible? But an equally important question is what happens when I am reporting on others?
Take, for example, the two entries I’ve made most recently. In one, I report on something a friend has published in the local newspaper. I think it is obvious I can relay this without invading anyone’s privacy. In another, I present what someone has said in an “open” faculty meeting. I think I’m pretty OK there as well, though it’s really getting more fuzzy. Not mentioning my provost’s name, though this is easy enough to find out, was a deliberate attempt to leave my comments out of a Google search for her.
But much of my day is made up of meetings with individuals. Joi Ito has no problem blogging these meetings (complete with pictures). I wonder how his interlocutors respond to this. Does he ask them? Obviously, when the little camera comes out, they have to guess (?).
I’ve used creative ambiguity (including the diarists crutch: initials) to try not to overdisclose other people’s lives or the life of our organization. But it is hard to know whether my level of comfort in publishing my ideas and events meshes with that of others.
I remember when I first found that some of my students in a class at UW were keeping livejournals. Among the entries were very frank opinions of my teaching–mostly positive :). Others seemed to be simply keeping their diaries on-line, and were not shy about publishing the most intimate elements of their own lives. (This seems to be the norm among livejournalers.) One of these bloggers related in great detail the story of one of his friends coming out to him on the day of the entry. It was made clear that this person’s friend had not yet come out to his parents or others within their social circle. Yet here it was, on a screen for the world to see. It was unfathomable to me that someone could be so forthright about their own life, let alone the lives of those around them. I sometimes wonder if the MTV generation has a different feel for where the boundaries of private and public life exist.