Essay 2: What I’ve Learned

Suzanne and Juan Pablo told us that we would be amazed at where we’d be at the end of the semester, and they were right. During our lecture on authority Suzanne and Juan mentioned “why take this class?” which I had been thinking a lot about. In Pub 101 we made blogs, discussed related topics in communication, and got to take a peek into the world of applied self publishing enabled by web 2.0. While I have blogged in the past, I honestly don’t think I would have come this far by myself without this experience. In particular:

  1. I would never have purchased my own domain, known how, or thought it was important.

    I have blogged before, on my own free wordpress site, and on a site I contribute to. However, I have never set up my own domain before, or thought that I’d be able to. It has been a liberating experience, though I am still reliant on a domain hosting service, I run WordPress, and have built off of a pre-made theme. I like the feeling that I control this space, that I have a unique domain name, and that I can choose whether or not to put ads on.

  2. I never would have cared about appearances.

    During the beginning of this semester, I didn’t put a lot of thought or effort into how my blog looked. I wanted this blog to be for myself, and I didn’t want to become stressed over trying to create this blog for others. Aesthetically, especially, I struggled over this. In my life I often have ideas in mind, and might turn out to be a talented decorator, but when the benefit would be just for me I rarely put in the effort to make it aesthetically pleasing (you should see my house’s lack of interior design). As the semester progressed I held out for quite a while, becoming increasingly dissatisfied with my blog’s appearance as I viewed my peers’ amazing layouts each week. Finally I gave in, re-vamped my blog, and now I couldn’t be happier. My blog looks like my ‘dream’ sketch I did at the beginning of the semester, and with Pub 101 guidance, I was able to make it a reality.

    My initial sketch, achieved it all except for the soundtrack.
    My initial sketch, achieved it all except for the soundtrack.
  3. I wouldn’t be as good an artist.

    The tracking aspect of this course was challenging, but ultimately I am glad it was a course component. Recording my weekly art has encouraged me to get creative more often in order to have art to display for you all. Though in the past I would use schoolwork as an excuse to not be artistically active, I have ended up producing more art than ever before – even more than periods in the summer without any school.

  4. I wouldn’t be as good a blogger

    Continuing this sentiment, without taking this class I would not have been encouraged to blog regularly. With regular blogging has come a better level of comfort, and a legitimate desire to create content not solely for class purposes, but because I want to voice my opinion on things.

Final ‘thoughts on audience’

Throughout the publication of self experience one conflict has plagued me: the decision to choose between what would be good for publicity, and what would be good for my personal happiness.

When I read things similar to: “having a good idea and building a great product isn’t enough,” something inside me sighs. Building an audience takes effort and networked promotion. The final thing Pub 101 gave me that I would not have had otherwise was an audience. As I first wrote my ‘About‘ page, and the corresponding section for ‘thoughts on audience‘ I stated that I wanted to write primarily for myself, and secondarily for my Pub 101 peers – especially those who I would find shared my interests. What I did not realize was the extent that my pub 101 peers would subconsciously affect my writing with the possibility that they might read my content. I think this subtle panopticism did have an effect on my writing. Knowing I had an audience encouraged me to employ the advice given in class, to write concise posts (Lisa Manfield) and use interesting visuals. Furthermore, having an audience has likely also positively impacted my desire to post, and the overall quality of my writing.

So what’s the problem? Obviously an audience is good for my blog, so why would I feel conflicted over taking steps to grow this audience? The answer is only partly explained by laziness (the difference between my perceived benefit and perceived cost of time and effort). In fact, much of the decision is determined by how it will impact my self-respect. What I am experiencing is the classic artist’s conflict, commonly played out in the music industry: between creating unique, honest music, or selling out for popularity. This desire to create content that is true to oneself and isn’t subject to external influence, however, does not lend itself well to commercialization and has thus seen itself die out in projects.

Throughout the blogging experience this internal conflict (of publicity vs personal happiness) has poked up repeatedly as I was confronted with choices between making a change that will optimize the blog for my audience, or being content with a reflection of myself as audience (as I had originally anticipated). As I’ve mentioned, I faced this decision early on when debating my layout after Peter Cocking’s lecture, and ultimately deciding to give in because I decided it would also make myself happy. Since then, students have been encouraged to look into Google Search Engine Optimization (Lisa Manfield’s lecture), and Google Adsense (Trevor Battye’s lecture), both of which I have decided against. Those changes would be a conscious effort to attract and monetize an audience. I find this not only morally questionable, but in conflict with my site’s unofficial mandate: “the reason I’m so interested in broadcasting my interests is to discover and meet others with similar interests.” I am not comfortable tacking “and to attract as much traffic to the site as possible and monetize it” to that founding statement.

Should I just swallow my pride?

As I wrote this I realized that I had made this same decision years ago in a crucial part of my offline life: whether to pursue art as a career. When I was about 11 years old I’d decided that Art would be too difficult a career to pursue, and that I would instead continue it only as a hobby. Posiel has taught me that I can expand the pleasure I derive from this casual hobby without forcing myself to take it beyond what I enjoy, changing it to fit what others will deem beautiful, or monetizing it. I’d like to continue taking this approach with my blog. As I move beyond this semester I will keep blogging to the best of my ability, while always putting my happiness first. Hopefully my passion will draw others to the site, and if not, hopefully I can continue to blog quality content without audience motivation: The Publication of Self, For Self.

Quoted References

Kontny, N. (July 23, 2014). Now that I’ve created something, how do I spread it? Fascolabs.