One of the notions that I tend to emphasize in composition classes is that of the responsible responder—that is, I encourage my students (and constantly remind myself) to practice at being critically engaged with texts that they confront. These texts go beyond the mere printed word; we must train ourselves to be critical readers of television, radio, advertisements, gestures, social events—anything that can be analyzed and interpreted. We must constantly flex these muscles in our brain, lest they become weak and flabby.
Blogging, I believe, offers us a wonderful opportunity to work on the skills we need to cultivate to become responsible responders. This is not to say that all people who blog do so with a critical eye toward outside stimuli (blogs can become purely narcissistic smatterings); however, many bloggers are writing in direct response to news items, cultural artifacts, or other people’s online journals. Not only do these writers continually engage in the critical assessment of texts, but the nature of the medium makes it easier for their readers to do so as well.
By linking to the texts they are discussing, bloggers give their readers immediate access to those texts. This accessibility encourages readers to be more critical (or, at least, to offer better critiques) of the author’s interpretation of the texts he is discussing. We are more willing to take the word of the author of a printed article at face value, simply because, if we are not already familiar with the text (news item, cultural artifact, resource used for support), we are less likely to take the effort to research it ourselves. With instant access to the texts (even video) on the Internet, readers can instantly evaluate if the author’s analysis in one they agree with.
So get on out there and surf, read, write, link: begin responding responsibly!