Building Platforms for the Future

In this post I want to think, just a little bit, about the role of platforms and how I’m attempting to maneuver this space. This is aimed at better clarifying (for me) how this space is used, as well as to render its use more transparent (which is apparently a core facet of building successful platforms *grin*).

A few weeks ago I was linked to a blog page that discussed the role of platforms in opening up future publishing-related avenues. The principles of the post could be boiled down to the follow:

  1. Speak authentically;
  2. Speak regularly;
  3. Speak in an open, transparent fashion;
  4. Speak so that the development of ideas is clear;
  5. Speak so that you are demonstrating your authority.

These are, generally, pretty traditional tropes surrounding Web 2.0. There isn’t anything terrifically new. What interests me, however, at the fourth and fifth items. In rendering transparent the development of ideas, what I think is most helpful is that a final, codified, textual work is opened up to the reader. Should they be sufficiently interested in the work, they can move to see how an argument was, and wasn’t, developed. By seeing how and why a writer has cordoned off particular threads of thought it is possible to open new and interesting approaches to a critique – as a firm advocate that reading theory is greatly assisted by understanding the author’s life and situation, and blogging (or establishing a similarly open platform) gives readers a way of getting to ‘know’ the author beyond the 100 word summary at the end of a book.

The challenge, of course, is balancing the ‘me’ factor with the aim to demonstrate authority. Given the traditional emphasis that neutrality is central to the careful construction and deployment of ideas, presenting a relatively ‘clear’ picture of oneself threatens to present a bias that would undermine a traditional conception of ‘authority’. In scholarly work now, we see people discount academics on the basis of their personal lives (Heidegger is a great example), but at the same time we see how understanding writers’ situations can lead to more nuanced accounts of their work (Locke is a good example).

I intentionally keep the vast majority of the things that occur in my life away from this space – I don’t discuss day-to-day minutia, or events that upset me – on the basis that I don’t want this ‘platform’ ‘polluted’ with such issues. I’m not always successful, and I know that a substantial degree of my personality and personal biases are conveyed in the relatively casual manner in which posts are constructed. This said, the platform of choice in digital eras is less forgiving than those used by theorists in modernity – I can’t simply burn my blog posts, or email for that matter, whereas the ‘riske’ facets of Locke’s life were erased from the record with the light of candles and fires of the hearth – which necessitates attempts to distinguish between what one wants to be seen as relating to one’s writing, and what one doesn’t want seen and associated with their writing. I guess I’ll see in a few years if the platform, as loosely constructed, is helpful or not. Regardless, it will be (and has been) helpful in assisting me structure early thoughts so that they can subsequently refined in later writings.