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List of Categories : Commentary * Database * Singapore * Technology * Travel *

Wed 12 May 2004

A Weblog as a form of Chautauqua

Category : Commentary/chautauqua.txt

I'm finding that there is a close parallel between the mode of discourse made possible by a weblog, and the mechanism used by Robert Pirsig to link together the events and ideas he described in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

If you don't mind, look at the discussion on this page that I've found :

"I would like to use the time to talk in some depth about things that seem important. What is in mind is a sort of Chautauqua that's the only name that I can think of for it like the traveling tent-show Chautauquas that used to move across America, [...] an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer. ( Pirsig, p.17)

From the discussion that I linked to earlier : "The narrator sticks to this expression as well as to the lecture-form, the most defining element of the original Chautauquas, throughout the novel. He uses the term Chautauqua whenever he wants to present notions of a more theoretical kind: motorcycle maintenance, philosophy, technology, 20th century life, etc. These Chautauquas gain importance for the narrator on a very personal level, because the lectures become more specifically linked to the narrator's life. Still, he never abandons pointing out general implications, trying to come to conclusions at the end of the Chautauquas (although sometimes the end of one and the beginning of another are blurred). A wide range of topics is discussed, which seemingly also inspired the narrator to come up with the term chautauqua."

Note : "a wide range of topics is discussed ... these Chautauquas gain importance for the narrator on a very personal level, because the lectures become more specifically linked to the narrator's life ... never abandons pointing out general implications, trying to come to conclusions at the end of the Chautauquas (although sometimes the end of one and the beginning of another are blurred)."

That's what a weblog is like, isn't it. You can use it to lay out an idea that is very difficult to get across at one go. Especially when you're still trying to untangle the strands of your own thoughts. The weblog gives you the time to ruminate about a position that you've taken, find other situations from which you can draw implications that will either strengthen or weaken your convictions, and ultimately move you closer to better knowledge or a greater truth. If that ever happens, it doesn't matter if nobody else reads it because you've rendered a service to yourself.

Posted at 11:48AM UTC | permalink


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