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Bone Boxes

February 19th, 2004 · 1 Comment

The quotes below are taken from a novel that has been one of my favorite books ever since I read it in high school, words that came to mind once again last week:

My darkness reaches out and fumbles at a typewriter with its tongs. Your darkness reaches out with your tongs and grasps a book. There are twenty modes of change, filter and translation between us.


I tick. I exist. I am poised eighteen inches over the black rivets you are reading, I am in your place. I am shut in a bone box and trying to fasten myself onto white paper. The rivets join us together and yet for all the passion we share nothing but our sense of division.

In Free Fall by William Golding, the narrator began the novel trying to describe the difficulties of writing his story – how he could sit there at the typewriter and put words on paper yet these words were only an attempt for his “bone box” to try to speak to another “bone box” with “twenty modes of change, filter and translation between us.”

Move this novel forward fifty years, and find the narrator describing the frustrations of writing and blogging, hands poised over a keyboard – and perhaps it would sound a bit like what Halley Suitt wrote last week in her post The Star You Are :

As for what blogging is, you could say at one end of the spectrum, blogs are simply online journals. But you might go to the other extreme and agree with what Alan Webber of FastCompany Magazine once told me, “Blogging is performance art.” … It’s hard to explain what it feels like when you just want to talk to 3 friends, but 30 strangers also want to talk to you. And you know those 30 might be equally fascinating, pleasant, and articulate but there are THIRTY of them.

There’s another subtle level to it. Joi Ito the person and Joi Ito the blog are different. Halley (me in my skin here) and Halley’s Comment Halley are different. When we take our bodies for a visit to a conference and we meet with our friends who we chat with, email with, blog and comment with, we are being ourselves mostly. But people are also reacting to us as our blog performance art persona. It messes with your mind.


If you write well and people value your writing, that should be the beginning and the end of it. That people want to see, study, talk with, flirt with, drink with, point at, dance with our real live blogger selves is something else entirely.

The place I find interesting is where the two overlap and create disappointment — where blogs and social networks create a false zone of “intimacy” — making all parties feel they really “know” one another. Perhaps when we gather together in the real world, there’s a sense that if we’ve played and chatted in Orkut or IRC, read the most personal details of a blogger’s life and have had one another’s email addresses in our address books for years, we should have equally intimate access to those same people in the lobby of the hotel.

This post on Halley’s Comment hit me like a hammer and confirmed to me my fears. I realized how I’ve felt that I’ve gotten to know people, including Halley Suitt, by reading their blogs. But she wrote that this is a false sense of intimacy. And although I don’t think of myself as having a “blog performance art persona” I do feel that what I write on this blog is different from who I am in person. Writing for me has always been different than dialogue, an easier and more intimate expression of myself than spontaneous conversation. What I enjoy about blogging is that I can describe these deeper sides to me, places that I don’t often go in a day if I’m just having surface conversation, the how-ya-doing- how’s-the-weather type of talk yelled across the lawn or squeezed in between childrens requests. However, in my blog, I can spill out what’s been simmering inside me. I don’t think it is a performance persona. But sometimes I wonder if I am a different person on my blog than in reality. Or I wonder if I falsely feel more intimate with blog readers and bloggers than I should.

So it was with some anxiety and trepidation that I went to my first bloggers meetup last night. I had begun to wonder if blogging, what I was reading and writing on the Web, was some kind of Disneyland, full of fantasy figures, men and women hiding inside inflated Mickey Mouse suits. What would people do when come face to face with me? And I with them? What kinds of bloated expectations would be burst? And who was I anyway? The Julie on this blog or someone else, the Julie who would be there in body?

I don’t know what Halley Suitt has experienced in her time as a blogger – certainly much more than I have. But I thought the night went well, different from how her post had described. I felt myself. I didn’t feel like I had multiple personalities or some sort of performance persona. I was me. Simply Julie.

Now, I must confess that I don’t think many people at the Meet up had been reading my blog. I didn’t get into any conversations that referred to what I had written. Instead I was often explaining to others the name and url of my site. No one asked me how much I had hit the floor looking for my brake while Ted was driving (a few times!) or tried to talk me back into becoming a doctor or asked me how I was learning to be a hacker. I don’t have hordes of fans as Halley might, no thirty people begging to meet with me. But it felt okay. It was fun. I was me. And as far as I could tell, since I wasn’t very familiar with many of the Meetup bloggers either, others were true to their blog selves too, if anything the meeting in the flesh only embellishing what I had learned about them from reading their sites, giving me a picture to go with the words on the page.

So I am still feeling that I should continue to type, blogging from this bone box. And I am feeling that I should continue to take this bone box out to meet others too. Somewhere in the process of socializing both in bytes and in body I’ll be me, others will be themselves, and these rivets will join us together somehow…

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 enoch // Feb 20, 2004 at 2:22 am

    no links to the posts about driving, not becoming a doc, learning to be a hacker, or the reason for the url of your site? tsk tsk…


    oh, and isn’t it great bobby’s running for congress? i’ll bet he wins!