Web as Shared Journal
I remember reading that novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife Sophia shared a journal throughout their marriage. The Morgan Library and Museum gives context to this interesting practice:
For the Hawthornes, journal keeping was a family affair. Both Nathaniel and Sophia kept private records periodically throughout their lives, and when they married in July 1842 they began to keep a journal together, each making entries in turn. They wrote in the same notebook—a small blank volume with marbled-paper covers and a leather spine—read each other's entries, and built a joint narrative of their intimate life as partners in their new home, the Old Manse in Concord.
In a way, the Hawthorne's were interacting on the smallest social network imaginable – a personal journal where one other person can see your entries and can also write inside it. But the journal isn't personal any more. That act of another reading and writing beside you turns it into something else entirely.
This makes me wonder about one of Dino Bansigan's recent musings about writing on the web when compared to journaling:
For some reason, I cannot wrap my head around the concept of writing for myself, but at the same time writing to an audience. I feel like if I can just look at it from a different angle though, I would figure it out. The closest thing I can think of, is writing for myself but writing in such a way that the content is palatable to readers. But then, wouldn't I be writing to an audience?
That question leads me to a realization... that it might not even be possible to separate the two when you are posting on a public website. The very nature of a public website means that there is at least one reader, myself, and then there's everyone else online. Something like a “one to many” relationship between a post and readers. So, there's really no way to avoid an audience when posting to a public website. If I really wanted to just write for myself, then my offline bullet journal should suffice. However, I already have a bullet journal and yet I'm still posting here. So there's something else that I'm looking for that I'm not getting from an offline journal.
That “something else” might be something similar to the Hawthorne's. Of course it might not be on that intimate of a level, but to have another individual read our entries and build a joint narrative alongside us – a vision of writing on the web as writing in a shared journal.