When my daughter was born, we started a baby book. Or rather, my wife started one. Like so many other things relating to babies, the baby book was just one more child-related technology that I had never heard of. I was happy someone else seemed to know about it, and just tried to not look stupid using it, nor drop it on Elizabeth.
Like a lot of baby books, we started out pretty diligent about it, until the actual raising of the baby crowded out writing about the baby. At a certain point, I realized that I was never going to become a better contributor to the baby book; at about the same time, I discovered blogging. So, I figured, why not start a blog about the kids? It would be an excuse to practice with the technology, and it would also have the virtue of being something that friends and family could read.
It’s been a great success, in that I’ve written far more in the kids’ blog than I ever would have in the baby books. Their lives are far more densely documented than they would have been otherwise. The baby book was a place mainly to commemorate firsts– first words, first steps, first haircut. With the blog, in contrast, I write more about everyday stuff. Not first words, but funny things my kids say in the car. Not first steps, but what happened at tonight’s visit to the park. Conversations at bedtime, or stories their teachers relate. It’s social history, not a timeline.
It also illustrates a trend we talk about at the Institute: a shift in media from episodic to persistent interactions, contact and creation. I would write in the baby book every month or so, at best; I write in the kids’ blog several times a week. It’s also not just for me, but for family and friends: it’s a tremendously efficient way for me to keep them up to date on what the kids are doing. (And frankly, most of them– particularly my relatives– are more interested in the kids than me. You could map my strong ties and weak ties by looking at who reads the kids’ blog, and who reads mine.) And, like Bauhaus furniture or books produced in the pre-Gutenberg pescia system, it’s a hand-crafted version of something that will eventually be produced mechanically and automatically. By the time they’re my age, my kids are likely to record just about every waking moment of their lives– and certainly every conversation, trip, message, and reflection. At that point, recording an event– capturing it for posterity, marking it as something worth remembering– won’t be the notable thing: turning off the recorder, going off-the-record, choosing not to capture an event, will be the notable act.