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The Moebius Strip that is a Blog: What Genre Is it?

Day 21 of Emerging Genres:
The Moebius Strip that is a Blog:
What Genre Is It?

I. coursekeeping
note keeping: Ingrid or Megan?
for Thursday, read/write/think about

Boxer, Sarah. Blogs. New York Review of Books, 55, 2 (February 14, 2008).

Miller, Carolyn R. and Dawn Shepherd, "Blogging as Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog." Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs. Ed. Laura J. Gurak, Smiljana Antonijevic, Laurie Johnson, Clancy Ratliff, and Jessica Reyman (2004).

due date for next 4 pp. paper, on The Scarlet Letter, blogging or related matters (genre forms like autobiography or diary?) moved to M, Apr. 28

old business: French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, & Co.
Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States
(per Stanley Fish: "Not comedy, not tragedy, more like farce, but farce with consequences"!)

II. the moebius strip: from two-sided to one-sided, from part to whole
emergent property is found in a system as a whole but not in any part of the system

III. looking @ some of the parts that make up this new whole that is the blog
A. Journalism (reading last week's Bi-Co News):

what do you see? what genre is this?

(following Jessy's) basic, but as yet unexplored and unsupported, assumption...that ‘genre’ refers to structure, and does not give a very reliable indication of content or of function....

and that recognizing the structure informs the audience/reader what they are supposed to look for....The structure of a piece tells the reader how to view the particular mobilizations of whatever tactics are used

B. Autobiography
(aka: autobiographical readings of The Scarlet Letter):

Hannah re Hawthorne and Dimmesdale:
I was interested in the idea that Hawthorne wrote to "exorcise demons," that is, to get a troubling thought out of his head...This to me is the most convincing argument that The Scarlet Letter is autobiographical....
Hawthonre did penance by writing the seems clear that he struggled with guilt. He must have to have written a novel completely strucured around it...the only way to be (relatively) at peace with yourself is to make your sin explicitly known to the world.

Alexandra re Hawthorne=Pearl, sort of
I really like Hannah's post about the autobiographical elements being found in Dimmesdale....for me...Pearl's fate is what he would have wished for himself, escaping from Salem and being free from the scarlet letter. She represents the ideal that he wasn't ever able to achieve.

a new collection of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, Unaccustomed Earth takes its epigraph from
a metaphysical passage from “The Custom-House,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, which suggests that transplanting people into new soil makes them hardier and more flourishing. Human fortunes may be improved, Hawthorne argues, if men and women “strike their roots into unaccustomed earth.” It’s an apt, rich metaphor for the transformations Lahiri oversees in these pages, in which two generations of Bengali immigrants to America — the newcomers and their hyphenated children — struggle to build normal, secure lives. But Lahiri does not so much accept Hawthorne’s notion as test it. Is it true that transplanting strengthens the plant? Or can such experiments produce mixed outcomes?

IV. moving from Hawthorne to blogs, via the crowd:
a topic inspired by Michael Tratner, "Working the Crowd: Movies and Mass Politics"
(Criticism 45, 1, Winter 2003: 53-73):

  • the dominant theory of crowd psychology--Freud's--treats members of a crowd as a mass, each person is lost in a private unconscious dream of loving the leader....psychoanalysis converts the crowd back into a collection of spectators....This makes movie watching rather like dreaming in bed in the dark.
  • Cf. the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 ("the Hayes Code"): "The grandeur of mass meetings, large action, spectacular features, etc. affects and arouses more intensely the emotional side of the audience"....the Hayes Code uses the power of social influence to provide a common morality for everyone....Private life is...constructed by public life.
  • cf. John Stuart Mill, "On Liberty" (1859): written to counter a "social tyranny...of prevailing opinion and feeling"; he fears the destruction of individuality (i.e. long before movies, people worried about ideological effects!)
In The Scarlet Letter:
...the Old World, with its crowds and cities, offered them a more eligible shelter and concealment than the wilds of New England, or all America, with its...few settlements (153)

...the crowd was in a tumult. The men of rank and dignity...were so taken by surprise, and so perplexed as to the purport of what they saw...that they remained silent and inactive spectators....they beheld the minister...approach the scaffold, and ascend its steps...Old Roger Chillingworth followed..."there was no one place so secret...where thou couldst have escaped me, --save on this very scaffold" (179).

What's the logic of this?
How can being so public be a way of being so secretive?
What are the costs of being so public?

So You Want to Be a Blogging Star?
whether a person blogs to make a little money, to influence opinion or just for sheer ego gratification, amassing a large audience is the goal....In the end, the biggest threat is’ll have trouble doing your day job.

In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop
The New York Times reports today on the strain of being one of the new "information workers"
who have emerged in response to the "always-on" news cycle that is the Internet.

55 Million Blogs, and Now a Service to Track Them:
--of the top 100 blogs in the United States, 3 percent are personal journals
--the leading blogs are likely to look at business or technology

Blogging’s a Low-Cost, High Return Marketing Tool
--Blogging requires a large time commitment and some writing skills
--companies need to focus on a strategy for their blogging and figure out if they have enough to say.
--transparency is a popular reason for blogging, particularly for companies that want to be identified as mission-oriented or socially responsible.

Iranian Blogosphere Tests Government’s Limits

The WayBack Machine: An Internet Archive

V. Back to the question of genre:
From a review of Sarah Boxer's Ultimate Blogs: Masterworks from the Wild Web (2008):
a gut feeling that the two media, books and blogs, were hopelessly incompatible
“bloggy to the core”: “conversational and reckless, composed on the fly for anonymous intimates...
public and private, grand and niggling

“I don’t have a blogging bone in my body...I am not an exhibitionist. I do not crave friends I’ve never met. I hate gossip....Instant messaging makes me feel like I’ve been cornered at a party with no drink."

VI. go 'round: add to our data set by introducing blogs you follow....

Toxic Blogger:
popular blogs turn into undercover publicity devices when
bloggers get free merchandise to test and write about

VII. Cf. reports of Jo(e) and Laurie Mcneill

Jo(e) on Blogging as an emerging genre:

interactive, instantaneous, a text with multiple voices
replacing the free exchange of ideas that writers could once do in books

comments: ephemeral, trivialized, superficial
spastic release of energy
reflective teaching journal that acknowleges the whole of the teaching self,
not just walk-on as a classroom performer
it's nice to have a random place to write down the STUFF
that is cluttering one' s head so the real work can start
pleasure that I don't have to be a perfectionist
love the slap dash nature of blogging
not just a new genre but a new medium encompassing
a variety of genres and purposes and audiences


Mcneill, Teaching an Old Genre New Tricks: The Diary on the Internet
"global autobiography project," "consensual hallucination" of the Internet
collision between the traditional reading and writing practices and the new media
"super-size" narcissism of Web diarists, or argument for importance of individual lives?
immediacy, accessbility, seemingly unmediated state blurs distinction between online and offline lives
diary as public form an abomination or contradiction in terms?
different idea of time (waiting period, maturation, accumulation) and
of comunication (differed or excluded; secrecy)
public nature/private content confounds traditional distinctions between public and private
does not fit cleanly into generic categories,
demands reconceptualization/reformatting of diary genre

illusion of anonymity necessary for full self-exposure:
paradoxical enchantment: combination of anonymity and intimacy
journal as spiritual exercise, personal therapy tool, literary production
"capacious hold-all" of diary narrative: letter, scrapbook, family history, travelogue....
hybrid diary/bio/comunity/bulletin board
new artform without cultural baggage of existing genre
new function well-suited to social action:
not monologic, with actual responses, "totally interactive"
or reproduces traditional diary, upholding genre in form and content:
fragmented narratives, mundane detail, focus on quotidian, personal
new possibilities for autobiographical acts/experience life in real-time:
audio, video files, hypertext to create context
waivers, disclaimers free expression? responsibility?
new wrinkle: role of readers whose desires, expectations, practices shape the texts
specificity of localized textual world: whose gaze is invited?
multiple strategies to construct communities-> webs of personal cyber-relationships
reciprocal links as legitimating forces/endorsements
discourse communities united by similar rhetorical goals-->
self-policing?/communal decorum?
actual community created by responses? validity demands witness?
(cf. blurkers: read-only inappropriately voyeuristic?)
making space doesn't mean community will develop
expectations of authenticity: promise of total, unmediated honesty
(less manipulative?--
yet possibilities for identity deception on the internet...)
diarists insist on "reality" of self-representations, playing selves in venue disconnected from offline lives
Schalchlin's "Living in the Bonus Round":
"I could look for some foreshadowing..but then, I don't exactly know what's coming."
begins to live his life like a story, "living autobiography, performing it in daily life"
text shapes lived life: both producer and product of autobiographical narrative
interstitial status of unsettling narrative territory: hard to distinguish represented from real