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"Unsettling Narrative Territory": Web/Log <--> We/Blog

Day 22 of Emerging Genres

"Unsettling Narrative Territory":

"It's like a real life serial, being played out before your eyes
with the author making it up as he goes along." --Steve Schalchlin

“There is too much nonfiction going on in the world
without writers adding to it.” --
Michael Kinsley

I. coursekeeping
next Tuesday, a visit from Tim Burke from the Swat History Dept; read as much of
on Thursday, a visit from Kate Thomas of the BMC English Dept; read
Syllabub: Words on Food, ditto

II. began our conversation about blogs on Tuesday by reporting in on those we write,
know, are drawn to and/or are puzzled by
keep going: testing theories/generalities against specifics we know about...

III. add now to that conversation a couple of key points by Tuesday's critics:

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
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
unsure whether it reproduces traditional diary genre in form and content
(fragmented narratives, mundane detail...)
or constitutes a new artform, without cultural baggage of existing genre
well suited to social action because not monologic
new wrinkle: role of readers whose desires, expectations, practices shape the texts
multiple strategies to construct communities->
specificity of localized textual world: whose gaze is invited?
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?)

main point: confounds traditional distinctions between public and private

entails reconceptualizing/reformatting of diary genre BECAUSE of
the "consensual hallucination" of the Internet, that "global autobiography project"

paradoxical enchantment: combination of anonymity and intimacy
w/ an illusion of anonymity necessary for full self-exposure
expectations of authenticity: promise of total, unmediated honesty
(less manipulative?--yet possibilities for identity deception on the internet...?)

and the reverse, as text shapes lived life: both producer and product of autobiographical narrative
Schalchlin's "Living in the Bonus Round": "living autobiography, performing it in daily life"
"I could look for some foreshadowing...but then, I don't exactly know what's coming."
interstitial status of unsettling narrative territory: hard to distinguish represented from real

The Book Is Real Enough. It's the Author That's Fake.

IV. Today's reading theorizes this puzzle

Carolyn Miller and Dawn Shepherd,
"Blogging as Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog"
Darwinian approach: what current social beliefs are expressed in phenomenon of blogging?
what makes rhetorical action "fitting" response to cultural environment?

destabilized pubic and private:
rehabilitated/mediated voyeurism: privacy draws meaning from public monitoring
"oversharing," exhibitionism, social psychology of self-disclosure serve four purposes:
self-clarification, social validation, relationship development, social control
personal information turns into commodity to manipulate others' opinions

intriguing questions re: audience--> personal or public genre?
rhetorical hybrid/mongrel

two ubiquitous, mutually reinforcing themes: self-expression and community development
construction of self: increasingly self-reflective, self-reliant, "taking care of the self" through writing

result of need to valiate self @ time when identity is troubled
countermove to fix/stabilize self in time/space of change/against fragmentation
intensification of self, providing world where blogger can fully live
blogging subject contitutes itself through its own mediation

central features:
reverse chronology, frequent updating, combining links w/ commentary
two styles, based on content:
original filter-styles (edit, annotate links) & later self-expression
information access --> personal, diary-like, perspectival, strategy of transparency

ancestral genres of speciation process

  • filtering or directory services for navigating the internet:
    information retrieval & management
  • political journalism: commentary
    • pamphlet or broadside
    • editorial
    • opinion column
  • journal or diary: written serially, in present, about writer's experiences
    • window on history (information access)
    • portrayal of self (revelation of character)

      From Linda-Susan Beard's draft of "Letter by Letter: Bessie Head's Epistolary Art":
    • isolation is essential to the epistolary urge
    • the female epistolary novel as a prototype for distance learning
    • epistolary text-as-biographical witness,
    • "let B. Head speak for herself"....
  • Sarah Boxer's Blogs. New York Review of Books, 55, 2 (February 14, 2008):
    linkiness: breezy, free-associative ethos; id writing
    older forms information filters; after blog boom, vents for opinion and self-revelation
    outbound --> inbound links
    democratic? Hobbesian? snarkiness?
    "like going to a masked ball": saying what you wouldn't face-to-face
    superhero fixation: "It's the flying...they inhabit that source of power and hope"

    "Scenes from a Blog," from Pentagram

    questions raised for me, in intersection of this theory w/
    our round robin of experiences

    in the blogosphere on Tuesday, are:

    1. is a blog a genre? on the basis of what? structure? content? function?

    2. how important is audience? what role does it play?
    how much--and how--does it determine content?
    how important is community?
    how is it defined? how is it made? how large need it be?

    3. what role does blogging play in the construction of self?
    how do we make sense of "anonymous intimacy,"
    this new relation of public and private?

    4. what are the sub-genres?
    how might we distinguish them one from another?
    how important is it to do so?
    Calderon: "I am more interested in the public blog than the personal"
    Real Time Economics
    Mises Economics Blog

    5. what are the economics of blogging?
    who pays? how? why? how much does it matter?
    Problogger: Blogging for Dollars

    6. what are the political implications
    of this newly popular form of communication?
    on shaping the political arena...

    7. what are its intellectual and educational implications?

    via Christina, aka "Apathy," & Web of Influence:
    Will Richardson, Weblogg-ed: Learning with the Read/Write Web:

    “The kids are posting questions and answers to tests in between periods so kids later in the day know what’s coming. What do we do about that?”
    I’ve been thinking (agonizing?) about what this new landscape means in terms of plagiarism and cheating and ethical use... it’s not the kids that need to change. It’s us. We have to redefine what those things mean, because the old definitions just are not reasonable any longer....we need to drastically shift our approach to dealing with it. Blocking blogs or Websites or Google is not the answer. Asking kids to take tests to see if they have memorized material that they can now find on the Web is not the answer. Making two or three or four versions of the test is not the answer.
    The answer, I think, lies in teaching our students how to correctly and ethically borrow the ideas and work of others and in demanding that they not just use them but make those ideas their own. That they take the ideas we have tried to teach them and connect them to and show us that they can teach it to someone else with their own spin on it, their own remix.
    ...remix is neither plagiarism or thin thinking. It’s the process of learning in a world where...everything we do with digital content involves producing a copy. This is a profound change from the closed, paper laden classrooms most of us still live in.

    what others to add?

    ASCII Art Text Gallery: Blogger Portraits