Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Notes Towards Day 4: "Teaching an Old Genre New Tricks"

Anne Dalke's picture

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

Notes on our conversation by TPB1988 and sweetp

I. sign in

let's talk about the summaries
do we want 2 accounts/per class?
(on for today:TPB1988 and sweetp)

try to give an overview, but also your own pt-of-view/
thoughts on the thoughts you are recording/further questions, etc.


let's follow up: further thoughts about departmental structure/
hiring/relation to other creative forms/language programs?

what we came up with: "a specialist in contemporary American literatures seen in transnational American comparatist with expertise in ethnic studies and with additional interests in such recent developments as literary experimentalism and/or the digital humanities"

how does that put new dynamics in play?
how well does it keep the current structure in place?
how well does it answer the concerns
highlighted by Robbins' "conceptual experiment"?
i.e.: challenging the "familiar, narrow, strong commitment to historical periodization,"
the "pseudo-anthropocentric, lazy norms" of period and nation,
throwing open the question of literature’s temporal and geographic scale?

while we are @ it: re-working the genre of classroom performance
do we want to "get rid of gatekeeping" among my "scholarly competitors"?
what "genre" of professing/teaching would you like me to occupy?
what "genre" of learning/professing would you like to occupy?
...would you like your classmates to occupy? (hand-raising?)

re-working also our on-line conversation
(Shayna S: feeling powerful?!)
to make it both more reader- and comment-friendly (cut out one click!):
for the next two weeks, cf.
Our Streaming Thoughts w/ another full-text format...
then we'll process/decide which (both?) we want/prefer...
and why: thereby creating our object of study as we go

for Tuesday, read/write/think about
Sarah Boxer, Blogs. New York Review of Books (2008).
Carolyn Miller and Dawn Shepherd, "Blogging as Social Action:
A Genre Analysis of the Weblog"
(spleenfiend: Mcneil's cites from the nineties ->
an invitation to you all to theorize re: more contemporary materials)

II. weave another web among us, from the other direction
(you link to someone who will figure out your connection retroactively...)

Go 'round once more: witness to your experience
of reading/writing blogs: what draws you/doesn't?
add to our data set by introducing blogs you follow,
and telling us what stereotypes re: blogging you bring w/ you

rmeyers: why I read the blogs I read, and why I don't write one myself.
spleenfiend: uncautious narcissism --> teal: intrusive (why anonymous?)
teal: would total equality rock our world? --> sgb90: that acts in favor of our existence
Shayna S: WEblog =virtual community/real connection
sgb90: democratic medium of cyberspace: self-redefining?
mutually defining ? which is which? which one has the greater authenticity?
Herbie: danger of assumed anonymity; all accountable
--> spleenfiend:
no one wants to be anonymous!
mkarol: Everyone is the center of their own world.

cf. the infamous  "pier-glass" passage @ the beginning of Chapter 27 of George
Eliot's novel Middlemarch: we all organize the world around our own egotism

is the internet changing this, or just intensifying the practice?
what about the genre of the blog in particular?

III. Think about this as an intervention into academic life:
what if all our course notes/responses to them/papers were blogged?
What would we lose/gain?
What different habits of mind/reading/
writing/thinking might be encouraged?
sweetp: the "rather aggressive echoes" of on-line arguments

IV. Looking further @ some of the parts that make up this new whole that is the blog

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

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): Permalinks-->
a gut feeling that the two media, books
and blogs, were hopelessly incompatible

so too are blog and book readers:
“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."

being “bloggy to the core” means being
conversational and reckless,
composed on the fly for anonymous intimates...
public and private, grand and niggling

Cf. analyses by 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

Notes on our conversation by TPB1988 and sweetp