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Literature as a Conversation: The WEblog

Shayna S's picture

Dictionary.com says the definition of a database is "a comprehensive collection of related data organized for convenient access, generally in a computer."

The same site recognizes an archive as "any extensive record or collection of data."

One could argue that the typical blog is a collection of data about, but not limited to, the author of said blog. It is created primarily to be a written record (extensiveness and comprehensiveness contingent on the author)of the author's life, and, as Laurie McNeil mentions in her essay "Teaching an Old Genre New Tricks", is usually made with an easy interface that facilitates access to the community through the "bio", "FAQ", and "about" pages found within the blog. I think my implications are obvious: a blog is a database/archive, if only a limited example of each.

Yet, I would continue this train of thought by stating that an online diary such as a blog also has the characteristics of a piece of literature. jo(e) writes in his blog entry "Blogging as an emerging genre" that talking about a particular blogger (bitchphd, in this case) at a literature conference with his colleague was akin to talking about a published author. The blog was critiqued like a bonafide piece of respected literature.

What is this, then? McNeil and jo(e) compare it a new kind of genre, a new kind of literature. But the blog still has the characteristics of a(n) database/archive.

Both McNeil and jo(e) emphasize a certain aspect of a blog that really makes the blog stand out. Its occupation of a public space. Its availability to the (and any) public. Its "onlineness".

Here is where my title comes in. It seems that the blog is a piece of literature that, virtually (no pun intended. maybe.), passes by many of the temporal and spatial boundaries that often restrict communications between reader and author. It can be a like a conversation; a general idea is presented, a response, a response to the response or a new topic is entered, etc. There is more fluidity between the publishing of the main piece (the blog entry) from the author and the criticism, praise, or response from the audience.

Thus enters the idea of community. jo(e) writes (and McNeil would seem to agree) "The nature of blogging is interactive and instantaneous." To blog is to converse with an artificial world. McNeil talks about virtual identities and the relationships that form from the pact between the author and the reader(s). This relationship is the main reason for the second part of my title (WEblog. Color added for emphasis.). The idea is that once a virtual community is established around the blog, the blog is no longer just about whatever the author has recently published. There is a real social connection. Getting back to the conversation metaphor, the blog derives its vitality, like a conversation, from the discourse between the conversers (in the blog's case, between the author and the commentators, and the commentators and the commentators).

Final thoughts: reading through the comments on jo(e)'s entry, the last paragraph of mindspin's comment caught my eye (20th comment from the top). mindspin states "I think of blogging not just as a new genre but as a new medium encompassing a variety of genres and purposes and audiences. This medium affords avenues to community and means to discover voices unmediated by those who would like to mediate everything."

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