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

Week 12--Blogging On

Anne Dalke's picture
This week, our theorizing about the genre of blogging will encounter a few test cases: Tim Burke's Easily Distracted and Kate Thomas's Words on Food; we'll also be having conversations with Tim and Kate in class. And Christina has a challenge for all of us....
One Student's picture

brand new genre

I just discovered a new genre, existing in the medium of the blog:


It's kinda like a collective (which is like facebook status updates, without the rest of facebook.)

Claire Ceriani's picture

I was just looking back

I was just looking back through webpostings I'd made for another class on Serendip, and I realized that one has a lot of comments on it.  It's a research paper I wrote on ataxia (actually pretty boring, the worst thing I wrote for the class), but a lot of people have commented sharing their own stories of dealing with ataxia, and lending their support to other commentors.  I messed around with google, and found that searching for "ataxia stem cells" brings up my paper on the second page, so I'm sure these people found it while doing their own research; they're not people from the class or anything like that.

It's interesting, since we've been talking about the community aspect of blogs, that a small community has popped up on this one post that I didn't think anyone else would ever read.  It's not quite the level of community we usually associate with blogs (there's really no conversation going on), but it's certainly more than I expected to see.


AF's picture


So I know this is coming rather late, but since crying in front of everyone in class it has taken me awhile to muster up the courage to get this out.

Firstly, I never would have opened my mouth in class had I known how I would have reacted. It was one of those times where you don't realize how much something affects you until it's too late.

Now onto the explanation? Or whatever it is that I should call this.

I don't even know where to begin. I guess the best way to describe my food situation would be an utter lack of freedom. I can't try new foods, I can't go anyway without a pound of medication, I have to be that awful American tourist who doesn't eat the native dishes, I can't warm up after a cold day with a bowl of soup.

More than the lack of freedom, the guilt eats (pun not intended) away at me daily. I'm used to watching my step, I'm used to my lack of choices.  However, I will never get used to the sacrifices my family and friends have to make. And it's only gotten worse since I arrived at Bryn Mawr.

Especially in recent years the guilt has been unbearable. With the world slowly going greener has come the vegetarian and vegan movement. (Needless to say these are not, nor will they ever be options for me.)  Bryn Mawr has embraced this movement. Which sucks for me a lot. I'm not even supposed to eat in Haffner because of how much vegan cooking is done there. I work in Haffner and on many days it's the only dining hall that is open when I have time to eat. So basically I'm just rolling the dice every day I eat lunch. Not only that, but I'm really worried that the world is going to continue to go down this meatless path that seems so popular these days. If this happens I would die. Literally. The worst part is that I don't even like meat. I even tried to be a vegetarian (before I stopped being ridiculous and started being healthy again). 

I guess in some ways it all comes down to the fact that I feel judged for what I eat and I don't think that's fair since I don't really have a choice. 

So next time you see that awful American tourist, remember me.


Thanks for listening to me complain. I kind of hope no one reads this. It doesn't really feel like I want it to. 

Calderon's picture




People eat meat in Guatemala all the time. I am sure that we are not going vegeterian or vegan in this lfe-time!!! So just be the cool American who moves to Centro America!! 

M. Gallagher's picture


I do promise to actually come back and post/reply to something REAL, but for now, the notes.

Tuesday: Tim Burke- Citizen Intellectual (as he was introduced) - WARNING:these notes are unchronological and somewhat incomplete (as are all things?). I refer you to Anne Dalke's notes

The last two examples of things we should read: people being malicious or contradictory? Malicious if they're just "trying to win the argument" rather than keep it going, or are chameleonically changing and using you as a means to their own ends-- even on the internet, we're all "performing selves" and as we get older/more experienced, we can see clues to what doesn't belong/ what isn't true to a person.

Communities that are formed around blogs show a loyalty and like-mindedness where The Other (the newcomer with a different view) ends up having a Punch and Judy show interaction in the comments instead of useful dialogue.

But at that rate, if the point is to establish a conversation- with people of different views coming together- rather than to manipulate others into following your own view, are these internet communities around blogs not the way to go about it?

The more personal blogs, written mostly by women, seem to get the kind of community Tim wants: one that shares their experiences.

But then there's the problem of authority: who has the authority to talk about different subjects? When blogging about Zimbabwe, he finds that people see him as an expert and want his opinion on what is going to happen and rarely has anyone contradict him.

Should academic or experiential win out as a justification for opinion (essay by Joan Scott: "Experience") ? Experience shouldn't be labeled as the right opinion enough to stop a conversation.

This ties in further with anonymity on the net which Louisa brought up and Al's question on what gives people the "right" to be named. Also, anonymity gives a sort of freedom to talk about certain things (like the inner workings of the tenure process) and both takes and gives authority to the writer, as their background is unknown.

A big reason that Easily Distracted exists is because of unhappiness with the academy, which got into the discussion of different university types and their potentials-- which led to musing on the differences between the humanities and the sciences.


Thursday: Kate Thomas: Syllabub [Anne brought fantastic lemon bars and carbonated juice and water, so 'tis a shame if anyone missed out]. Again, I refer you further to Anne Dalke's notes.

She's writing from a history of this immediacy of information dispersion as her studies of 19th century communication technologies shows. Just as an empire which grows steadily larger (England) needs to disseminate information more quickly and over a wider space, the internet is serving that function. To this extent, her "blogging" isn't a new phenomenon, but rather old-fashioned. It has a journal/column sort of feel in contrast to Tim Burke's and other blogs. Also, she began the concept of blogging/registering the blog with the idea of perhaps becoming a restaurant reviewer in mind.

Her blog is not overly link-laden, so is that a reason why she doesn't think of herself or her blog as "bloggy"? Or is extensive linking just part of the internet and it's super-connectivity? The few people linked on her website are mostly food people/an artist friend. Must link to people who link to you out of courtesy? How to respond to comments in the blog?: a big response to everyone at once, or to each specifically, chivalrous to respond? If don't respond to everyone, can one be a good "citizen" like the Becks and Posh blogger in San Francisco?

Back to the restaurant reviewer concept: problems with writing about local things on a non-local forum and the judgement inherent. Her blog is a way to get away from the academy (and archive), not to evaluate other things. That is why there aren't any political views or agendas. pushed on the blog, even though she has them and some personal comments are made within the characters she has made to populate the blog. It also allows the instant gratification of publishing without extensive peer review and writing for the sake of writing. Blog was not used when came up for tenure.

A reader tracked down her Bryn Mawr e-mail address and asked if she was Syllabub. Among other issues, Anne asked if she was Syllabub, which brought about: How much of one's personal life should one share on the blog? No names of self or B. Profile is blank. Also, a tie back to sort of nostalgic novels. All just a slice of self, which still gives character and personality with enough interest to keep the readers hooked, but without overloading the personal history.

Alienated from our food and academia."The Incredible Shrinking Public Sphere". Will the internet and blogs be able to help?

Starts writing when the URGE to write an entry appears. Then, a food inspires. Does research. Writes it all in about 8 hours at one go with heavy editing (specific attention to the feel of the writing). Edits again once it's in its "published form" before RSS feed readers are notified.

Variety of different class responses to her blog- and a short talk about food politics followed.

Louisa Amsterdam's picture

About a topic that interests me, eh?

The common thread of the experimental blogs so far seems to be external subjects: Class, and Marina's post about controversial art. So, I think I'm going to mix things up a bit and talk about a part of my own life.

This summer, I'm going to be interning with a Philadelphia non-profit, Fair Food ( I especially recommend looking at the "What's at the farmstand" bulletin...delicious). I pursued an internship with them because I strongly agree with the aims of the group and wish to further them, but another bit part was that I wanted to spend the summer in Philly. Now that the giddiness of actually getting the job has worn off, I need to find a place to live.

 Though I live away from home for most of the year, and have done this for two years, I've never lived outside of something that has a safety net to catch me. I've never lived in a place where I wasn't sure that my best interests were being looked out for. Now, I'm going out into a world without my parents sleeping a floor below me, or public safety officers thumping through my living room to make sure nothing is amiss. I'm entering a world full of sleazy landlords and sketchy neighbors. Right now, I'm kind of excited about it, but I know I will be more than a little afraid once I get there.

 Currently, two of my housemates at Batten are looking for a place with me. We found a very nice apartment, but the move-in dates didn't match up. One of my housemates has been corresponding with a man who is renting out his house; it's in a great location, his move-in/move-out dates match ours, and um, it's a house. However, he's been absent-minded about making plans to show it to us, and I'm starting to get worried that he's scamming us, or that we'll simply never be able to line up a time to see the place.

Yeah, so, househunting's a bitch. I'm just keeping optimistic about the payoff: Living in the strange and wild heart of the big city, looking out for myself.

Marina Gallo's picture


I am a little confused about why LJ is considered a blog if not everyone can read it. Shouldn't it really be an online journal? Also, if you can write under a code name, why does it matter who reads it? I think LJ is a whole other category than blogs. It is restrictive and doesn't seem to be open to the same kind of conversation blogging invites. 
M. Gallagher's picture

So, I know this is absurdly

So, I know this is absurdly late, but I was just considering this as I was making an LJ post.

So, the majority of blogs we read are in and of themselves communities with commenters etc. and the author of the blog as the "dictator" as it were.

However, the real glory of LJ beyond just keeping your own blog and choosing who your friends are (with a friends list) is that it incorporates communities (generally around a certain topic be it a tv show, books, a school topic, a website, etc.) that people can join and post on in an almost public forum type of way. These communities also appear on your friends list and really are why I have stayed on LJ for so long/kept coming back.

Claire Ceriani's picture

You have the option of

You have the option of keeping your posts public, and anyone can leave a comment on a public post, even if they do not have an account.  A lot (almost certainly a large majority) of LJ members do use it as more of a journal and make most or all of their entries friends-only or private, but there are still people who LJ the way one might use Blogger or Blogspot.  Services like Blogspot are newer, so more people tend to use those for public blogs today, but I've seen websites that have used public LJs as site blogs.  LJ is very similar to these other blog services, it's just that the culture of it has become more personal than public.  But you can still use LJ as a public blog if you wish.

Marina Gallo's picture

Trying out Christina's idea..

So I have been reading articles and one that struck be to really be a conversation starter was about a student who put on an art show revolving around giving herself abortions (or creating miscarriages) after she supposedly got pregnant. This women who did this thought of it as art and said that she didn't intend it to just spark conversation, but actually be art. I think it was only done to cause controversy and bring attention. What do you all think?

In addition to this unusual for of "art" there was another student who did something outrageous. I wonder if these students do this stuff to push limits or get attention. Also, some people consider sex as art and if the teacher already knew the basic premise, what is the problem? 

Christina Harview's picture

Abortion, Dying Dogs, and Art

I read this article about the abortion as art before and was quite shocked. I immediately thought "this is wrong," but caught myself analyzing it further before ultimately deciding upon my moral grounds.

I believe that abortion is a woman's personal choice. I believe that artistic freedom is important. So then why does this feel so wrong? I believe that the answer is the intent behind the piece and the message that it sends. Abortions, to me, represent a reversal of something with the insinuation of regret. To look at the abortion in this piece as merely a reversal of a purposeful action is a bit revolting. The woman is purposefully impregnating herself and then aborting the embryo several times.

On the one hand, it is a beautiful piece of art that incites emotion, opinion, and controversy. It is somewhat parallel with the ‘naked play’ concept introduced by Bill T. Jones. Most interesting is the intent of the piece; what is the author trying to do with this art?

It reminds me specifically of the recent event in controversial art: the dying dog exhibition. In this piece of art, a street dog was tied by a rope in a corner and left to die. Viewers of the piece came in and viewed the dog as it lie there, starving to death. It eventually died of starvation and dehydration.

What are the artist’s rights and how do they stand up to the rights of other living beings? We kill animals all the time; for food, for defense, for science. But when do we draw the line?

In both the case of the ‘dying dog’ and the ‘abortion’ art, the artist’s intent is crucial. But how can we infer the artist’s intent when our minds are so clouded by the emotions brought about by the piece itself?

Marina Gallo's picture


That is a great example. I got that group invite on Facebook about stopping the dog killing artist and I totally forgot to include that in my post. I was shocked and upset by that specific artist maybe even more-so than I was about the other two people. The only explanation I have for this is I love animals. I can't believe anyone would think of that as art.
Calderon's picture

Just attention!!!


I think she wanted attention!!! If she thinks that she is some kind of art she can be without giving herself miscarriages. I

akeefe's picture

Genre Quandary is the Name of the Game...

I am also hesitant to say that Syllabub isn't a blogger, despite her own remarks that she doesn't regard herself as a "bloggy blogger". I think that her aim is simply different. She writes to connect with her creativity, and love of crafting language. I also think that the frame of reference is too personal to fit nicely into the category of column, and she does seem to have a community eager to hear from her. (as is evident by the comments like "post something" found on the site.) Yet, I do think her approach is more authorial. She exercises much more control over the site, if by nothing else than her tone, then say Burke does.  In fact, it's been interesting to see just how diverse the Blogging community is, how far this medium seems able to stretch. 

I think Christina? (and if it was someone else I apologize) posed the most interesting classification when she compared the form of a blog to the form a bound book. It houses many genre, many types. It is very much it's own form physically, but will almost undoubtedly be classified by the form or content of the language is houses.

Just something I've been considering.

Calderon's picture

Hanna and akeefe



I think you are right and I made an extreme “metaphoricalrelationship between the political sphere we're talking about and blogs”. Buther “blog” is not very open. I think that if there is something that blogs areknown for are the sense of community response they have.


akeefe  saysthat “she does seem to have a community eager to hear from her.” Doesn’t thissound like column to you? The fact that people are eager to hear from herdoesn’t mean that it is a legitimate blog. It means that her readers are waiting for a story they can only admire, the truth is that if that is what ablog is then I don’t want to be a blogger since in what I am interested is in contributing  to the  process of its development not admire a great writer, I guess this where academia comes in. If I want to read a great story I guess I like better a book, something I have in my hands and I can touch and know I can’tchange. I am not saying that the stories she writes are not great, but they do not welcome participation. This is why blogs are so popular, because the readers can become the writers not because the readers can commen on a great story.


Louisa Amsterdam's picture

Re: Syllabub

Do you think that your issues with actually calling her site a blog (Which, I think are interesting and good to consider) arise from the fact that her writing style doesn't invite feedback, or that she just doesn't have a community that engages with her properly?
Marina Gallo's picture

Syllabub response

I don't think syllabub is a blog. I have gotten the idea that a blog invites participation, while a website is more about just reading. Reading information doesn't seem like participation or community building to me. Maybe she doesn't want a traditional blog..
Christina Harview's picture

Proper Uptake

Freadman would argue that it is Syllabub's fault for not ensuring a proper uptake.

Then again, if her uptake is so efficient that no one has any questions or if her goal is to leave people speechless, maybe she has achieved what she wants.

Talking to her made me feel that she does not particularly crave more comments. she likes the comments she gets, but she does not feel the need to change so that she can get more feedback.

Thus, maybe it is neither the fault of the author or the community. Maybe the level of interaction is just where it should be.

Hannah Mueller's picture

"ephemeral archive"? etc.

I also wanted to mention about Kate Thomas's blog and talk in class:

She mentioned that one thing she didn't like at first about blogging is the ephemeral quality, that she felt she was just adding to the debris on the Internet. This is sort of paradoxical in that what she (or anyone) writes on a blog is ephemeral only in that it gets buried under the multitude of what other people write, so it remains to be easily seen only for a short amount of time. But really it's there for a long time; at least to my understanding, it's hard to get rid of something you've posted on the internet. Is a blog, then, an "ephemeral archive"? Seems like an oxymoron, but at the same time kind of fitting.

Second thing, we talked about how blogs are an improvement on academic writing in that they are instantaneous, and there is no separation of years between writing and publication. In between writing and publication of an academic piece, the writing often becomes "alien" to the author. This is very similar to we're talking about in another of my classes on Jorge Luis Borges, who writes a lot about the disconnect between the writer and his/her writing, and between past and present selves. He felt as though the writing he did when he was 20 might as well have been written by a completely different person than the person he was at 70--but also that nothing he wrote could express who he really was.

I'm wondering now if this inability to express his true self through writing was due to a Derridean sense of the inadequacy of words as signifiers, or because every second changed him into a different person. That his thoughts were "redefining" him (in the way Calderon suggests above) constantly, so he could never read his own writing and totally identify with it. Maybe this sense of alienation from academic writing is only a more noticeable (because the span of time is longer) form of this alienation form all writing that Borges felt. This is less of a bloggy question than a textual one in general, I guess.

Christina Harview's picture

I love your Connection to Borges

Jorge Lois Borges is a beautiful example of the disconnection a writer can feel to the constructed persona that some authors construct for themselves (intentionally or unintentionally). One great example where he specifically contemplates the concept is this translation of the short essay "Borges y Yo." It is only one paragraph long and I would suggest that you just look at how he uses the words, even, to portray this ‘other person’ and construct the image even further! The irony is deliciously twisted.

This makes me think specifically about the constructed personas that we commonly use (be it in a blog, in our AIM screen name, in our comments on sites, etc.). Is this persona which is considered separate from our 'real' selves a surfacing of the 'true' or a covering of the 'true'? In other words, is the constructed persona really a part of our real selves or is it a means to conceal certain chosen facets of our real selves?

Any thoughts?....

Hannah Mueller's picture

Alex and Christina

Alex, I like your idea that the only reason blogging feels more "true" than academic writing is because of its immediacy, and that academic writing is useful because over time you see the way your writing has changed. I think Borges would say that bloggers feel that their blog writing more accurately depicts themselves only because they are closer to being the same person they were when they wrote it than they are to being the person who wrote an academic paper 4 years ago. That was confusing, but basically it gets back to the idea that your own persona is constantly changing, so putting anything into writing is problematic if you are trying to convey your "real" self. You can only ever convey yourself as you were in one moment in time (Borges in Borges y yo: "only one instant of myself can survive in him"). Combine this problem with the idea that every word has a slightly different meaning for every person (I think this is Derrida's idea), and it becomes apparent that no piece of writing can depict someone's 'real' self in accurate detail.

In response to your question, Christina, I would say defintely both--a constructed persona serves both to cover and hide our "real" selves, in that with every word we write online we are choosing to put forth some aspects of ourselves and to leave others "unsaid," unrevealed. My favorite line from Borges y yo is when he says he recognizes himself less in his own writing than in other things, like music or other books. I think even bloggers like Laura, who put up many aspects of their lives, always have to leave some things about themselves unsaid, because we can't know everything about ourselves--some things are revealed to us through art and other people better than we could express them ourselves. But these things we can't express are still part of us. We need other people to fully understand ourselves. So some parts of ourselves we are unable, by ourselves, to uncover with a constructed persona even if we wanted to.  

AF's picture

I like how you mention "this

I like how you mention "this inability to express his true self through writing." It holds a lot of truth for me. I feel that many people are hailing the blog as the medium with which they can finally express their true self. Which seems a bit ridiculous. The only reason it feels "true" is because of it's immediacy. This immediacy can even be harmful to the discovery of the changes in one's self. It's like when you see the same person everyday, you don't really notice the little changes that add up to a big change. But, if you were to be separated for a period of time and then be reunited, you would more readily notice the changes in one another. That's why academic writing is useful, it gives you separation from yourself so that you can easily evaluate and understand how you evolve.  

Calderon's picture



Hanna I am glad you talk about Kate Thomas's blog and talkin class.

You write “This is sort of paradoxical in that what she (oranyone) writes on a blog is ephemeral only in that it gets buried under themultitude of what other people write, so it remains to be easily seen only fora short amount of time.” I think that this the reason I don’t consider her blog ablog she writes a column that feels very much like a dictatorship. She tells astory and her reader, her community is allow to alter, change contribute to. Ibelieve that one of the characteristics of blog is to allow the exchange ofthoughts. You also say that you think its hard to get rid of postings that are there,in this sense I think that a blog works very much like history, if you want toknow how it started then you go back to the first posting and find out, I likethe fact that there are many postings it seems like an evolution, an emergenceof thoughts within the blog. 


Second you talk about Jorge Luis Borges and how he “He feltas though the writing he did when he was 20 might as well have been written bya completely different person than the person he was at 70--but also thatnothing he wrote could express who he really was.” I think that in order tounderstand this we can draw on some Simon De Beauvoir theory on the “SecondSex”. She suggests on the “Second Sex” that fundamental assumptions dominatesocial, political, and cultural life and how humans internalized this ideology.She also recognizes that all human beings have within them the potential fortranscendence. So how does this relate to Jorge Luis Borges? Well, I think thatsince some of the fundamental assumptions that dominate the social, political,and cultural life change and so does the perspective that one has towards life.This idea of transcendence is also very useful, since she suggest that humansshould strive to always change into “others”. I think that sometimes withouttrying, we transcend without even realizing at times. But when you are a writer(like Borges) you tend to have a more vivid prove I guess of what your “innerself” was (if we have one) at 20. You are able to see that you change that youtranscend with time. That even if you stayed in the same place your setting haschange because new people have come into your life, or the surroundings, thatyour house no longer looks the same and that the city has emerged from an oldversion to a new one.


I like Derrida and how he believes that nothing is there,and everything is a social construct. I just wrote a paper on Judith Butler andher theory on “From Gender Trouble” and the truth is that I am really startingto believe that gender is a performance with an idea of reality that is false,a falseness that shows how people are socialized to behave based on thegenitals with which they were born. Perhaps this idea of performance helps understandBorges too. Perhaps Borges has been playing a performance all his lifeaccording to the genitals he was born with and he is tired of playing such socialrole and he needs a new one, but since society has embedded too much in hislife he can’t and that’s why he believes that the person who wrote at 20 is nolonger the one that writes at 70.


Hannah Mueller's picture

I wouldn't call it a dictatorship

I understand why you would call KT's blog a dictatorship--because it's not as much of an interactive conversation as some other blogs. But I wouldn't be so quick to create a metaphorical relationship between the political sphere we're talking about and blogs. I think we can call both a dictatorship and her blog examples of genres that evolve similarly, as we've explained; but for me at least, the two are just so different--in substance and intent-- that the comparison you made seemed extreme.

You also say that you don't consider what she's doing blogging since she doesn't engage with her commenters much. I would say it's still a blog, but a different genre of blog than the ones Tim Burke is working on. If you would call it a column instead of a blog, how can you use that label to differentiate between a column on blogger and a column in a newspaper? The medium is different and there is still some interactivity on Syllabub that doesn't happen in print.

I hadn't heard Simon de Beavouir's theory about change as transcendance, but that's interesting. Reading Borges, I'm never sure how he feels about changing into other people, but I like this idea that we "should strive to always change into 'others'". It's a good thing, usually, to break out of the performance roles we're placed into. I wonder though, how much the issue of gender mattered to Borges, because he hardly ever writes about gender or women at all--but maybe that doesn't mean it didn't have an important impact on him, as you suggest.

Anne Dalke's picture

benevolent dictatorship

Laura Blankenship, who "blogs fearlessly" as Geeky Mom, and who will also be visiting our class on Tuesday, describes a blog as a "benevolent dictatorship."
Calderon's picture

Emergence of Genre is all over the place


 In my GlobalPolitics class we are reading political theory (V. Spike Peterson, ACritical Rewriting of Global Political Economy, Routledge 2003, Pheng Cheah, Inhuman Conditions: OnCosmopolitanism and Human Rights, Harvard2006) and these writes used some of Derrida’s argument to explain how theconcept of freedom is a social construct. They believe that language is a codethat society has created and since it has to be change we the new generations (genre)need to break down this old code and create maybe a new that suits better oursociety.  This is then is newemergence of meanings.


Derrida was useful and helped to understand that language inthe political sphere is a construction of what “might” suit the current time welive in. It made me think also of how this code of language changes and howsociety changes along with it sometimes. In “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” I see slaveryas something that I have a hard time trying to understand, process even imaginewhy it happened. It makes me think that it changed because people redefinedwhat a human was here in the US. So Derrida is right, in the sense that thereis nothing there since it’s changing (takes a long time but it does)constantly. What people believe to be meaningful is not.  Also in “The Scarlet Letter” there is asociety that is so afraid of change or breaking the code of rules that decideto kill a woman who has done nothing wrong. So emergence of genre is not onlyliterary, b but also social.


In our class now we are learning about the emergence ofblogs and I think that since we don’t have a social code to define it, agender, or a specific structure to give, then people oppose it because is anemergence of randomness.  I thinkthat the randomness is what I very much like about blogs. It has no gender, nocode; it has just whatever words one wants to leave. I don’t know if thisposting is helpful but I like how this class and the things that I learn herehelp me think in my other classes. When I read Derrida I didn’t like the ideathat there is nothing there that is just a social construction, but now Iappreciate so much more the theory.


Christina Harview's picture

You said: "...I see slavery

You said: "...I see slavery as something that I have a hard time trying to understand... It makes me think that it changed because people redefine d what a human was here in the US. So Derrida is right, in the sense that there is nothing there since it’s changing ...constantly. What people believe to be meaningful is not... So emergence of genre is not only literary, b but also social."

I wonder: are you saying that the definition or outline of what was considered 'human' changed? That the genre of 'human' is always changing? And that because of this consistency in change, there is no set definition? And that when we set a definition in time, it is not a true definition, but a definition that is socially determined?

I think: this is really interesting and it reminds me of a basic mathematical concept. When there is a moving object, you cannot define its velocity and its position at the same time. This is because velocity is the average speed between points. If the are only looking at one point (one position in time), you cannot calculate its true velocity.

If I got the first part right, then this relates to this concept of constant movement, perpetual change. And because meaning is hugely extracted based on any previous meanings, any meaning that we extract from what we see as a 'present' definition is, by definition, based on a certain number of previous definitions.

Let me know if this makes no sense or if I interpreted what you said incorrectly.


Calderon's picture



Yes. I believe that we are a genre in constant development.  I also believe that we try to create definitions that we think are better than the previous or that we think would be better for out future generations. So in a sense we are likea public blog, those who contribute, participate, and not afraid to be known, write the book. I am taking a lot of political theory and international politics andit seems to me that the essence of it is trying to change (it takes time, butit eventually does) and to therefore creating a new genre. I don’t know if you remember the poem we read in class I think its called “The Law Of The Law OF Genre” This poem is by far one of my favorite poems. I feel that is telling us that; we, people are a work of literature that try to keep the good old chapters and try to write new ones. 


Christina Harview's picture

Linking the Poem


I think it is very interesting that you tie in that poem with this concept of continuity. I didnt quite make that connection before you said it, but now that you mention it, I agree strongly.

Any specific quotes of which you are thinking?

Hannah Mueller's picture


I was thinking of that poem, too, Calderon, when I read the first part of your post--the connection between "generation" and "genre". This idea of yours is really interesting:

"I also believe that we try to create definitions that we think are better than the previous or that we think would be better for out future generations."

There's a parallel between writing a blog and "writing" history as is happens (which is to say, living and making changes in the world). I definitely agree with your idea that we create new definitions for everything as time passes, and the example of slavery and what is a human being is a good one. It gets back to what I was trying to express in my post about Junot Díaz: people can build up systems or structures of meaning that will allow for events to take place within the system that never would take place outside of it. So, in the early 19th century in America, the definition of a human was not what it is in America today, so slavery was allowed to happen. What really supports this idea is the example, in Díaz's book, of a structure of different definitions--a dictatorship--that takes place simultaneous to systems unlike it. In the Trujillo dictatorship, the definition of a human life was different that what it was in, say, Pennsylvania at the same time. The Holocaust happened in Germany in 1940s, but didn't happen here and it couldn't have without a similar building-up of the structures that made it seem good/acceptable to enough people in Nazi Germany.

I think this has a lot to do with your comment that the essence of politics is the attempt to change (because you mention it, that makes a lot of sense in relation to the comparative politics class I took, too). And I like Christina's example of the impossibility of defining the velocity and the speed at the same time (I think that's what it was)--because the definition relies on change.

The word "definition" is a good one for this coversation, since it means to set limits and make something "finite". The limits (of governments, blogs, what is a human, etc) are always shifting and changing, because people change them; the genres never stop emerging.

Christina Harview's picture

Creating a New Species of Blog - Challenge

Hello all. The goal of this challenge is to experiment with the class blog and turn it into something new and different that will hopefully help us better understand the strange creature that is a blog. I don’t, by any means, claim to be an expert on blogging. I merely believe in it whole-heartedly. So, I took the time to create this little challenge in the hope of sharing and spreading this passion with others. I hope that you enjoy it, find it interesting, and are inspired by it.

You really only need to look at the three challenges themselves. My thoughts are below to help clarify, inspire, explain, and link ideas from class. Sorry about this--I can't help writing so much!

(1) Make a normal-length post about a topic that interests you.

The key here is that your post does not have to be about anything in class—although it can be. Write about fashion, science, a current event, morality, politics, sex, life, anything that you would want to write about if you had your own blog. Write the post to a worldwide audience. Make sure that you choose something that you really would like to write about; passion shows through your writing and if its not there, we will probably be able to tell. If you are having trouble, spend more time thinking about something to write about. Take your time.

Why post? An author’s posts are the backbone of the blog. Because this challenge is a first-hand exploration of the structure and short term evolution of a blog from the perspective of both the “poster” and the “replier,” it is important for the people who have never done one or the other (or either) to experience them both.

(2) Post at least one reply to at least three different posts made by other people—leaving you with at least three separate replies, each on a different post. Click ‘reply’ below the person’s post so we know which post you are referring to.

Read the post well before you reply. Your replies need not be very long; one sentence can be a beautiful addition to a collection of opinions. That one sentence can also spark a whole new range of other opinions! Yet, you should also think of your comment as a continuation of the post itself (or of someone else’s comment). Try adding information on the topic, a helpful resource, or an underrepresented opinion.

Why reply? We talked about the importance of feedback as part of the blogging genre. Although not all blogs include an external comment option, comments can be very important to the general feel of many popular blogs. My intention for this part of the challenge is to help the people in the class who are not familiar with blogging experience a different type of writing than what has previously been explored in the class. Reading and developing a coherent thought on someone else’s work is something we have all experienced, but the fun with the blogging/commenting structure is that it is a much less formal atmosphere that has no set path or destination; you never know where the comments will take the discussion!

(3) Keep an eye out on the blog over the next few weeks. Make a mental note on how the blog evolves and grows.

Can you infer anything about the blogger from reading their post? What can you learn about the blogger when looking at where their replies lay or what their replies contain? Where is the final destination for each posting? Unlike a book or a work of theatre or a newspaper article, there is no end to the story; it will continue as long as there are people out there with something else to say on the topic. How has working on this challenge changed your perception of how the genre of a blog is characterized? How does this week’s blogging experience compare to the structure of the past 11 weeks?

Why watch? It is really interesting to cruise through a wide variety of posts and replies. Our Emerging Genres class often talks about the overall path that genres follow. I think that this will be an important step in tying the blogging experience in with the previous explorations relating the reader to the writer.

I know that this will not be new for all of you, but I also know that it will be for others. Have fun with it. If you are a novice, find a way to surprise yourself! If you are well-versed in the blogging world, prove it by finding a way to surprise everyone else! But most of all, enjoy yourself.  Hell, you could even post about how much you hate the assignment (hopefully I took the originality out of that option by beating you to it, haha!)



Christina Harview

One Student's picture

This challenge leaves me

This challenge leaves me cold because it looks like an artificially constructed version of what I do anyway on LJ, what I've been doing there for about a year and a half. And the sense of audience here is all wrong, I can't do that here.
Christina Harview's picture

That's Just Fine

Okay, then don't make a post.

Although you are refusing to make a post, at least have the decency to read and respond to the other people in the class who have spent the time and effort in trying something new for the class.

I am also shocked by your comment referring to some sort of an inferred audience that is somehow viewed in a negative way (or 'all wrong'). Do you think that only the people in our class will be reading the posts here? That's right, whoever you are on the other side of the screen, Jessy doenst think you exist. Unless this is Jessy reading, of course. That would just be silly.

If you will post things that interest you only if your friends on LiveJournal are there to read it, then that is another story altogether. Dont want the class to get to intimate with your personal oppinions? I don't think so! You're not exactly the shy one in the class. Plus, assuming you are an interesting and varied person, not everything that interests you is personally revealing.

I also think it is interesting that you interpret this challenge in such a negative way: artificial, constructed, icy. What, then, has this blog been for you thus far with the specific questions that professor Dalke posts at the head of each week? The challenge that I proposed is far less structured content wise (you can write about anything you want) and a little more structured when it comes to participation (you must read and respond to others). I think that this balance is more than acceptable and it makes me sad to think that you shrug it off like it matters not.

It's like youre saying, "pssshhh... I'm not going to waste my time with this." Without thinking about anyone else in the class. We would love to hear from you; you are an extremely intelligent individual with a novel personality that extends from the classroom and into your writing. This comment of yours is not an outlier in that case.

Okay, so you dont want to create a short post about something that interests you. Well, at least you are leaving comments--maybe I'll even get three out of you by the end of the year. We shall see.