Blogging Thoughts

There was an interesting essay from 2002 about blogging that I had to analyse when I was studying at one of my many different universities. It’s interesting because came out when blogging had just started becoming popular yet they talk about really relevant things.

It’s called Blogging Thoughts: personal publication as an online research tool by academics Torill Mortensen and Jill Walker.

Torill Mortensen

Check out her blog

• Associate Professor in the Digital Culture and Mobile Communication department at the IT University of Copenhagen

• She has researched online communication and net culture, with a focus on multi-user games, weblogs and online communities.

• She studied at the University of Bergen

• is a member of the executive board of the Digital Games Research Association.

• She is interested in how people use the internet in their every day lives, media studies, reader-response theory, role-play games, internet culture, travel, academic weirdness and online communication.

Jill Walker 

Check out her blog

• Jill Walker Rettberg is an associate professor at the University of Bergen with the Department of Linguistic, Literary and Aesthetic Studies.

• She studied at the University of Bergen and the University of Stavanger in Norway.

• She has researched blogging and how people tell stories online since 2000.

• In 2006 she won the Meltzer Award for Excellence in the Dissemination of Research. In 2008 she published a book called Blogging (Polity Press).

• She grew up in Norway with Australian parents so she is fluent in both English and Norwegian.

**************

I had a go at analysing the text…

“We do argue that blogging influences the way you think about thinking, and that it may change the process of research. To some extent it might even change the method.”

Blogging Thoughts, pg 254

Both the authors have their own blogs and have been blogging since about 2000, when the article was written. They mostly blog in English and sometimes in Norwegian. They usually blog interesting articles or videos relating to their field of work and occasionally the odd personal one.

Reading the Introduction of the essay, the writers talk a little bit about their first experiences blogging. Originally their blogs had started out as a place to direct their thinking about work but they soon turned into and area for of personal, professional and academic discussion.

Both women were doing their PH.D’s at the time of the publication.

This essay was published when weblogs were just starting out, and little formal study on weblogs and their affect had really been published, so Mortensen and Walker wrote with much speculation about the future of blogging, writing often from their own positive experiences blogging. The main argument that I believe comes across is the idea that blogging can influence the concept of writing, researching and thinking.

They both claim that their writing quality and writing fluidity for their PH.Ds improved considerably after they started blogging regularly. The whole idea of writing in a weblog can completely change the way you write. The spontaneous pace of publishing on a weblog allows the writing to be personal and informal, as ideas both big and small can be published with or without later revision.

As they write:

“Weblogs are written continuously and published without being revised. Though a tool like Blogger does allow a post to be written, saved and not published instantly, publishing a new post will automatically also publish the drafted post. The system assumes instant publication will be the norm. Sometimes webloggers will revise posts later and republish them; other bloggers make it a matter of principle to limit revision, preferring the im- mediacy and perhaps, in a sense, honesty, of the first expression of a thought.”

Blogging Thoughts, pg 266

At the time of the publication of this essay, where there had been little study on weblogs, it was actually uncommon to have academics using and writing in blogs, even though many professionals were using weblog spaces to discuss work and ideas etc. Weblogs at the time were considered more to do with popular culture and social communication.

Although Mortensen and Walker encourage the idea that writing in weblogs would allow academics to have a different relationship with their audience, as their writing style usually changes and becomes much more informal than the writing style in academic journals and scholarly articles.

I also read A Blogger’s Blog by Danah Boyd, she comments on how blogs can actually confuse the distinction between spoken and written word – and suggests perhaps a ‘second orality’ has emerged from the medium of blogging – an orality that is of course physically written, but the nature of the casual style in which it is written suggests it has more of an oral quality:

“These new mediums have both textual and oral qualities and the emergent modern mediated culture creates a new orality that is simultaneously remarkably like and unlike orality (Ong 1982: 134). Blogs are one of these new mediums.”

A Blogger’s Blog, pg 14

This essay is a personal, empirical overview of the process of blogging. This is a much more relevant style of analysis as opposed to an academic and theoretical analysis because the whole idea of blogging is that the reading and writing is generally more personal and relaxed.

“Having participated in this movement [of the blogging revolution], we have chosen to make full use of our own experience as bloggers and participants in the blogging community in researching this article, rather than conducting rigorous statistical surveys.”

Blogging Thoughts, pg 251

Although personal in writing style, their point of view is particularly relevant considering both the writers were undertaking their PH.Ds at the time, and had done extensive online research relating to blogging. They have since both gained jobs teaching media at a tertiary level as well as individually published further articles on cyber-activity. This essay gives insight into a huge variety of subjects regarding blogging. Everything from writing style, to software, to relationships between the public and private, readers and users of blogs, blog uses and the positive and negative effects of blogs on society and culture. Most significantly, for me, they also have philosophical viewpoint about blogging and bloggers, which, as a blogger, I find most interesting.

Despite many of their points remaining relevant, some aspects of the essay are a little out-dated. Sometimes they write in a way that feels like it is addressing an audience with little to no experience of blogging, whereas reading it nine years later, I would say many more people would be familiar with SOME type of blogging or online personal expression. For example, Mortensen and Walker say about blogs: “This new medium of personal expression is another expansion of the public sphere into the private.” Pg 258

Referring to a blog as being a ‘new’ medium is one indication, but also to dwell on this idea of this new cross over of the private to the public implies that it was a new, interesting cyber development at the time. Nowadays, especially in gen Y, to update something personal and private to a public space is often an automatic, sometimes impulsive act that many people are unfazed by, thanks to Twitter and Facebook. However that is certainly not to say it makes the point, or any other points irrelevant as such, but the early date of publication and lack of research on the subject of blogging for them to dwell on has possibly slightly limited the potential of exploration into the new.

However, despite this 9 year time period, the key points that Mortensen and Walker draw on regarding the cultural and societal impact of a blog, even though they may have been writing in the early ages of blogging philosophy and hypothesis, some of the points that they do dwell on are still significant in today’s cyber-world where blogging is so much more common and widespread so much so that we may have even forgotten, or never even learned or thought about, these points. Consider the following points made in the essay:

“When discussed in the media, weblogs are generally treated as belonging to popular culture or perhaps as being a form of folk journalism. Pg 252
When a blog is good, it contains a tension between the two spheres, as delicate a balancing act as the conversation of any experienced guest of the French salons of the 19th century.” Pg 256-7

“This image encompasses the seemingly paradoxical mixture of private and public that is evident in weblogs. They are enclosed and private spaces that allow the writer to cultivate an autonomous voice. And yet they are visible, open spaces that encourage linking and conversations.” Pg 260
“In our blogs, we allow ourselves to write half-thought, naked ideas and show them to others rather than saving them for fully fleshed out care- fully thought through papers.” Pg. 267

**************

Mortensen and Walker write:

“Weblogs are used for recording thoughts, for sharing thoughts, for participating in discussions, and also for analysing thoughts.

Blogging Thoughts” Pg 268

This is the sentence that really pinpointed understanding the essay for me. It was easy to pick up what they were talking about in general in the essay – But this sentence addresses the functional elements of a blog that take place subconsciously. What it is used for? Why it is used? How is it used?

It was the philosophy of a blog, bloggers and how a blog influences society and culture that were the key points I personally was trying to understand.

Blogging these days is so familiar to me that I felt I needed to find a sentence that really pinpointed the significance behind these subconscious, automatic, hourly or daily actions that I do when I personally blog, be it on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr or this blog.

In comparison to that sentence I quoted, I found a sentence that gave a different idea to what I had originally thought about blogging:

“Bloggers have been likened to journalists, or perhaps better, editors; they might as well be compared to researchers.” pg 250

Bloggers as researchers? Bloggers as journalists? Editors? All these terms associated with a simple blog. But that is exactly what Mortensen and Walker discuss that is so interesting. The cultural effect of blogging. Nowadays blogging is so common, so frequent and so widespread that we don’t think about things like that. We don’t consider how much of a cultural and societal impact blogging can have.

The example Mortensen and Walker gave regarding September 11 pinpoints this exact impact I am writing about.

[Regarding the attacks] “Instead of coming to a consensus opinion, as much of the traditional media did, weblogs showed the dissent among individuals. Bloggers were very vocal about their opinions and reactions to September 11th and the aftermath. On the day of the attacks, there were 22% more posts to Blogger users’ weblogs than on an average day. In the weeks following the focus shifted from personal experiences and anxieties to opinions on the war.” Pg 259

Nowadays the focus has shifted from blogging to instant news and the quality of news sources. While this has been known for a while now that Twitter has skewed the journalistic form, the Boston Bombings proved just how good and bad twitter and Reddit can be.

But when I think about it, we are journalists, editors and researchers – we can teach people and inform people through out blogs. As Danah Boyd wrote in her essay:

“Early adopters believed that blogging is about the ability to speak freely to a large audience with no limiting authority or editorialcontrol. As institutions become interested in blogs as a potential market, blogs are emerging with controlled content, and yet these are still blogs.”

Danah Boyd, A Blogger’s Blog, Pg 12-13

I believe the authority of the news is changing from the formal to the informal – from the news authorities to the audience – This is why that par was a crucial ‘light bulb’ moment for me reading this essay.