Tag Archives: Blogging

Signal Versus Noise: Why Academic Blogging Matters

Signal Versus Noise: Why Academic Blogging Matters: A Structural Argument. SAA 2011

getting unstuck: the cat formerly known as a blogger

I’m feeling a little like a former blogger these days. I know blogging is good for me and I want to blog, but it seems that I let everything else come before blogging. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal if I weren’t writing my dissertation on blogging. Well, it’s on trauma and blogging but close enough. So, I’ve been asking myself the question: what’s got you stuck? You have the ideas. You (kinda sorta) have the time. You have the access to computers and internet pretty much 24/7.  And yet.

It turns out this insomnia thing is working well for me tonight because I’m making myself ask that question and, perhaps more importantly, answer it. Guilt. If I’m on the computer and typing, then I should be writing my dissertation, right? Yes and no. First of all, in spite of how I feel and often behave, my dissertation isn’t the only thing in my life, but I usually feel that way. I tend to connect everything that I do to my research, whether it be reading, writing, internet surfing, or even watching tv. The obvious solution would be to blog about my dissertation. Works in theory but in practice I’ve been in a research study holding pattern until this past Friday. My school’s IRB determined that my study was not exempt and after months of back and forth finally gave official approval on Friday. I’ve been afraid to blog about my dissertation before getting that approval. It’s not that I’m going to publish anything that I don’t have permission to post, but the delay put me in this weirdly fearful holding pattern as though someone might read something that I post and not like it. All in all, I’ve been really stressed and when I get really stressed, I often freeze up. I get stuck. Well, here’s to getting unstuck and once more attempting to take my own advice.

Slight digression {{ Last night I went to a local restaurant/bar/coffee house where I go sometimes to work and get out of the house. I was sitting at the bar, having a bloody mary, and reading How Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves (for my dissertation of course). An acquaintance of mine sat next to me and remarked on my book and how he usually wrote stories but hadn’t lately. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to or didn’t have ideas but he just wasn’t writing. So, I suggested he use a strategy that I use in writing my dissertation: set a word count goal (I use 500), sit down, and make yourself write until you meet the goal. (This is in no way an original idea, btw.) The idea is just to get started. Maybe it will work and you’ll keep going and it will be wonderful writing. On the other hand, it might be crap, but at least you met you tried and you can get the satisfaction of meeting your goal. }}

So, my advice to myself is to employ that same practice with blogging. My blogging resolution is to try to write a blog post each day; don’t obsess over it being perfect (as this one obviously is not); and publish the damn thing. (I have way too many blog posts sitting in the never-ever land of “Draft”) I’m putting this out there for anyone (still) reading this blog: my blog posts will probably not be very polished but on the plus side, maybe they’ll actually exist.

Introducing “Writing/Fighting to Survive: The Rhetorical Strategies of Trauma Bloggers”

As I reconstruct my dissertation–rewriting, revising, conducting a new research study–I’ve been considering many of the questions that reappear in my personal research journal. Since my research isn’t just my research, I can’t really make my research reflections fully public. Some of the things that I reflected on were concerns for specific participants (I include this here because I am conducting a new research study to complete my dissertation and have an entirely different set of research participants) or feelings that were at the time too personal to share with my blogging audience. I’m beginning to test out these boundaries now for several reasons. First, blogging is good for me. Seriously, it’s like vitamin C (and not the sunshine and vitamin C that I joke about being in clove cigarettes) and warm chamomile tea followed by a slug of peppermint oil to wake up your brain. As Father Ong (That’s Walter J. Ong, S.J. to all of you non-Purdue, non-rhet/comp geeks like me) so aptly put it “the writer’s audience is always a fiction.” So, while writing in my research journal, I am writing to a fictional audience just as you, my dear blog reader, are a fiction in your own way, writing in my blog makes the audience less fictional. Sure, I imagine you when I write and until I hit the “post” button that’s all you are–imagined readers. But the great thing about blogging is that in the moment that my post changes status from “draft” to “published,” you emerge from the ether along with my pixelated thoughts and voila–real readers who write back. And this brings me to…

Here’s a piece of my dissertation introduction for your edification. Feedback is appreciated.

When I wrote my master’s thesis, I began with a story of my own pain, relating it to the purpose and context of my subject matter. I did this because stories matter. They are how we construct ourselves within the world, how we determine self worth, how we deal with the vicissitudes of living, and most importantly for me, they provide insight into our motivations. Just as motive is important to understanding our life decisions in a broader context, it is important for the scholar in understanding what she chooses to research, to the writer in understanding what she chooses to write about and how. My research deals explicitly with these motivations that compel the trauma blogger to write about their experiences. It seems only fitting that I do the same.

I was first diagnosed with primary PTSD and chronic depression at the age of nineteen. These two diagnoses did not define me but rather put into words what I was experiencing. After a lifetime of painful medical conditions and procedures as well as emotional and physical abuse, my psyche was damaged, so much so that I feared it might never heal. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to meet an amazing therapist who guided me in understanding and working through the traumas that had so disrupted my ability to live fully in this world. In addition, I had a caring psychiatrist who carefully worked with me to find a drug regimen to balance out the neurochemical problems that contributed to my disorders. Many people with PTSD and depression are not as lucky as I have been and/or need to supplement the professional help by engaging in therapeutic techniques that they develop in response to who they are. The people discussed in my research have chosen writing as the vehicle for their therapy, more specifically they have chosen blogging.

Like the bloggers that I discuss, I needed to develop my own techniques for dealing with my trauma. Unsurprisingly these techniques were rooted in my previous experiences of dealing with problems. First, I researched; I read everything I could find on PTSD. I read clinical studies, psychological theories, research into the causes and effects of PTSD, narratives, and literary theory. I became consumed with learning about trauma, convinced that if I could only understand it, I could defeat it. Since then I have written about and researched trauma extensively; I have posed theories about trauma and language; I have analyzed works of literary fiction and nonfiction; and after I became a blogger, I began studying the writing of trauma bloggers. My academic and scholarly nature lead me to deal with my trauma in concert with my professional development. However, throughout all of this I discovered that what helped most was not the research and reading but the writing about it. Like these trauma bloggers, writing became my therapeutic outlet. Yet my writing did not fall into the traditional rubric of therapeutic writing; it was and is primarily academic in nature and doesn’t fall into the genre of therapeutic journalling. In spite of this, I have found it to be more rewarding than writing about the specific experiences and perhaps more importantly, it feels safer. Those feelings of safety are often what allow victims to write about feelings and experiences that they cannot speak of.

My own experience inspired the questions that I explore here. What has motivated these bloggers to write? More specifically, why did they choose blogging rather than private journals? Why have they chosen personal blogs as opposed to the support forums that are plentiful? And when they sit down to write a blog entry, why do they do it? What experiences motivate them to take the time to sit and write and publish their thoughts? And I don’t mean the traumas that are the origin of their PTSD; I mean the experiences that directly precede the act of writing the entry. How do they respond to the experience in content and form? Do they write about the experience, the emotions that the experience engenders, or do they externalize like me and write about what they learn through the media and reading? I want to know what the writing means to them and if it helps. I want to know the answers to all of these questions, but to answer them I need to start at the beginning—the motivation.

As Kenneth Burke has noted “motives are shorthand terms for situations” (p. 30, Permanence & Change). In making this claim, he is explaining that motives are more complex than we usually perceive them to be. Motives are situations that we recognize through a pattern of stimuli and response that have occurred with enough frequency that we have generated a word for them. For example, my motivation in writing this is what I would describe as a desire to help myself and others. My “desire to help” is actually my response to a situation in which I see a pattern. Specifically, there are people who are hurting and who deserve to have their voices heard; I want to have my voice heard; I want to do my part in helping these people; and I am best equipped to help through my training as a rhetorician and scholar. So, there is a situation that involves both stimulus and response that I have translated into the words “a desire to help.” The motivations of the bloggers that I am discussing are no less complicated. Understanding the situational context of their writing helps me to understand what interactions constitute their defined motives which then helps me understand their writing. To clarify, the writing in this context is the response, and I am trying to identify the stimuli and understand the response and by making connections between stimuli and response understand motive.

So, the reader may have a question here: why do motives matter? An excellent question deserving of an explanation. I refer back to Burke to answer this. In examining motive I am actually looking at three linked concepts: orientation, motivation, and communication. Trauma victims’ orientation has been disrupted by their response to trauma. It’s really not dissimilar to being lost. The structures or landmarks that you use to determine your position are no longer there; you are disoriented and to find your way you must find those structures. “Orientation is a bundle of judgments as to how things were, how they are, and how they may be.” (14) Orientation is a means of understanding the world, when it is lost or disrupted, so is the individual sense of self and well being. Motivation is directly related to one’s orientation. The stimuli and response to a given situation (and the naming of it) are understood through prior experience. For the traumatized their orientation, influenced by trauma, results in response to stimuli that can be harmful in a multitude of ways. Because their response doesn’t always make sense in the way that we might normally understand it, they can’t attribute a word for it. They can’t give the situation a name. Thus, they cannot communicate their experience and that is what makes traumatic experiences traumatic—the disabling effect that they have on our ability to communicate. Communication is how we make connections to others. Ultimately these three concepts are circular. Communication helps us to reestablish orientation. Being able to communicate the trauma and experiences returns the ability to situate that bundle of judgments that is our orientation. Since my argument here is that writing allows us to process information differently and in some ways more effectively than other forms of communication, I need to understand the motive for writing as opposed to talking and the efficacy of blogging as the means of communicating these experiences. I also am trying to determine how blogging may move the blogger toward more stable orientation.

following my own advice

I haven’t had much time to blog lately because of all of my dissertation work. For a while I found that the blogging was helping my writing process, but then I got a little freaked out about the possibility that the blogging was taking me away from my work. Of course I’ve been feeling guilty about not blogging. Part of that is because I want to be true to my readers (though they may be few) and another part of the guilt is that I actually enjoy blogging. Then there’s the fact that I study bloggers. Perhaps the most important reason is that I continually encourage my students to write informally as a way to prepare themselves for formal writing. I require students to write low-stakes, informal reading responses and post them to their class blogs as a means of practicing. Writing is one of those activities that improves only through much practice, an opinion that I continually emphasize to my students. Yet I have been failing to follow my own advice, a practice that I often complain about when others do so. If you’re going to preach it, you should practice it. While I’ve been writing drafts of blog posts, I haven’t been completing or publishing them, a practice that would cost my students grade points. So, I vow to spend time (at least weekly) writing (and completing) posts for my blog. If nothing else, I’ll post about my dissertation. Perhaps that will alleviate the guilt I feel on both ends.

why I fight

And when I say fight, I mean research and write. For me, fighting (in the sense of working to accomplish something) is particular to who I am–a scholar, a writer, a teacher. As many of you know (or will discover from reading my blog), my research deals with psychological trauma. I research trauma because I believe that the people who have experienced trauma matter. That they deserve to have their voices heard. That their experiences have not been in vain.

While watching a rerun of one of my favorite television shows, Criminal Minds, something important occurred to me. My research focuses on those who experience what I call “personal” traumas. All trauma is personal, so when I say “personal trauma” I mean people who have experienced trauma as a result of individual acts of violence like sexual assault, childhood abuse, and domestic violence. One of the reasons that I focus on them is because of the stigma that is still associated with these traumas. For a long time all traumas and their aftermath, PTSD, were stigmatizing. Soldiers returning from war were seen as malingerers rather than as victims of the trauma of war. Since Vietnam PTSD has become a recognized psychological disorder and since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is greater public awareness of psychological trauma and with that awareness comes less stigma. However, it is important to note that the lessening of stigma does not alleviate the pain of trauma. The pain is real; it remains a living memory that haunts the individual who has experienced it. People who experience trauma during “public” acts of violence, like war and terrorist events such as 9/11, are more accepted as “real” sufferers. Their stories are less taboo, and their experiences tend to be validated more. Validation certainly helps. In fact, validation and awareness help to alleviate some of the sense of alienation felt by those who have experienced trauma. In spite of that, the reality of the trauma and the suffering that it engenders does not go away.

The fact that I focus on personal traumas and thus do not focus on the trauma of war compels me to write this post. While I am not researching and writing about soldiers and veterans who blog about trauma, their experiences are not unimportant to me. In fact, one of the reasons that my dissertation deals with blogging about trauma is due to reading the blogs of soldiers and talking to them. My original dissertation idea actually focused on veterans. I wanted to study narrative ability in people who’ve experienced trauma, and I hoped to conduct my study through the VA. Unfortunately, my qualifications do not include a PhD in Psychology, and the IRB isn’t keen on letting rhetoricians study protected populations. As a result, I returned to an earlier research idea conceived when I began stumbling on trauma blogs. I was researching blogging and continuing my research on trauma when the two somehow converged. I became interested in this counterpublic (to use Michael Warner‘s term) who were loosely connected through their strategic use of blogging. The subgenre of the trauma blog became the research topic for my dissertation, yet I chose to exclude the blogs of those traumatized as a result of war or terrorist attacks. Partly this was practical, I needed to limit the number of blogs that I used in my analysis. The other reason for this choice was more ideological in nature. Drawing attention to those who speak out about traumas that are still highly stigmatized will hopefully lessen the stigma or, at the very least, draw attention to these survivors brave enough to speak out.

In the future I hope to apply the same research strategies to the blogs written by veterans.

Friendship, Community and Knowledge in a CMC World

I just had a discussion with my dissertation committee about issues concerning personal blogs and how we define knowledge. We also discussed the debates regarding whether or not community can be established online, followed by a brief discussion of micro-blogging (Twitter and Facebook). So, it was interesting to see an email from The Chronicle of Higher Education linking to an article discussing these very issues.

The article, “Faux Friendship”, left me with a sense of dismay. I had just been talking about how personal experience is important knowledge, how community can be built online and successfully sustained, and how even micro-blogging provides us with a sense of connection to others. William Deresiewicz disagrees, falling under the umbrella of critics like Clay Calvert who refer to practices such as reading and writing blogs as “mediated voyeurism” and “mediated exhibitionism” respectively.  After a lengthy [which will be evidenced by my many quotations] discussion of the history and evolution of how we define friendship, Deresiewicz asserts that as a result of computer-mediated-communication, such as Facebook

the friendship circle has expanded to engulf the whole of the social world, and in so doing, destroyed both its own nature and that of the individual friendship itself. Facebook’s very premise—and promise—is that it makes our friendship circles visible. There they are, my friends, all in the same place. Except, of course, they’re not in the same place, or, rather, they’re not my friends. They’re simulacra of my friends, little dehydrated packets of images and information, no more my friends than a set of baseball cards is the New York Mets.

and that

Friendship is devolving, in other words, from a relationship to a feeling—from something people share to something each of us hugs privately to ourselves in the loneliness of our electronic caves, rearranging the tokens of connection like a lonely child playing with dolls.

Oh, chicken little, the sky is not falling! It seems so crazy that these same diatribes continue to be written. Sing me a new one, will ya?

To give Deresiewicz credit, he does provide an interesting historical perspective, provides us with information about the evolution of friendships and community, and links it to cultural change. This is certainly a nice break from the usual bemoaning of the loss of “real” world interaction and the evils of technology. But those who fear that technology will be the end of things that we value are repeating the same refrain that we’ve heard for centuries. When the telephone was invented, people feared that we’d no longer talk in person.

The advent and increased use of the internet may seem to be a new fear but is really only a reinvention (pardon the pun) of an old one. People have always worried that technological advancements will cause irreperable harm. In actuality (or at least in my opinion), it is that we evolve as people, as cultures and societies, and our tools evolve with us. Or, perhaps more accurately, we evolve in tandem with one another. It’s more of an iterative process than a static exchange. Fearing or hating change doesn’t make it stop, nor should we want it to. Growth is a beautiful thing, and we must make choices to determine how that growth affects us. In other words, I don’t believe that we are cogs in a machine over which we have no power.

Interestingly enough, Deresiewicz doesn’t seem to have a problem with email. (Providing further evidence that we grow and adapt as technology changes.) In fact, he says

The most disturbing thing about Facebook is the extent to which people are willing—are eager—to conduct their private lives in public. “hola cutie-pie! i’m in town on wednesday. lunch?” “Julie, I’m so glad we’re back in touch. xoxox.” “Sorry for not calling, am going through a tough time right now.” Have these people forgotten how to use e-mail, or do they actually prefer to stage the emotional equivalent of a public grope? [emphasis mine]

and again

I thought that Facebook would help me feel connected to the friends I’d left behind. But now I find the opposite is true. Reading about the mundane details of their lives, a steady stream of trivia and ephemera, leaves me feeling both empty and unpleasantly full, as if I had just binged on junk food, and precisely because it reminds me of the real sustenance, the real knowledge, we exchange by e-mail or phone or face-to-face. [emphasis mine]

What, pray tell, is “real knowledge”? When we chat on the phone or see each other in the street, don’t we talk about mundanities, the minutiae of our lives? Why is it such a problem that we share this with multiple friends while online? How does this constitute “exhibitionism”?

A further claim that concerns me is

Finally, the new social-networking Web sites have falsified our understanding of intimacy itself, and with it, our understanding of ourselves. […] So information replaces experience, as it has throughout our culture. […] Posting information is like pornography, a slick, impersonal exhibition.

This seems presumptuous. Has it “falsified our understandings” or has it changed them? What is the distinction and how does the author make it. Are information and experience mutually exclusive? Have we really “given our hearts to machines, and now we are turning into machines.” Is this really “[t]he face of friendship in the new century.”? Or is chicken little screaming his head off again?

a tale of inappropriate comments

In the Fall of 2006 I received an email, filtered down through the chain of departmental command, regarding my course website from the previous Spring. The email regarded a comment exchange between two students from my Technical Writing class. Now I make it a practice to at least skim all of my students’ comments. Early on in the semester I read them more carefully to ensure that students are “getting” the appropriate content, style, etc of blogging. Once I’m assured that they understand the basic principles, the 100+ comments a week don’t get the same careful attention. Nonetheless, I read to catch the flow of the commentary and the basic ideas behind their comments. I also use that time to choose blog entry “conversations” to promote to the front page for further discussion. Clearly it would be difficult for an obviously inappropriate comment to escape my notice. So, when I received this email I felt certain that there must have been some kind of mistake. However, navigating to the comment location I did indeed find three student comments disparaging a professor, a clearly inappropriate exchange for a Purdue course website. They were there; they had been posted; and I had missed them. And then I looked at the date. The comments had been posted several days after I had tallied and recorded comments for the semester. Why then, did my students post comments that, even if they were posted prior to the due date, would obviously not receive credit? What compelled them to air their grievances on what I considered to be my site? Most importantly (to me), why would they create a permanent record of their disdain? What could be gained by posting them and is there any consideration for what might be lost? Finally, whose site was it?

Last night at Starbucks two students sat down next to me and began to loudly complain to one another about the instructor whose class they were preparing for. The instructor’s name was mentioned on more than one occasion along with several expletives. Here we have the “old school” version of inappropriate student comments. I don’t mean that students should not express their opinions; I do, however, question the propriety (and prudence) of doing so in a public space. And it wasn’t as though they had forgotten my presence or that there were others within hearing. They turned from their conversation and addressed me with (roughly) the following comment: “I don’t want you to think that we’re awful people, but our instructor is terrible.” This was followed by the usual specific complaints that we’ve all received: too much work, etc. I wasn’t surprised by what they were saying; inappropriate conversations abound in public spaces (especially one cell phones, but I won’t get into that now). But in the public space of brick and mortar and fleshy bodies words disappear as they are uttered. Unless you are recording or transcribing, it’s difficult to repeat, much less remember over time, spoken comments. On the web we have no such restrictions; you are accountable for your words in a very different way. There is no “you must have misheard me” or “that’s not who I was talking about” to disassociate yourself from the spurious comments.

These are fairly benign anecdotes. The web has a sadly large number of hateful comments and folks aren’t usually too embarrassed to express the same sentiments in the world of flesh and brick-and-mortar. Still, benign or not, these posted comments are public (and to a large extent permanent) and they don’t just expose private information about the individual poster. They expose and make inaccurate claims about another. How do we ensure that kind of privacy? (Especially if we are using Blogger?) Is it our responsibility to monitor our students once they are no longer our students.

blogging and work

Another post from my former New Media class. This one inspired my post on gender and documentation.

So many blogs, so many drupal sites, so little time. Ahem, do you ever have those moments when you realize that you’ve forgotten to do something (for several weeks)? Well, welcome to my moment and the moment finds me thinking about the nature of blogs. Now I know from my various readings and discussions that blogs started as online diaries. From there it was a short walk to social and political commentary, but what I’m wondering is: when did blogs become work? For some of us (myself included) our relationship to work is complicated at best. For example, it’s early Friday evening and my plans are:working on one of my web projects and grading student papers (oh, and writing this blog entry). Coffee and kitty cats are included in this scenario (and probably a little Veronica Mars), which only further complicates the matter. Lots of folks have been writing and talking about the way that work has permeated our personal lives, so that many of us never really leave work behind. I think that this is even more complicated for graduate students, educators, freelancers and other folks without distinctly set work hours. My laptop, my wireless connection, my Blackberry–all of the accoutrements of my postmodern existence enable me to work whenever and wherever I wish. It makes for a beautiful amount of freedom and flexibility while simultaneously altering how those words are defined. Free time isn’t something that has much meaning for me, making me reflect on how others, both current and past, relate(d) to the concept of free time. If I look to my personal, familial past, I cannot remember any time when my mother didn’t seem busy but I discard that as evidence because my mother is a workaholic (thanks for those genes, Mom) and it wasn’t really that long ago. What if I look back a few more decades and think about the lives of my grandparents (or at least the bricolage lives that I have built out of family stories). My grandparents were children of the Depression. Free time connotes a kind of frivolity that they could not afford. Although I don’t agree with Adorno’s assessment of hobbies as necessarily work, in the case of my grandparents the comparison is fairly apt. In her free time my grandmother worked on writing her novel (which under different circumstances might have been her profession). My grandfather hunted, but not for pleasure. He hunted so that they’d have food to eat. Of course later in their lives, when they were financially stable, there was time for leisure.

Financial stability is key to this discussion. Leisure is the luxury of those who have the money to afford it. Even as I talk about how “we” are blurring to boundaries between work and life/leisure, I am aware that “we” constitutes a particular population performing a specific kind of work. It’s easy for me to talk about the effect of technology on work and leisure because I belong to the “we” that constantly appear in the media (okay, I couldn’t resist, but to clarify: in magazines, on the news, in blogs such as this). This “we” is often represented as a totality when in fact those of us for whom the boundaries between work and life have blurred in this particular way, comprise a fairly small percentage of the world’s population.

It’s a truism that categories never really have definition in the sense of clearly defined/delineated differences between one category and the others. Binaries (as Morgan R. mentioned today) are indeed myths but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t useful as locations of inquiry. The tension that exists between (and around the concept of) binaries provides us with a space for investigation. It’s the only way to approach the world and still retain your sanity: all aspects of life have the potential to faciliate our learning, even (and sometimes especially) those things that cause difficulties in our lives. So, back to binaries. I’d take it even a step farther and say that binaries can be seen as locatable points on a much broader spectrum. I’m sure that the distinction between work and leisure has never been as clear as nostalgia may make it appear to be. I know that this isn’t a new phenomenon but the specifics are a sampling of the already new that when combined seem to create something whose parts may not be new but the whole that they comprise is a new combination of those parts. Can the whole be new even when its parts are not? I guess it all comes down to definitions. If something is only new when all of its parts are also new, then nothing is ever new and the term ceases to have much usefulness. Maybe its time to revise the way that we define “newness.” Or does its usefulness lie in reminding us of the kind of ambiguities that any discussion of “progress” includes?

I’ve been making a big deal about how nothing is really ever new. Even blogs can be seen as a hybrid of diaries, letters and commonplace books. Yet even though these are not new per se, the ways that they have evolved from older technologies and media have significantly affected the way that we experience our world. Our commonplace books can be shared across continents not merely within a household. Still all of the media that I identify as the progenitors of the blog are typically associated with personal lives. Blogs began as personal but have since expanded to include blogs for social commentary as well as those created for business. Companies who enlist bloggers to promote their products are continually increasing, so much so that there are blogs like this one that contain job postings for bloggers. Blogs have even become a source of income for the casual blogger thanks to Google ads and similar. The sales blogs can be clearly categorized as work. The blogger who blogs for personal satisfaction who also uses her blog as a source of income still fits on the leisure/life end of the spectrum. It’s blogs like Donovon Lange’s work blog. Lange identifies himself as a software engineer who works on Microsoft OneNote and he makes a distinction between his work blog and his personal blog; however, his work blog is maintained during his leisure time. (Or at least is not officially part of his work at Microsoft.) He doesn’t have to keep this blog; we can assume that he does so for his own personal reasons. Yet he still feels the need to make the distinction between Donovan the software engineer and Donovan the person.

My blog is blurry at best. When your work is what you love to do, how do you know when work ends and life begins or is it ever that simple? I blog for my own personal satisfaction; I have my students blog as part of their course requirements and my responding to these blogs easily falls into the category of work; I am also required to blog Technically, this is my free time and what I’m doing is work. I’m fulfilling a requirement of my work by writing this but I’m enjoying it too. How important is it that I reify these boundaries and binaries if I’m okay with the blurry edges?

reasons for blogging

I feel the need to remind myself why I blog (or, at least, why I should blog).  I’m feeling a little listy, so I’m going to do this in bullet point format.

why I blog

“The instant publication encourages spontaneous writing rather than carefully thought out arguments.  Being allowed to write spontaneously releases us of the expectation that our writing must be perfect and polished” (266).

and

“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 carefully thought through papers” (267)

At the same time, unlike notes written exclusively to oneself, blog entries require us to think through our ideas and more fully form them making it more likely that they will reach fruition in the future.

  • Another aspect of blogging that is important to me as an academic is that it breaks the mold of the “ivory tower” publication process.  In a blog you write for a larger audience and thus, your writing is more accessible and available to the world rather than just a select group of individuals.
  • Along the same lines, writing in a blog allows for collaboration in a number of ways.  Not only does it provide a place for you to share your research with colleagues, the comment function allows them to respond to your work.
  • Blogs are allowed to be more personally oriented; they are, in fact, expected to be.  Thus, blogging academic work implicitly argues for the importance of personal experience as evidence.  At the very least, personal experience can share the same space as academic work.
  • A particularly important reason for my blogging is that I consider myself to be a digital ethnographer.  I am researching blogs and, significantly, arguing for their value and importance.  Blogging reinforces my argument that blogs have value beyond narcissism and linking.
  • Blogging makes me feel connected to the world.

So, there you are–a partial list of my reasons for blogging.

Rhetorical Strategies of Trauma Bloggers and What Counts as Evidence

As I struggle to find the sample set (representative trauma blogs) for my dissertation, I have been able to separate the bloggers into three categories based on their rhetorical strategies for dealing with trauma. One set of trauma bloggers discuss the intimate details of their traumas, clearly focusing on the internal struggles of PTSD.  The other set of bloggers seem to externalize their trauma by focusing on the political aspects of post traumatic stress disorder without revealing a large amount of personal information. There is a third set of bloggers that I situate between the other two.  These bloggers have situated themselves as therapeutic experts in the sense that they provide a healing plan based on their own process of healing.  Most of them are careful to note that they are not trained professionals and that their advice should not be taken in lieu of seeking professional help.  Still, their strategy is an interesting one because it positions them as expert, helper, and survivor/victim.  To some extent these are the most complex.  They implicitly argue for the value of personal experience by positioning themselves as a form of expert.  This, of course, is not unusual in the blogosphere.  Bloggers typically position themselves as authorities based on their experience.  This is necessary to establish an ethos with their audience.  Productivity blogs are particularly focused on this, because, like trauma bloggers, they are presenting a kind of self-help regimine based on the strategies that have worked for them.

The rhetorical strategies of these bloggers raise interesting questions regarding standards of evidence.  In academia, personal experience, while not entirely eschewed, is not valued as highly as other forms of research.  Experience is not considered rigorous in the ways that quantitative and other forms of qualitative data are.  Thus, while situating one’s research within a personal context is acceptable, using personal experience as theory or evidence is not.  Rather than increasing one’s ethos, the academic who focuses on personal experience will most likely have their research regarded as spurious at best.  I realize that we are talking about very different genres with distinctly different audiences and that these are not necessarily comprable.  However, I’m interested in exploring this further.  Given that there are many academic blogs that contain a mixture of experience and theoretical discussion, might there be an opportunity for a hybridization of scholarly genres?  Could this provide inroads into increasing the valuation of experiential evidence?