Losing preconceptions with Dijck Saturday, November 19 11:46 PM
Diary writing, as a quotidian cultural practice, involves reflection and expression; yet it is also a peculiarly hybrid act of communication, supposedly intended for private use, but often betraying an awareness of its potential to be read by others. (par. 2)
Cultural practices or forms never simply adapt to new technological conditions, but always inherently change along with the technologies and the potentialities of their use. In the case of lifelogs, the digital materiality of the internet engenders a new type of reflection and communication. (par. 3)
In contrast to weblogs, the paper diary is commonly referred to as a uniform genre, a private kind of reflective writing produced by a single author. Yet if we closely look at how paper diaries were used in the past, the characteristics of uniformity, privacy and single authorship are, to say the least, disputable; it is surprising to find, though, how these accepted notions about diaries still affect today's theorisation of weblogs. (par. 5)
In general, the taxonomy of the old fashioned paper diary tends to be based either on its contents (personal, intimate self-expressions vis-à-vis daily records of fact) or on its directionality (intended for private reading vis-à-vis public use). (par 6)
...the notion of addressing is crucial to the recognition of diary writing as an act of communication (Marty, 1985: 87).
William M. Decker, who theorised the evolution of epistolary writing in the United States, observes that letters, much like diaries, carry the aura of a private genre, whereas the genre encodes itself according to public standards: "What we identify as the private life is a conventionalised and hence public construction." (1998: 6).
Diaries have thus historically been produced by both individuals and groups, regardless of their degree of intimacy or their potential to appear in print. Since its very inception, the genre has been dialogic rather than monologic, hence obliterating the line between private and public.
...the distinction between lifelogs and linklogs is as tenuous as the taxonomy of the paper diary.
...digital cultural forms are often erroneously ascribed "unique" features such as interactivity or community building.
...diary's materiality forms an essential part of its content: pages, cover, key, colours, ink and paper (its look, feel, and smell) are all part of the act of keeping a diary.
Pivotal to the materiality of diaries, up to the age of computers, has been the notion of script: the concept of diary is commonly associated with (hand) writing, signifying not just authenticity, but personality.
The potential of digital editing at a later stage diluted the concept of diary as a material, 'authentic' artefact, inscribed in time and on paper.
Although they all basically serve the same purpose, the formats may differ in lay-out and digital possibilities. To some extent, these different designs resemble the preformatted paper-diaries for sale at stationary stores. It seems like the various software formats attract different audiences, catering to heterogeneous tastes and lifestyles, much like brand names of fashion products appeal to a particular style.
If handwriting betrayed a diary writer's character and level of maturity, the typewriter and later the word processor had already erased that trademark of personality; and yet, through word choice, style, punctuation, and the use of emoticons it is remarkable how much the entries give away a person's character. On top of that, the personality of a diarist is even more traceable through her prolific choices of cultural contents.
...as mediated human communication becomes more and more non-linear, decentralised, and rooted in multimedia, the distinction between orality and literacy becomes less evident and less important. (2002: 29)
In her sharp journalistic ethnography, Nussbaum (2004) observes that bloggers usually don't talk about what they say online, even though in real life they may speak to each other on a daily basis.
Although the very medium that enacts blogging shifts the technological condition from isolation to connection, this does not mean that the cultural practices take on a new 'pure' default mode; on the contrary, old habits of diary writing coexists with new connected practices, while they get gradually incorporated by a new medium.
The inclusion and exclusion of (potential) readers from one's weblog constitutes an intricate game, the stakes of which are identity formation and community construction.
From a survey held by the MIT Media lab Sociable Media Group, we learn that 76% of bloggers do not limit their readership in any way, and they have no idea who their readers are, apart from a core audience (Viegas, 2004).
Blogging, besides being an act of self-disclosure, is also a ritual of exchange: bloggers expect to be signalled and perhaps to be responded to. If not, why would they publish their musings on the internet instead of letting them sit in their personal files?
Even though blogging is by many considered a transitory cultural practice, just as talking on the phone or sending short text messages, the desire for storage and retrieval is evident.
Blogging itself becomes a (real life) experience, a construction of self that is always mediated by tools for communication and expression; in other words, the medium is the experience, not the message