Dan's Metablog
Writing about blogging, identity, and narrative

Thesis crisis resolution (part 1)   Thursday, December 8   4:54 PM

So I met with my preceptor Jon, really an important meeting because, well, I was biting off quite a bit with my thesis and I needed some focus. He has a blog, which is a plus, because that means he has some clue what I'm talking about.

I was in complete agreement with Jon about the need to narrow my scope, but I'd been dreading a different kind of narrowing. A lobsters vs. crabs thesis.

Instead, he suggested that I look at a smaller, more managable amount of blogs. So I decided to ditch the "average" problem and I came up with two broadly-defined groups of blogs I find especially interesting: the supposedly "best" blogs in certain categories of the Bloggie awards, and the so-called isoblogs.

I just don't want a thesis that needs statistics, psychology, or sociology. I'm fine incorporating those things, but statistics have totally taken over my sociology paper and I realize how hard they are to use with any degree of academic honesty.

Right now I'm leaning toward one of the Bloggie categories, maybe the personal journal. As Jon pointed out, I'd have a neatly constructed classification system right there, and there are a lot of things I can do with pre-existing categories.

Written in my notes: Most of the time, finding surprising similarities is better than finding surprising differences. Also: If you disagree with the current scholarship, don't just say that it's wrong. Say why it's wrong and present something better.

To narrow the scope at the other end, I came up with some areas of interest, all of which I think were already in my thesis: the differences in "imagined communities" of blog software and the way blogs create a writer character through links and other forms of distributed narrative, for example.

I described the kind of stuff I'm annotating and noted that I couldn't find a good question to ask that fits what I'm interested in, but Jon reminded me that, for the moment, the question I'm asking can be very simple. Like "how does narrative work in blogs" or "how are blog genres constructed."

A lot of this stuff I'm reading seems connected, I should probably try to figure out why I think it is.

As far as useful interpretive apparati, Jon recommended Gerard Genette's Narrative Discourse after I told him I'd be learning all about Russian Formalism next term.

Thankfully, he didn't quash my working assumption that, with the current state of blog scholarship, my arguments can be made at a broader (higher?) level than would be the case if I was writing on, say, Shakespeare.

And breathe.

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Thesis crisis   Saturday, December 3   3:49 PM

In class yesterday each of us had to briefly present his or her thesis, and it quickly became clear that mine is both broader and more ambitious than most. As my preceptor noted, this could be a bad thing: I'm not writing a dissertation and if I try to write something like this I might not ever finish.

I don't like how squishy my current thesis is, but I'm more conflicted about its scope. It seems like there are a lot of theoretical questions at the wide level that need to be discussed before I start writing about some of the more narrow aspects of blogging, but maybe that's not where my focus should be. I'm a bit confused by all the short broadly-theorectical papers I'm finding, I can't imagine writing so many pages on a more narrow subject.

I need to talk to him about this. Soon, preferably, because not knowing what I'm looking for is going to hurt my annotations.

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