Narrative and rhetorical success on diary weblogs
Thesis proposal (revised)
Monday, January 30
There is little — short of the label itself — connecting the millions of weblogs. Walker's short definition of the blog as "a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first" describes most (successful) instances of the weblog, but as with most definitions of "blog," it's clear that several genres have been grouped together under the same term. In response, theorists have attempted to classify blogs into categories, starting from a basic diary-focused vs. link-focused distinction and working their way toward more complicated taxonomies. Every blogosphere survey, relying on its own "commonsense" definition of blogging genres, invariably discovers that diary weblogs are by far the most common form of weblog, and with few exceptions, the study of these weblogs has remained at the statistical level.
In contrast to this statistical approach, Miller and Shepherd call for a rhetorical approach, one "more interested in expectations, motivations, and terms of success." While such an approach is common, theorists usually focus on a few novel blogs or some abstracted "ideal" blog — emphasizing obvious elements, such as hypertext links, to separate blogs from ancestors like the diary or the epistolary novel. This mode of analysis is useful, but generalizing about blogs is risky given the many genres available, and authors are sometimes tempted to create normative definitions which exclude many websites generally considered blogs, as when Jill Walker refuses the term to weblogs without links. In most cases, weblogs are too different to analyze as a group without implicitly privileging a certain genre.
As noted above, diary weblogs have yet to be subjected to a genre-specific rhetorical analysis, nor have the boundaries of their genre been defined in any systematic way. Unlike the link-based blogs so often studied, these "lifelogs" succeed within their genre largely on the basis of their post content — it should come as no surprise that nearly all of the finalists for the "best writing of a weblog" Weblog Awards category seem to come from this genre. It's these blogs which I propose to study, analyzing those aspects of their writing which mark them as especially successful instances of a lifelog genre. With an eye toward Wayne Booth's idea of the "implied author," I'll pay special attention to the way all of these bloggers position themselves as compelling subjects in their ostensibly autobiographical entries. Ultimately, I plan to find out how much rhetorical unity there is among the best-written weblogs in the hope of understanding not only them, but also the genre they purportedly represent.
Alles Wird Gut