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

Rak's "Digital Queer"   Thursday, February 23   7:06 PM

This is the essay, "The Digital Queer: Weblogs and Internet Identity," was recommended to me by Prof. Weiner as the rational alternative to the three "Online Lives" essays she disagreed with and which I've annotated below.

Despite the narrow focus implied by the title, this essay is full of new ideas (certain for the audience to which it is pitched) more in line with blogosphere scholarship than the works of life-writers. There's also a bit of big name theorist name-checking, which doesn't get done enough in this area, actually.

The performance of blogging is based on the assumption that experience congeals around a subject, and makes a subject who can be written and read, even when the discourse that seems to support this subject threatens to undermine it. (166)

Paper Diaries, Online Comparison

On the three writers I just posted about, and their ilk:

What is at stake here for these researchers who must compare an electronic discourse to a non-electronic one, even when points of comparison evaporate? I suggest that this is an instance of what Jacques Derrida has said about genre, that it is made thinkable by means of a law which simultaneously marks the limit of inside and outside, even as the excesses of the law demonstrate the impossibility of setting such a limit (59-62). The problem with reading blogs as diaries, and with the accompanying decision to forge on with this kind of reading even when it does not work, shows how powerful the need is for autobiographical genres to work as forms of classification, even as the objects studied must exceed that attempt. (168-169)

An apt metaphor:

Foucault has said that the practice and theory of contemporary psychology depended on a construction of sexuality as a "new" object of inquiry for the "new" science of the mind, which meant that scientists had to overcome their own senses of doubt about the subject matter, and discipline the subjects themselves as part of the construction of their own discipline. Something similar, I suggest, is happening in the developing area of life writing or auto/ biography studies as some of its researchers encounter blogs and try to explain how they work in terms of older forms of life writing. (169)

The critique of life-writing scholarship, restated:

. . . the uneasiness and even queasiness about online diary scholarship depends on the constitution of weblogs as online diaries in an atmosphere of doubt, and then certainty. The field constitutes itself in the delineation of its new object and the sublimation of doubts about the object, and the problem is ultimately seen to reside in the indeterminancy of the object itself, an indeterminacy which the analyst must overcome to "understand" the new phenomenon and rationalize it. (170)

Blog Rhetoric

And the angels sang:

I begin with an assumption that weblogs are not a continuation of diary writing in a new form. Weblogs are better understood as an internet genre with a history as long as the history of the internet itself. (170)

She goes on to cite Blood, of course. Here she's discussing the journal-weblog distinction that gave me so much trouble earlier today:

The major difference between online journals and blogs is, according to Blood, the labeling decision of the site maintainer or publisher (7). But there is still some insistence that length and subject make the difference between online journals and blogs. (171)

The difference, at least for one of the bloggers Rak mentions, is one of direction, inward or outward. She goes on with a bit of history, talking about how online journals pre-dated weblogs then blogs came along and became popular and blogs mutated to become more like the online journal.

Blog Ideology

Now the importance of their mutation from the more ideological linklogs becomes more apparent:

But even as the corporate use of blogs and the corporatization of the materiality of blog writing have grown, and blogging itself changes, most blogs rhetoric still adheres in some form to a version of liberalism which was part of early internet culture. In this form of liberalism, freedom of expression is important, particularly when it occurs outside of institutional attempts to control the flow of information. (172)

A commonsense statement of blog privacy, note the "most":

Most blogs, therefore, work within what I call a semi-private environment, where private aspects of a person, such as habits, relationships, living arrangements, and economic status, are made public so that other members of the blog community will stay interested in the blog. (173)

Audience and blogger:

This role of the internet as public and private at the same time appears in blogs as the constant crossing between private experiences which can be revealed because the blogger is interacting with online people. (173)

Identity as unified and real online:

blog rhetoric depends on something that belies the many discussions of internet identity: an idea of the subject that does not shift, is not multiple, and most significantly, does not lie. (174)

Mimesis again?

It does not matter as much that bloggers cannot ever approximate face-to-face communication, or that representation cannot approximate who they "really" are, as it matters that blog rhetoric be made to approximate what the real "feels" like. Blog rhetoric is an instance of Jean Baudrillard's "strategy of the real," a rhetoric that derives its urgency from a sense that the real is lost and must be simulated (174-175)

Dead wrong. Verifiably, profoundly wrong:

Bloggers do not "post" their material on blogs, but "publish" it (Stauffer 311-14) (175).

Blog as a Genre

Another point against the postmodern identity-experimentation approach:

Blog identity involves a recouping of strategies of the real, which include the use of offline experiences as a guarantor of identity, to reconstitute liberal subjectivity in a public space. (176)

On the "randomness" of blog entries.
Although blog software such as Blogger states in its instructions that a writer can write anything at all in the composition space, and many blogs say that they are random collections of thoughts, blog entries are not random. As a genre, blogs create a specific type of social space, and are constructed to attract specific types of community based on similarity rather than differences. (176)

Cite for this source:

Rak, Julie. "The Digital Queer: Weblogs and Internet Identity." Biography 28.1 (Winter, 2005): 166-182.

Interesting citations to follow up on:

Browning, Gary, Abigail Halcli, and Frank Webster, eds. Understanding Contemporary Society: Theories of the Present. London: Sage, 2000.

Coe, Richard, Lorelei Lingard, and Tatiana Teslenko. "Genre as Action, Strategy and Difference: An Introduction." The Rhetoric and Ideology of Genre: Strategies for Stability and Change. Ed. Coe, Lingard, and Teslenko. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton, 2002. 1-12.

Comments (0)

Leave a Comment

Alles Wird Gut


Discourse History
Top 20 Citations
All Citations
Master's Thesis

Dan's Metablog


Bloggers Blog
BROG Project
Google Scholar
Into the Blogosphere
MLA styleguide

Dan's Webpage

Recent posts

Kitzmann's "That Different Place"
McNeill's "Teaching an Old Genre New Tricks"
Sorapure's "Screening Moments"
Corpus Update
Advisor meeting notes #1
Thesis intro
Thesis proposal (revised)
Thesis Proposal (first edition)
Sociology of the Technorati 100

My del.ic.ious site feed

delicious icon  my del.icio.us


October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
December 2006

Website XML feed

Creative Commons License

Blogger button