Blog as nominalization
Thursday, April 27
My advisor drew an exclamation point next to my first and only use of the verb-form of "blog" in my paper, which brought to mind an important if little-noted fact:
The noun "blog" is a nominalization
If we believe Peter Merholz's account
of the coinage of "blog," it came from his splitting "weblog" into "we blog." Maybe he (or others) have a different analysis, but it seems to me like "we" is the subject and "blog" is verb.
The noun form follows naturally, but it still had to follow. Can we still say "blog" is a short form of "weblog"? Looks more like the result of a visual pun. Or something; I'm no etymologist.
I'd bring this up with Language Log
if I hadn't already pestered them last week about "spaz."
Open mouth, insert foot?
Monday, April 24
So it turns out Jose van Dijck
is not a man. I'm surprised I even made that assumption, when most weblog scholarship seems to be written by women.
But in any case: apologies. Not a mistake a copy editor should make, no matter what the first name.
My first draft is still getting its going over, so in the meantime I've been reading Genette's Narrative Discourse
and trying to collect (published and/or well-known) blog definitions. More on both of those projects later.
Also: I guess I'm presenting a brief overview of my thesis (7 minutes or so) for "Works in Progress" this Friday. I don't know yet what I'm going to say, but (luckily) I also have to turn in an analytic abstract of the thesis this week...
Tuesday, April 18
The next journalist who uses the phrase "Internet blog" will be summarily executed.
So I finished the first draft around midnight, though I ended up spending another hour putting together the bibliography. I'm waaaay too lazy to reformat everything for my blog right now, but here's the Word file:Thesis first draft
Our bold blog definition
Sunday, April 16
Here are the paragraphs on the blog that I added to my thesis. This was meant to be one paragraph, but, well, it needed to be much longer before I was satisfied with it. It's now a section after the intro called "the blog." All footnotes that are hyperlinks have been changed to off-site links. There are some sources I'd like to consult — Nils had to do something like this too, apparently — but I'll do that at my leisure after I turn the first draft in.
Though this essay's primary concern is explicating the diary weblog, it would be futile to attempt a non-arbitrary theorization of the diary weblog if the blog itself were left undefined — and so the blog itself presents the first definitional problem. There are, in fact, very few essential blog features. Blogs are a kind of online writing, and so must appear online: blogs that have been published in book form become "blooks
." Blogs are published on websites, though their content may be accessible through syndication in another medium like email or Really Simple Syndication. Blogs are composed of one or more individual entries or "posts" which, though usually text, can also consist of still images, audio, video, or any combination of these media. Once there is more than one post, a blog is arranged so that more recent entries are displayed before older ones: this is the system Walker and others call "reverse-chronological order." In order to make the reverse-chronological ordering perceptible, blogs "time-stamp" entries, usually explicitly ("posted at 2:23 a.m. on February 15, 2006") but sometimes implicitly. The blog "Overheard in New York" is a good example of the latter category: individual posts are not time-stamped; instead, those closer to the heading for a given day are presumed to be more recent. While this list of traits is somewhat preliminary — in the taxonomy section, I'll offer a more logically rigorous method for defining genres — for the purposes of this paper these are the only features essential to the blog.
Many commentators would disagree with this assertion, so it's important to note some of the common features often erroneously considered essential, foremost among them the notion that blogs are "self-published." Blogs are often described as "self-published," but while it's true that publishing your own blog is incredibly simple, the blogosphere contains many prominent examples which fail to live up to that term, whatever it's taken to mean. Most bloggers use third-party web-publishing sites like Blogger or LiveJournal, instead of writing all the code themselves. Some bloggers have written their entries on paper and had other people type and publish them
At other blogs, for example
those hosted by MSNBC, editors or copy editors review submissions before they're posted. And blogs like "PostSecret," a collection of postcards, deal exclusively in content submitted by other people and selected by an editor. While it's obvious that blogs do not go through the traditional print publishing process, many of the steps in that process can carry over to web-publishing. The idea that self-publishing is crucial to the weblog persists in part because it is well-matched to the individualistic, tech-optimist ethos still prevalent in the blogosphere.
Other blog definitions exclude old, new, or unpopular weblogs. Many theorists dwell on the "frequent" nature of weblog posts, but while a blog like "Boing Boing" might have several dozen entries a day, other blogs go weeks, even months without entries — there's no cut-off point at which "Tequila Mockingbird," a popular diary weblog currently four months into an unannounced hiatus, will cease to be a blog. Moreover, the same defense holds for archived or defunct blogs — the genre status of "ToTo247's Xanga Site" was not altered when the blogger's tragic death
made future updates impossible. Theorists have also excluded newly-created blogs from their definitions, by mentioning a "series" of posts, for example. While it's true that a blog with only one post doesn't yet contain updates in reverse-chronological order, most readers and many web-publishing sites (e.g. Blogger, WordPress, MSN Spaces) equate the publication of the first post with the creation of the blog. A blog doesn't become a blog with the second post — the second post merely confirms (or confounds) the reader's expectation that this last essential feature will be present. A new weblog may also lack incoming or outgoing links, but restricting the definition of blog to cover only those sites which are participating in a blogosphere-level conversation would unnecessarily exclude thousands of diary weblogs.
Unlike the web forum — with which it shares many similarities — the blog is often assumed to have a limited, self-selected number of post authors. However, as new technologies allow people to contribute to the blogosphere through email or with their cell phones, this distinction becomes increasingly invalid. Some blogs, "Katrina Aftermath
" for example, allow anyone to create new entries and comment on existing posts. Nevertheless, while such blogs break down the boundaries between the weblog and the web forum and create overlap between the two genres, blogs still differ from web forums in that a community of authors is still an optional rather than essential feature of the genre. With the invention of the diary weblog, blogs and online journals have a similar conceptual relationship: essential features of the latter appear as optional features in the former.
Finally, many features now considered essential are easily revealed as optional, for the simple reason that many blogs have only recently adopted them. As early weblogger Tom Coates has noted
, "There are some things that become so ubiquitous and familiar to us — so seemingly obvious — that we forget that they actually had to be invented." Justin Hall began blogging
in 1994, and the term "weblog" was coined on December 17, 1997, but according to Coates, permanent links to individual blog posts, now known as "permalinks," were invented years later. Likewise, Blogger users did not have built-in comment fields or titles on their posts until the summer of 2004. Many blogs still don't make use of these features, though that hasn't stopped theorists from conflating the essential with the merely typical.Footnotes
This ethos was memorably captured by early Blogger slogans like "push-button publishing for the people" and "the revolution will be bloggerized." C.f. Rak, 171. Back
If Blood says she loves you...
Saturday, April 15
Writing the "Blogs 101" section of my thesis, I followed the paragraph on "essential features" with one on "common misconceptions" — features often thought to be essential that really aren't.
And of course that immediately brought to mind a paragraph from Blood's "Hammer, Nail: How Blogging Software Reshaped the Online Community
" which offered an example too good not to quote:
Blogger really was easy to use. When news stories began defining weblogs as "a website made with Blogger", it quickly became the most widely used blogging tool. And that changed weblogs.
An even more extreme version of this statement occurs in The Weblog Handbook
Article after article appeared, defining a weblog as a website that was created with Blogger. If Meg or Ev ever said anything to dispel this notion, it never appeared in the published articles. (149)
Foolish new stories! But with the magic of LexisNexis, I've slogged through about 60 early (1999-2002) blog/weblog stories and I haven't found a single example of that kind of sloppy reporting.
The reporters get other stuff wrong, of course — there's some arcane point about whether "blog" comes from "web log" or "weblog," I can never remember which one it actually is — but not that. So I'm thinking: was this factoid real, satirical (because they are
all in love with Blogger.com), or simply "too good to check"?Update:
Got a reply from Blood, excerpted below.No, that's not satire, it's the way I remember it, but I don't have any references for it, either. These would be articles written in 2000 or so. I just remember becoming increasingly annoyed with articles that were infatuated with Blogger, while missing that they were part of a wider phenomenon.
Thursday, April 13
So after meeting yesterday with my advisor, who gave me a lot of feedback on those first 15 pages, I've realized that — for grade-related reason — I'm going to have to write my paper for an audience more like him.
Instead of pitching it toward people who've read a bit of Blood, spend a fair bit of time in the blogosphere, and have seen any of the many blog surveys (Perseus, Herring, and the like). These kind of readers have been my audience up until now.
That means defining "blog," giving a history of the blog, and generally writing like my audience has never heard of most of the things I'm talking about. It may be somewhat painful.
Five pages for tomorrow, still working.Update:
It is pretty painful. I'm seeing some serious misreadings in my advisor's annotations (e.g. "unclear" next to most of my subtler points) — this is exactly the kind of thing writing with my audience in mind could have prevented.Update 2:
I'm supposed to focus on only one blogger at a time for the rhetoric section to avoid confusion. But as the whole point is that I'm talking about trends, I can't shake the feeling that I'm destroying evidence.
The first 15 pages
Thursday, April 6
Qualifications: not finished, behind in fact, my advisor hasn't read it, my group hasn't workshopped much of it. Footnotes were a bit of a pain, so I've changed any applicable ones to links and left out others. I'm especially embarassed by the last section, which notices the right things but has little to no good analysis.
In short: this is my baby, but it's an ugly baby. So constructive criticism is welcome.
Prelude to progress?
Monday, April 3
Working on the first 20 pages of my thesis. Which, yes Virginia, you will get to see either tomorrow or late tonight.
I wish I hadn't learned all that stuff about "characters" and "actions" last week, though. Because I'm haphazardly rewriting every sentence now.
Alles Wird Gut