What makes a blog a blog? And what do bloggers do?

Readings and activities for Week 3. Reading two articles. Searching for a third. Commenting on the thoughts of others. Making a final post that draws things together, for now. Because it is time-bound and social, blogging is iterative: bloggers use their blogs to develop their ideas over time, and from comments, observations, and further encounters with ideas. A blog becomes a record of its development.

I want to argue ... that the „online diary” mode of blogging is far too quickly dismissed, and is in fact deserving of a closer look.

What defines a blog as a blog is less the specific technologies that produce it — though those are of course important, too — than the mode of interaction that blogs require of their readers, a way of reading that is intimately tied to the blog’s primary existence as a database. "The Pleasure of the Blog: The Early Novel, the Serial, and the Narrative Archive". Kathleen Fitzpatrick.

This quotation from Fitzpatrick points to what we're doing this week. Not defining The Blog as some kind of Ideal object but thinking about what makes a blog a blog rather than something else. That's a fuzzy problem, without a pat answer. As a question, it's a request for theorizing blogs, seeing how they might fit and function in the material and digital worlds.

We're not seeking An Answer but working with the question, and with how to address it. There are two non-answers: "It's up to the blogger", and "Who Knows?" The idea for this week is use blogs to exchange ideas about blogs as something more than diaries, logs, records .... What makes a blog a blog in the current text - image - voice space? What's a good way of thinking about what blogs are and where they fit?

What is the blog? A genre, like the novel. And a medium, like print or tv. Developed from template-driven database posts of links towards essayistic open publishing. A record of posts, frequently updated and presented in reverse chronological order. Mobile technologies start driving the form. Increase in image-text density. Increase in centralization and commercialization of some spaces. Public writing. Ergodic space. A personal learning space. Something literature-like, akin to the epistolary novel, or maybe the novel at large. A commonplace book. A social space, but a personally owned and managed social space, to differentiate blogs from Facebook. Maybe something like a cabinet of curiosity. But an even more interesting question to ask is "What do bloggers do? Addressing that might crack the nut.

For this week, you'll be stating and then refining your ideas about blogs and blogging over a series of posts. Read the extracts from Blood and Rettberg linked below. Then, search for another article, blogs post, video, podcast ... that address what a blog is or what bloggers do, and incorporate that you found into your thoughts about blogging. Then visit others in the class to see what they've been finding. And then post a final statement for the week.


Rebecca Blood. A blog post on blogging by one of the first bloggers. Weblog History, 2000

The promise of the web was that everyone could publish, that a thousand voices could flourish, communicate, connect. The truth was that only those people who knew how to code a web page could make their voices heard. Blogger, Pitas, and all the rest have given people with little or no knowledge of HTML the ability to publish on the web: to pontificate, remember, dream, and argue in public, as easily as they send an instant message. We can't seriously compare the creation of the World Wide Web itself with the availability of free technology that allows anyone with a web browser to express their unique, irreproducible vision to the rest of the world...can we?


We are being pummeled by a deluge of data and unless we create time and spaces in which to reflect, we will be left with only our reactions. I strongly believe in the power of weblogs to transform both writers and readers from "audience" to "public" and from "consumer" to "creator."

Jill Walker Rettberg What is a Blog?, from Blogging, 2nd ed., chap 1. 2014.

If we see blogs as a medium, then the formal definitions are sufficient. These are the material limitations of blogs. An online newspaper or company newsletter may well choose to use blogging software as a medium. However, if we see blogs as a genre, or ... a 'type of text', then our definition should include mention of the typical style and content that lets us at a glance say 'that's not a blog' when we see an online newspaper.


Make at least three blog posts for this week, one incorporating the Blood and Rettberg readings, another incorporating what you find in your search on blogging, and a third taking into account what others in the class are thinking.

1. By Thursday, midnight: Make two posts. In one post, work with Blood and Rettberg. Comment, remark, and above all link. Write in such a way as to garner comment and response. You're trying to extend the conversation, to encourage your readers to read what you read and comment.

In a second, separate post, work with at least one article/video/blog post that addresses what blogs are or what bloggers do. To find a source to work with, search under terms such as blogging, what do bloggers do, blogging and <whatever you're interested in>: blogging and students, blogging and annotation, blogging and sports ... music blogging, dangers of blogging, who blogs, etc.

Be selective. There is a lot of ill-considered stuff out there: superficial stuff, obvious stuff repeated as though it was Grand Knowledge, trivial stuff, ... Filter out those articles and work with something you can build on, extend, comment on ...

2. Friday, Saturday, Sunday: Make the rounds of the blogs on the blogroll, read to see what others are thinking, and comment: Perhaps you took a different direction, comment. Perhaps you see different implications. Comment. Perhaps you have an example of a point to provide: add the link in a comment. Comment on at least one other blog. Two is better.

3. By Sunday, midnight You've had time to read, comment on some local class posts, read some more, think about bogging and what bloggers do. Now, fashion a post in which you set out how you currently think of a blog, to address the general question of "What makes a blog a blog - and what do bloggers do?" Link out! Examples, other possibilities, images that might illustrate your ideas (but Beware the animated gif, my son! / The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!).

4. Monday, midnight Post your reflection for the week, with links to your posts, by Mon 30 Jan, midnight.

Other options: in thinking about what a weblog is, think about blog post
The essence of a blog is not the interactivity of the medium: it is the sharing of the thoughts and opinions of the blogger. from "Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture" by Geert Lovink.

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