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Blogging as privileged speech

Last May, I did a presentation at Computers & Writing titled, “Blogging as Social Action: The Weblog as Genre.” In my genre theory class, our readings have been mostly been on the deep theoretical and methodological implications of genre, which I find very valuable, but I am also interested in the ideological and political implications of genre and writing/speaking practices within genres (not that I mean to imply that there's a separation between those two areas). In that presentation, I reviewed Carolyn Miller's argument in “Genre as Social Action,” in which she points out the limitations of the concept “genre” to describe simply a taxonomy of different kinds of texts. She argues that a genre is a response to social forces. Such social forces can be at the small-scale community level, like the relatively small community of scholars in a certain discipline. Here I'm thinking of the community of scholars involved in the publication of June Davis' article (from Berkenkotter & Huckin, Genre Knowledge)—the researchers doing work on the mice, the editor of the journal, and the reviewers, and then the larger concentric circle of the authors of articles Davis read that influenced her research and the way she packaged the data from her study. The social forces can operate on a larger scale, too, and the forces I'm referring to here are global capitalism, racism, gender hierarchy, heteronormativity, and the like.

In my Computers & Writing presentation, I claimed that blogging services, by offering free hosting and easy-to-use software, have enabled more people than ever to have a voice on the internet, to be able to participate in political discourse, like a citizen in the Classical sense. In saying this, I realize that I am taking the same tone as the scholarship on computers and composition which has been characterized as uncritical and overly enthusiastic, and I want to point out the obvious class implications: Unfortunately, most voices still are not heard, and the internet is still very much a North American, western European province. However, millions of people keep blogs and express their political and ideological convictions. This is why I found Bazerman's article (in The Rhetoric and Ideology of Genre) so interesting. In a discussion of major online news publications, he writes that:

although all these sites provide news and commentary for various publics to contemplate, and this news and commentary may provide the basis for later actions, these electronic journals afford no immediate active form of participation except letter writing in response—typically, an email response form is attached to each web site (p. 27).

Blogging definitely qualifies as an “immediate active [and public!] form of participation,” and for that reason, I am dedicated to studying them. I still struggle with this point that Bazerman brings up:

Insofar as the polity is reduced to issues of economics and the marketplace, and insofar as the most important actors on the political stage are coincident with those that have the most economic power, nonmarket values will have a hard time getting voice within the political discussion, for that discussion will be in genres not amenable to the expression of noneconomic values and interests (p. 33).

Is the blog amenable to the expression of noneconomic values and interests? Sure, people talk about Marx all the time on their blogs, but the blog arose from the internet, which we know has a fraught history (see the work of Laura Gurak, Cyberliteracy and Cynthia Selfe, Technology and Literacy in the Twenty-First Century: The Importance of Paying Attention). Blogging allows for a multiplicity of voices and the expression of a lot of politically progressive thinking, but a blog entry is not as powerful an agent for change as a letter to a congressional representative. I will leave my reading response, then, with a question: How powerful are bloggers, and can genre analysis assess that power?

That was my reading response. Last night's class was really helpful to me; we talked a lot about class implications for blogging. Carol [Berkenkotter] said that blogging is privileged speech--you have to have access to a computer, obviously, and you also have to have a significant amount of leisure time. She raised the question, "What kind of illocutionary force does privileged speech have?" She also noted that genres are perpetrators of the status quo and of ideology.

Genre Theory, Genre Analysis, and Blog as Genre

Here are some preliminary thoughts on genre analysis as a method for studying blogs. I'm taking Carol Berkenkotter's genre theory class this semester, and this is a response paper I wrote to some forthcoming work by John Swales and "The Problem of Speech Genres" by Mikhail Bakhtin.

While I appreciate genre theory, the primary material in the reading that interested me is genre analysis as a method (or methodology), as I desire to acquire knowledge of genre analysis as a tool to analyze weblogs. Swales' work, then, was particularly useful to me. One methodological problematic I have been struggling with lately is the question of why, when analyzing an Internet genre one would need a print referent. Three concepts helped me see why a print referent is necessary: Bakhtin's notion of intertextuality among utterances, Todorov's remark that genres come “'[q]uite simply from other genres,'” and Linell's idea of recontextualization. Now I realize that a print referent—a paper journal, perhaps—is needed, but I am still grappling with the problem of genre and subgenre, e.g., a poem is a genre and a sonnet is a subgenre; a blog is a genre and a warblog is a subgenre.

Margaret Cho is a blogger!

There's an automatic addition to my blogroll. She has some great, just righteous stuff to say. Thanks Paul (or is it only Paul?). The use of "we" in the posts makes me wonder if God's Audio/Visual Aid is a community blog now. Perhaps I missed something.

So. Happy. to be back

Wow, I had no idea how attached I am to this blog! Those six days without blogging were awful. In case the site goes offline again, I should say that I'm planning a move to a different server, so there might be a day of database transfer in there somewhere.


I'm finishing up the syllabus for my class and feeling better about it. I decided to require blogging again, but this time I'm trying a community blog rather than individual student blog sites. They can always do those if they want to. Here's the rough version. I'm wondering if I should put my own blog on the blogroll. If I do, the students will learn a lot about me, and it could be considered shameless self-promotion...but heck, on the other hand, it's easy to find CultureCat anyway. It's the #1 Google hit if you search for my name, and it's in my email signature. I'm trying to be very specific and thorough in my blogging requirements, including citation practices, frequency of posts, word count, etc. Luckily for me, Charlie and Terra cover these very well, and provide a great road map.

[Edited because I am fabulous and unstoppable! I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it! People like me. ]

Blog of a fellow Alabamian

I just found and added to the blogroll Charles W. Johnson. He describes his blog as:

Pretentious culture-trawling, heavy-handed political growling, nerd-boy technology, philosophic essays, and general geekery from a bisexual radical feminist geeky white computer nerd boy in Alabama!

Isn't it obvious why I think he is fabulous? He's 21 years old and a senior at Auburn majoring in philosophy and computer science. See, this is what I try to tell people--not all people from the south are racist, sexist, and otherwise bigoted. Lots of us grew up seething in the face of the ignorant rantings we heard all the time, did some reading and, if we were lucky, had some good teachers, and turned out like Charles. Becky might back me up on this.

Posts that strike me

A couple of things from my blog-reading:

NATIVES GRINDING RICE IN A MORTAR OWNED BY ALL (and more) from This Public Address


Public Diaries from Alex Halavais.

That first one has really stuck with me.

Blogging Across the Curriculum

Cyborg Mommy has created an online resource about blogging. It's designed for students, but I think it's good for anyone who's new to blogging.

Cross-posted to Kairosnews.

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