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.


Go rent Identity. It's awesome, but I am puzzled by this review by Ted that I read on IMDB. Here's an excerpt, my emphasis (warning! Spoilers!):

Ooo, Ooo, Child

Ever have a day when you just don't want to do all those things you have to do? Well, today's like that for me. I just want to curl up in my apartment and watch the movie Riding in Cars with Boys. Eh, for now I'll have to settle for listening to "Ooo, Ooo, Child" by the Five Stairsteps as I get ready to do all those things I have to do. I don't own the Riding in Cars with Boys soundtrack, but I know that song was on it.

I have a case of the Mondays! (If you haven't seen Office Space, see it now.)

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.

Johnny Cash and John Ritter

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.

Thoughts on Aspasia and Diotima

This is a really disorganized response paper I wrote for my favorite class, Gender, Rhetoric, and Literacy: Historical Bedfellows, taught by Lillian Bridwell-Bowles. The readings for yesterday's class were parts of Rhetoric Retold by Cheryl Glenn, the first two essays in Reclaiming Rhetorica, edited by Andrea Lunsford, and the selections on Aspasia and Diotima in Available Means, which is sort of a Rhetorical Tradition, but with only women. The selection for Aspasia was from Plato's Menexenus, and the selection for Diotima was from Plato's Symposium.

My first "problematic" in my WoSt class

Here's my first response paper for my Feminist Theory and Methods class (my professor calls them "problematics."). We were to discuss what's in a name; in other words, is it a problem to continue to call this field "women's studies"? Why not "gender studies," "identitarian studies," "women's and gender studies," "sex and gender studies," etc.? Here are my thoughts:

In the 1970s, when the field of Women's Studies was in its nascent phases, the women's movement had a vital presence in mainstream culture. Academic feminists saw an underrepresentation of women in college curricula in such disciplines as history, literature, psychology, sociology, anthropology, rhetoric, philosophy, and science, and they worked to recover the silenced contributions women made to these disciplines and to implement gender as an analytical category for disciplines that had not previously studied women. Such recovery was, of course, a feminist project, but "Feminist Studies" was not only ideologically charged, but also not indicative of the object of study. Women's Studies became a interdisciplinary field of study in which women were both subjects and objects of research.

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