Blog as place and genre

Excellent piece in Kairos on “Blogging Places”. Tim Lindgren explores a range of new place blogs that are primarily concerned with locality and ecology as distinct from the global or purely personal approach of much of the blogsphere.

Some unrepresentative cherry picks:

On blogging genres:

Carolyn Miller and Dawn Shepherd suggest, blogging is remarkable for its ability to adapt to particular rhetorical exigencies, such that “already it may no longer be accurate to think of the blog as a single genre.” In other words, it now may be less meaningful to discuss blogging in general than to examine distinct varieties of the genre such as war blogging, political blogging, academic blogging, or—for the purposes of this study—place blogging. Rather than treating place blogging as a genre of its own (or even as a subgenre), this study will primarily examine it as an adaptation, or perhaps more precisely, a localization of blogging with both generic and geographic qualities….

Anis Bawarshi’s manner of describing genre seems particularly apt in this context: in his words, a genre is “both a habit and a habitat—the conceptual habitat within which individuals perceive and experience a particular environment as well as the rhetorical habit by a through which they function within that environment” (84). In Genre and the Invention of the Writer, Bawarshi suggests that writing is by nature a form of inhabitation: “Writing takes place. It takes place socially and rhetorically. To write is to position oneself within genres–to assume and enact certain situated commitments, identities, relations, and practices” (14). Moreover, a genre possesses “ecological” qualities that enable it to “coordinate a symbiotic relationship between social habitats and rhetorical habitats” (82).

On Journalism and place blogging

The journalistic ancestry of blogging is apparent in local blogs like Simon’s Living in Dryden in which he documents the political and community life in his area of upstate New York: “At this point it’s clear that there’s more than enough going on in Dryden for stories every day. There is an incredible amount happening here, and only a fraction of it can make the paper” (“Six Months”). Simon provides an independent source of news to supplement the conventional print sources, and it is clear throughout that this role as an independent journalist is a local one—he writes as a local for a local audience. For this reason, his blog tends to serve as a growing archive of the local knowledge he considers important for responsible civic engagement in the community.

On blogging as rhetorical place

For Nicholas Burbules, the web is a “rhetorical place” rather than a “rhetorical space” because a place is “a socially or subjectively meaningful space.” In his formulation, this place has 1) “navigational and the semantic elements” such as an “objective, locational dimension: people can look for a place, find it, move within it” and a 2) “semantic dimension: it means something important to a person or group of people, and this latter dimension may or may not be communicable to others.” (78) In his mind, space “does not capture the distinctive way in which users try to make the Web familiar, to make it their space–to make it a place.” By contrast, “calling the Web a rhetorical place suggests…that it is where users come to find and make meanings, individual and collectively ” (78).

In his typification of “place blogs” Lindgren extends Miller and Shepherd’s genre analysis of blogs. Miller and Shepherd talk about the “ancestral genres” of blogs and a process they call “speciation”:

Because blogs appeared so suddenly and so recently, and because evidence about them and those who use them is so available, we have an unusual opportunity to study the evolution of a genre. In this case we can examine what the evolutionary biologist would call speciation, the development of a new genre, rather than the process of adaptative transformation,.. Jamieson’s work on early presidential oratory (1973, 1975) and Miller’s study of the Environmental Impact Statement (1984) did examine the creation of new genres, the first as precedent-setting responses to unprecedented situations, the second as a rhetorically unsuccessful but legally mandated response to a situation defined by“or brought into being by” Congress. One important way to study the rhetorical innovation of a new genre, Jamieson argued, is to look for the “chromosomal imprint of ancestral genres” (Jamieson, 1973); for example, the presidential inaugural can be fully understood as a genre only by seeing in it the imprint of the sermon (Jamieson, 1973), and the State of the Union address can be understood only by seeing it as a successor to the King’s Speech to Parliament (Jamieson, 1975). These ancestral genres should be considered part of the rhetorical situation to which the rhetor responds, constraining the perception and definition of the situation and its decorum for both the rhetor and the audience.

Lindgren uses Bolter and Grusin’s term “remediation” to describe this process. He sumarises Miller and Shepherd’s ancestral forms:

  • genres of political journalism: pamphlet or broadside, the editorial, and the opinion column.
  • personal genres: journal and the diary, along with the newer electronic genres of the home page and the webcam
  • genres of collecting and organizing information: clipping service or media monitoring service, commonplace book

He then ads to this list the specific ancestral genres of place blogs:

Personal Essays

When Chris from Bowen Island Journal describes place blogs as “collections of stories of the writer’s engagement with a place, including the land and culture of a place,” he points to the influence of the essay tradition….

Travel Writing

Traveling often enables a writer to step outside of her routine and perceive a place with new eyes, to see what appears to be natural or inevitable as something constructed…..

Ethnography and Journalism

If place blogging exhibits ancestral ties to the nature writer’s log or the field notebook, it also shares affinities with the notebook of the ethnographer or journalist.

Such a classification is very useful for thinking about many different forms of blogs and provides a useful way of inviting students to do a range of different writing within the blogging environment.

Technorati Tags:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>