Midterm

Because this is in fact for a class, my Professor has posed a series of questions to the class–a battery, if you will.

I will avoid the obvious, highly inappropriate jokes about physical violence.

But I’m thinking about ’em.

The overarching observation that seems to be dictating the way I look at blogs now is that they are a literary genre unto themselves, unique from anything else out there, but similar enough to other written work that we can recognize them as legitimate literature.

Now, I only have an hour to put this together, so it’s probably not going to be as nicely constructed as those essays I spend twenty hours constructing and then another twenty writing. No joke. And I LIKE IT.

Nerdy as that statement might sound, it actually embodies two crucial differences between the heavily edited print material we see filling journals and novels, etc. Because the blog post is generally such a short work, each entry has the potential to be considered a piece of flash literature.

Because it’s an ongoing work, only the author determines the length of the work being presented. She is, however, constrained by the patience of her readers–I, for one, have never given up on a book because I thought the chapters were too long–I simply mark my place and come back when I have time. One does not return a book to the library with the comment “TLDR”  scribbled on the receipt–they’d look ignorant if they did. Blog readers, as anonymous online entities, are not required to be as merciful.

Case in point, my own writing. When I have a long post, I hear about it in class. “That third paragraph was five whole lines long!” or “Don’t you think using five pictures along with all that text makes the entry seem a little busy?” The irony of this is that I throw in the pictures so you’ll keep reading the text that goes with them, because so many online readers are used to a specific mode of reading, in which only pertinent information is retained.

Because of the frequency that a blogger is expected to update their work (most people set at least a once-a-week expectation, and it’s more frequent in our class) there’s not a whole lot of time to edit. GRAMMAR MISTAKES HAPPEN.

AND NO-ONE CARES.

It also means that people are WAY less careful about the content they post. If a blogger is mad at someone, you will hear about it, whether the culprit be her husband or the President of the United States. While these hastily-posted rantings could result in a bloodbath if the targeted entity ever read them in print or got the verbal version, it’s generally accepted as “venting” if sensitive material of this nature is online.

In the event that something is truly offensive, retractions can of course be written. If the circumstances of the debate evolve, the reader can be informed of it. This is because if a subject is ongoing, the format of the blog allows the blogger to keep their readers informed through the use of updates, usually featured as separate posts or post-scripts.

I first encountered the use of updates through the Bloggess (as well as the picking-on-the-spouse-ness that I addressed up there somewhere.) The Bloggess keeps her readers very well informed of every argument with her husband Victor that she posts, including where the fight went and who won, as well as any retribution taken. For example, upon bringing home a giant metal chicken instead of towels, the Bloggess effectively created a prevalent theme in her work. The tag “Giant metal chicken” will not only bring the reader to the original conflict, but also the updates posted at the bottom of the entry, every subsequent metal chicken that has been referenced as a result of the entry’s overwhelming popularity with her readers, (there have been at least four other entries concerning Beyonce the Giant Metal Chicken) and finally, an entry revolving around a set of towels that a friend sent her with the giant metal chicken’s catchphrase embroidered on them. One can even find a Beyonce coffee cup, complete with a suitable-for-work version of his catch-phrase, in the blog’s gift shop.

In no other form of literature can information related to such a specific literary moment be accessed so easily. The use of the Tag in blogging allows a reader to call up posts related to her interests, but also allows the reader to access any and all material the author has written on the subject, as well as any other tags associated with each respective post. If there are recurring themes in the author’s work, one has only to run a tag-based search to discover what they are and how frequently they appear.

Because bloggers write so frequently, many of them employ a calendar format, where they will pick a day or two that are themed–for example, Kacie of Kacie’s Kinship posts a “Cute Wednesday,” in which the entries are focused around cute things her family or their pets have done. The latest entry of this kind features photos of the family dog, making various faces, and an explanation that the family children had irritated the author sufficiently enough that she decided not to post about them.

Finally, most bloggers are writers. Granted, there are photography blogs out there like Tumblr, but anyone who maintains a conventional blog is a writer. There is some debate as to whether or not we should consider this work published or not, because if its existence online and the fact that it is not printed, but the fact is that there are words on a page, that can be accessed by anyone, for free.

In the course of the class, I have learned that there are even bloggers who go on to create books out of what they write in their blogs–case in point, Molly Wizenberg’s blog Orangette. Inversely, writers who are recognized as writers outside their blogs are able to use their blogs as a place to promote their other written work–a bit like the publisher’s page in the back of old science fiction paperbacks, where a catalog of the author’s other work was advertised for mail-order.

The ability to instantly link to other material that is relevant to the blog being read (or something the blogger wants to promote via her work) is arguably the largest difference between the blog and all other forms of literacy–the blog acts as a written work, but is also a tool for social networking.

Any given blog will have a portion dedicated to reader’s comments, which serve as feedback for the author, a discussion forum about the post, and a nebula for other thoughts that are in any way related to the blogger’s material.

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One thought on “Midterm

  1. Cerridwen, you make an especially astute point about the use of tags in blogs: “In no other form of literature can information related to such a specific literary moment be accessed so easily. The use of the Tag in blogging allows a reader to call up posts related to her interests, but also allows the reader to access any and all material the author has written on the subject, as well as any other tags associated with each respective post. If there are recurring themes in the author’s work, one has only to run a tag-based search to discover what they are and how frequently they appear.”

    This reminds me that I want/need to go back through my blog and tag posts, but also reminds me of how fluid this blog form can be. It can be one of the most frustrating genres in terms of writing and reading a coherent narrative, but also the most fun, in that the readers can create many different narratives, depending on what kind of guidance we give them. It’s post-post-modern, I’d say!

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