Blogs are (usually) ordered in reverse chronological order. It’s something that’s ingrained in the architecture of the Internet. It parallels the human as/with a history with a linear progression from the past to the present. This way of ordering emphasises the present, then the most recent.
Older pages that produce ongoing link backs and comments and that perform well in search rank gives significance to the past and creation of meaning.
According to Rosenberg blogging is “…the first form of social media to be widely adopted beyond the world of technology enthusiasts” (p. 13).
He refers to Justin Halls Dark Knight video as confessional in style, soul baring and a form of self-exposure. It is here that Rosenberg, possibly intentionally, hints at Rousseau’s Confessions where, in the introduction, he set out on a project like no other, to document his life and leave nothing out. Everything was to be revealed.
Note to self: Writing about the self is one thing, but it’s writing about others that create tensions. Perhaps part of online self-creation is as much what others say about us as what we say about ourselves.
Rosenberg claims that confessional autobiography is recent trend. In fact it’s been around for hundreds of years. Maybe it’s just more popular today.
One of the early confessional autobiographers on the web was Justin Hall. Rosenberg believes he changed the defaults of the Internet (p. 44).
Note to self: How is online self-creation shaped by the CMS of blogging software?
Rosenberg states that Dave Winer believes that it’s essential that a person’s authentic voice come through on a blog. Without this it’s not a blog (p. 63). It’s a rather narrow, purist definition but it could prove a fruitful starting point for the purpose of narrowing down the scope of my research, for keeping it focussed.
Rosenberg discusses the central place of truth within Dave Winer’s blog, especially “speak[ing] truth to power” (p. 69). Was he referring here to the Greek concept of parrhesia? In discussing Winer’s role in the emergence of blogging Rosenberg alludes to, but doesn’t address specifically, the Western democratic values that inform his telling of the story. He tells of Winer’s role in the development of the blogging community and his refusal to be told that he couldn’t talk about Jason Calacanis on his blog. It’s a story that is supported by the Western narrative that the lone conquering hero can achieve anything through their own efforts.
Question: Are status updates and tweets personal blogs? The answer to this question is going to come out of the scope of my research. Are they to be excluded from the research just because they don’t give the experience of bloginess? If we are to use Winer’s idea of what constitutes a blog then surely they must be included.
It was Berger who first coined the term weblog in 1997 (p. 79).
Rebecca Blood points to blogging as a way to discover her real interests (p. 89) indicating a revealing of something previously hidden. She also referred to blogging as a way to be reminded of something that she found interesting as a child. The latter is much more of self-writing as a comptroller or stock taker, with no value or meaning overlay.
Question: What has the ubiquity of blogs and blogging done for the experience of blogging?
Rosenberg holds 9/11 out as a significant moment in the history of blogging. The breaking of the attacks on a Blogger blog gave blogs credibility as places to find and publish relevant, timely information.
Question: What influence has ‘background’ functionality, such as RSS and Google search, had on the appeal of personal blogging? Would people blog if there were no chance of their blog being found and read? Or would they use it simply as a convenient way to write a diary or share stories with close family and friends?
Question: Why does a person maintain a personal blog if they never/rarely experience the presence of an Other from which they can experience the self more fully. Commercial motivation? Perhaps. Is this why Facebook is so popular, that there is so much more interaction and a sense of the Other and of connection?
Note to self: There’s a line of thinking that could be developed here about the nature of links, what they mean, what they do and how they create the self. Both links in and out can be controlled on a blog. Links become a reputational device. What a blogger links to says something about the blogger. They have a form of representational value. You are what you link to (p. 97)
Being real and being truthful is the mantra of successful blogging, but they can get a person in hot water. In blogging you aim to be real but you can also “fool around with being fake” (p. 236)
“In the history of online communication, this aspiration to personal truth has always served as a powerful magnetic pole” (p. 345)
Rosenberg considers how anonymity is used to create fictional characters and hide identity particularly amongst war bloggers and whistle blower blogs. Anonymity reduces the quality of online discourse (249). This is the case both with authors and blog commenters.
“By letting us expose our inner selves or masquerade as somebody else, blogs have confronted us with a set of unfamiliar challenges, and most of us are not well prepared to handle them” (p. 257).
There are tensions between the personal blogger’s ethic to ‘keep it real’ and the negative consequences of over-sharing. So to tensions between ideals of anonymity and free speech when confronted with hate speech and anti-social behaviour.
Rosenberg compares and contrasts the notions of sincerity with authenticity. Whereas sincerity means to “eschew the expedient lies that grease our social machine” (p. 258) – to live a life of sincerity involves an intransigent truthfulness – authenticity emerged in the Romantic era. It was a theme picked up by Nietzsche and Freud who espoused the revelation of inner secrets and internal discord. Sincerity involves living a consistent public and private life, authenticity means “excavating private torments and confronting the world with their naked reality” (p. 258).
Rosenberg claims that it is the difference between the two – sincerity and authenticity – that is at the heart of the problems experienced by bloggers. Whereas the sincere blogger attempts to maintain a consistency between the online and offline self, the authentic blogger attempts to excavate and reveal the repressed and hidden. The authentic blogger attempts to (finally?) create their real self through their blog.
The self is experienced through the relationship to others and it is that causes some bloggers to write in a way that stirs a reaction through inflammatory speech. When a post attracts no comments the writer can only speculate about what’s happening ‘out there’ but by writing something provocative a reaction is provoked and the relationship between the writer and the commenter helps create the writer’s self.
Alluding to the nature of blogs Rosenberg compares them to other media forms such as TV, radio, email and the telephone. Blogs are a category that bridges these forms and there is something uniquely bloggy about the way blogs contain elements of traditional public broadcast and conversations among friends depending on the motivation of their author (p. 324).
Blogging is an essentially social activity, says Rosenberg (p. 325). Without at least some audience (evidenced by visitors reports and comments) blogging is unrewarding. He implicitly says there is little reward in the writing itself.
Comparing blogs with what’s said on social networking sites Rosenberg suggests that blogs may become more deliberate as people post short form updates to Facebook and Twitter. But blogs are more substantial, free-standing and powerful and they allow the writer to define themselves, whereas on social networks it’s more likely that the self is defined by others. Whilst he states that blogs and social networks are different (p. 336) he provides no tangible evidence for the existence of this difference. Declaring it different makes it so only for the person making the declaration, in this case Rosenberg.
In some ways Rosenberg’s assertion that social networks and blogging is different flies in the face of his earlier claim that blogging is an essentially social activity. What’s missing in ‘social networking as blogging’ is any experience of bloginess: but that experience only comes with being a blogger. For many it’s an experience that never eventuates despite writing a blog.
Blogging is “…a species of writing…a fundamentally literary [activity]” (p. 345) which leaves photo and video blogs stranded, without definition. Are video blogs not also blogs simply because they contain little or no writing? Rosenberg’s definition poses a question of scope for my own research, that is, will it include video and photo blogs? My response is that they could be included if they were primarily a first person account of lived experience. It’s hard to imagine how a photo blog could thus be included without resorting to semiotics something I have no intention to attempt.
Video blogs are a little different. They are very often first person accounts and often focus on lived experience.
Rosenberg, S. (2009). Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What it’s Becoming, and Why it Matters. New York: Crown Publishers.