Blogs: Understanding the Potential and Challenges – CCCC 2009 – Session E15

  • Pamela Gay, “The Blogitorial: An Alternative ? Genre for Writing”
  • Derek Boczkowski, “When Writing (and Teaching) Goes Public: Blogging and the Wall-less Classroom”
  • Michael J. Faris, “What’s in a ‘Zine? A Public Ancestry of Blogs”

What follows are my rough notes, lightly edited.  I’ve inserted my own thoughts in square brackets.


Pamela Gay, “The Blogitorial: An Alternative ? Genre for Writing”

Interactive technologies have opened writing to a wider variety of genres, but it’s also now more apparent that writers are situated, part of a network of relationships.  Coined the term blogitorial” to define a genre of new millennium writing.

Charles Bazerman: Genres are frames for social action; environments for learning; locations within which meaning is constructed; genres shape the thoughts we form, the familiar palces we go to; guideposts for exploring the unfamiliar.

Positing the genre as an environment for learning, as a way of being…

Gay: familiar places for new millennium writers – but “space” is the new writing place.  Space has re-placed place.  Became interested in an educational blog a few years ago. Example of how she’s currently using the genre in a classroom environment for learning. As a teacher/researcher/writer whose interest is pedagogy, is interested in teaching over time. Asks graduate students to work on a developmental question over a semester.

Gay – how to build a more inclusive classroom community? How can I use technology to build a more inclusive classroom community?  The classroom became “too noisy” when she opened it up, but who’s listening.  How can I engage voices that represent difference?

Not talking about an unedited online personal journal, but professional journal (writing from a performed perspective.)

The blogitorial – limits writers to a particular length, and an invitation for readers to participate, then the blog author responding to give a final word. [I'm not sure I caught this... I wanted more on the criteria, why there needs to be a new word for an online editorial, how it fits into her pedagogy...]

Project – Reading Community. “Networked: A Project Approach to Writing.”

Summarized the reading project in Binghamton. Numerous apologies for not being able to show a student website, “Whose Neighborhood is This.”  Each student has an individual blog, and they also blog together in a community blog.  Writing from an informed space…

[Sounds like this is practice for moving towards more formal academic citation processes. Since this is a work in progress, and we could not actually see the work, I felt the "so what" component  was a bit weak... I've learned about this upstate New York community, but I'd like to have learned a bit more about "the potential and challenges" of blogging.

I think the one slide she showed from the student website is an example of a blogitorial, but I saw lots of scaffolding... in 2009, does a CCCC paper require that much general scaffolding about the nature of blogs?]

Derek Boczkowski, “When Writing (and Teaching) Goes Public: Blogging and the Wall-less Classroom”

Invoked the moment of silent reverenced that comes when we plug in our flash drive at a conference.

Caveat – sharing a narrative that forms his jumping-off point for research. This story comes from his love of teaching, trying new things. Colleagues have said the story is a good one.

Decision to implement blogging in a developmental writing course. Like many in the room who’ve had experience with blogging, this public form of writing is a pretty neat thing… was astounded by seeing thousands of people communicating “for what seemed to be little monetary gain.”  We would love to see that same sort of fire within our classrooms.

[I can smell it... this is going to be another one of those "What I learned from my blogging experiment that didn't magically turn all students into passionate writers." I suppose those of us who evangelize about blogs are partially to blame, since we don't emphasize the spontinaeity of blogs. Once you make a student blog, it becomes homework.  I've come to terms with that, and adjusted my expectations appropriately. The students who want to connect with each other electronically are already doing so on social networking sites, so I present blogs as a means for preparing for class discussions, and as a means for practicing the textual skills that students will need when they write larger papers.]

Boczowski assumed students knew about the blogosphere, that “they would respond favorably to the notion because it was something on the internet.”

Wanted to give students the opportunity to make a transition from familiar, informal writing to the conventions of the college essay.

 [Woah... I'd say that bloggers typically reject the traditional essay - that's why they blog, rather than post essays. Yes, the public nature of blogs does lend itself to more formal writing than Facebook or Twitter, but I'm not sure I see it as a straght shot from informal writing, through blogs, to the college essay.]

Opportunity to discuss genre, have real audiences, and “own” their writing.

Blogs were a subject of the course.

“Graded weekly posts.” [Blogging needs to be much more spontaneous than that. I use blogs mostly to prepare students for in-class discussions, and I've always evaluted student blogs on a portfolio system -- mostly becuase I don't want to count student blog entries, but also because I want to give students flexibility abougt when and how to blog. Are they blogging for depth? For frequency? To show their willingness to engage with peers? Do they do most of their best work by asking questions on peer weblogs? I try to set up a rubric that encourages and rewards all of these good blogging practices, with the understanding that the gregarious dilettante plays a role in the class discussion, and so does the isolated perfectionist, and so does the punctual minimalist, and so does the eccentric genius.]

The class blog was named “Genuine Drafting”  Students were not as familiar with blogs as he had first assumed. (Only one person had heard the term, in spring 2007.) Students seemed overall suspicious of the legitimacy of blogs. They did have ample opportunity to discuss genre and convention; weekly comments on posts augmented sense of community in class; some real cheering going on;

“Defective Yeti dustup.”  Six students who were sharing laptops in class paired up and commented on this blog entry.

[I happened to notice this incident, in which a class of students was assigned as homework to comment on an entry on a non-academic blog, and several students chose the comedy blog "Defective Yeti," and in the process the student visitors violated a few blogging conventions.   Boczowski has mentioned "snark," but he hasn't introduced the concept of trolling newbies -- a sort of hazing tradition that online community members participate in, as a means of establishing a pecking order and regulating group membership.  Were the students familiar with trolling?]

Boczowski: comments from Defective Yeti visitors place his own pedagogy is under public scrutiny.

[When I read the situation, I saw DY trollers trying to goad Boczowski into defending his students, and I thought he restrained himseslf admirably. ]

Michael J. Faris, “What’s in a ‘Zine? A Public Ancestry of Blogs”

Most scholarly research on the generic conventions of blogs talk about remediating the private journal or diary; there are also more public genres.  Blogs remediate a private genre, the journal, into a public space.  

Notes Miller & Shepherd from Into the Blogosphere, which gives little attention to how blogs work in public writing in relation to these public genres.  Must think of other ancestors of blogs, to help our students enter a writing public.  Yancey’s recent CCCC address, Colin Brooke.  

Zines remind us of the public implications of blogs.

When thinking about blogs and their use in the classroom, Faris refers to the rhetorical situation that gives exigence to the choice of using blogs for s

ocial action.  

Evolution of genres happens quickly; technologies involved become less stable.

“Bridging the Gap” librarians learned that the blog is “fundamentally neither new nor unique,” resembling journals, but other genres as well. Blogs are a hybrid of existing genres (but they seem to act as if there is just one blog genre).

Zines as a “media for the misbegotten.”  The rhetor has chosen to engage in public writing; usually the rhetor has an audience in mind, but there is the possibility of unintended readers. Zines challenge traditional notions of authorship; multimodal palimpsests; circulated.

Zinesters lack credentials to publish, but do so anyway.

[I'm finding the examination of zines interesting, but I think the arguments would be stronger if he were just talking about zines as zines, rather than pausing in his analysis of zines every so often to say, "That sounds like a blog to me."  Yes, zinesters without credentials publish, but established writers and others with credentials do blog, as a way of building an audience and establishing a public identity. I suppose a credentialed author may choose to write a zine about another subject area that is more margianalized.  But are the similarities between zines and blogs enough to shed any light on the potential and challenges of blogs? What defines a blog? Blogs don't always link off-site, but the bloggers write with the understanding that the blog archives are just as present to the reader as the current entry; that awareness of the past, and that awareness of other content on the internet, seems to characterize blogs in the same way that the author's expectation of privacy informs the genre of the diary/journal.

In the interest of time, Faris cut his last 2 pages and summarized his results...

[I think I already know the basics about zines, when we consider a zine as a print precursor to a blog; but I would have liked to hear more of the connective tissue that bridges the gap from the specific example (the "Fag Rag" of Boston) to the "potential and challenges" of blogs.  The scaffolding pages represent hours of reading and cogitation, but they're actually fairly routine to write.   I'm far more interested in what comes in the last 5 minutes or so, and maybe I'm just impatient to get to the part where the pieces start to fall into place. 

When a presenter who's in the middle of a good paper needs to cut, I always would trim the scaffolding (which is really better as a one-page annotated blibliography handout, it's very hard to absorb that material in an oral setting), or focus on a smaller set of examples (Faris did focus on just one, which let him go into considerable depth).   If someone in the audience asks a scaffolding-related question, then let the cittations flow.  Of course, if I hadn't been enjoying and profiting from Faris's talk, I wouldn't have felt any regret tha the skipped to the end. --DGJ]