Blurring the Borders of Rhetoric and Hypertextuality in Weblogs

Early, link-heavy blogs were, for the most part, a method of sharing links. They usually contained entries that consisted of one or two hyperlinks, the blogger’s commentary on the link’s content, and a place for other bloggers to make comments about the entry. These early blogs often focused on what <a href=”htttp://”>Blood calls “the dissemination and interpretation of the news.” By linking to news articles from “lesser-known sources” that might be otherwise overlooked by the “typical web user,” weblog authors supply “additional facts, alternative views, and thoughtful commentary” that is often unavailable from large news sources (10/01/03). See Appendix A.

As blogging became more popular, many weblogs shifted from the original, link-heavy forms that dominated early blogs, to a free-form on-line journal where authors have begun to write more freely and frequently. Many blog entries now contain no links at all, as the new generation of bloggers share “notes about the weekend, [or] a quick reflection on some subject or another” (<a href=””>Blood 10/01/03). Many bloggers write bi-daily in these journals, which serve as more of an ?Update-in-the-life-of?,? than a source for news. See <a href=””>Appendix B.

Although weblog journals have gained immense popularity over the past four years, the original link-heavy style is still respected by many current weblogs. —Kirsten Schubert, a former student of mine, in her senior capstone paper at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. —Blurring the Borders of Rhetoric and Hypertextuality in Weblogs (The Hypertext Project)

Kirsten’s blog truncated my (long) comment, so I’ll post my reaction to her paper below.

4 thoughts on “Blurring the Borders of Rhetoric and Hypertextuality in Weblogs

  1. Wow… congrats on the well-deserved A. I can’t really imagine Landow using a thought bubble about beer to illustrate a point about hypertext, but you, on the other hand… :)

    I started dating my recommended links on 20 July 1999, shortly after I made updating it regularly a priority (I had been keeping it as an undated, sporadically-updated list for a few months before that). I’m hesitant to accept Blood’s number, simply because there were probably lots of other people who were keeping what we would now call a weblog, but who didn’t use that term and didn’t follow certain other conventions (maybe somebody else added new links at the bottom, for instance) simply because the genre hadn’t been identified. The following page ( connects the 23 figure to Jesse James Garrett, and also says that after Garrett published his list of 23 blogs, that’s when Peter Merholz made his “wee-blog” pun, thus giving birth to the term “blog”.

    Anyway, congrats!

  2. I’m glad that you read this paper. I was going to send you a link to the site when I was finished, but I guess you found it on your own. Just a few responses…
    First, the thought bubble was my own “brilliant” creation (yes, I can use Photoshop). I’m not sure if you are being sarcastic when asking for the source, but I’m not sure how much Landow used diagrams that eventually lead to going out (although I’m sure he occasionally thought about it). It’s possible that I subconsciously mimicked a diagram in Landow’s text, although I am honestly not sure. I actually asked one of my friends in the computer lab to tell me exactly what he was thinking, exactly as he was thinking about it, in the exact way that the thoughts came to him. Although I’m sure the string of thought is not perfectly accurate, I think it makes a valid point.
    My capstone professor commented on the Jorn Barger “web + blog” thing too. I guess I am confused about where the term “blog” came from?? Was it originally “webblog,” as a single word? “Weblog” seems more intuitive to me…since it is sort of a log for links on the web. That’s something that I didn’t really pay enough attention to in the paperf, and that I will hopefully revisit during my upcoming 9-month break.
    I went back to the research I did last year for your class, and I found the “23 weblogs in 1999” comment on Rebecca Blood’s site originally, and have found similar numbers since. That seems like a pretty hard thing to verify, though, considering that weblogging was still a pretty new phenomenon. I might also spend some time researching that in the future–why? because I am obsessive compulsive. BTW, I’ve always wondered when you began your weblog…?
    Finally, I guess that I always resisted adding more links because I am extremely lazy. I didn’t really become an Internet geek until after I began my weblog, and still have difficulty finding the time and patience to read even the mainstream news over the computer. We now get free print versions of the NYTimes at school, and I really like how important I look when I’m reading it, drinking coffee, with my PowerBook sitting next to me. Kidding. But, I do like the observation Andrew Sullivan makes in “Blogger Manifesto,” when he says, “I liked the vanity of a site devoted to ME.” I am all about the site devoted to me :) (Heck, I’m all about ANYTHING devoted to me!) I think this is a very apt point, and a very common motivation for weblogs maintained by students and people my age. We have very little opportunity to write, let alone write about ourselves, and weblogs have offered an unrivaled freedom for young writers.
    Thank you for all of your help. You have really been a huge influence on my educational experience. I wish that you had been here to help me with this paper–it was quite difficult to do on my own, but well-worth the effort in the end. You’ll be happy to know that I got an A (which is possibly due to the fact that noone had absolutely any idea of what I was talking about).
    As you know, I presented this paper in a twenty-minute conference style presentation. During the question portion following the presentation, I was aked a few questions as to how you are doing. I simply responded with, “Oh, you should just read his weblog…”
    Understandably, I was disappointed when the student crowd grumbled and vacantly asked, “What’s a weblog?” And they say public education is in trouble.

  3. Great to see your hypertext work continuing to delelop! I like your thought bubble/hypertext comparison. The illustration really helps make the point. [I don’t have my copy of Landow with me… was that the source of the graphic? Could have been cited more clearly.]

    You probably know me well enough to predict that I’d have some critiques to offer, but don’t worry — they are minor details.

    There are some who say that the first webpage ever was also the first weblog — it was pretty much a list of links to other universities with web pages.

    You call Vannevar Bush’s “items” similar to what we call “files”, but I think it’s probably fairer to say that Bush was talking about a photocopy of what we would call a file; his was a photomechanical storage system that wouldn’t have let the user edit the contents (other than by somehow getting a printout, cutting and pasting with scissors and glue, and then storing the result).

    Jorn Barger coined the term “weblog” in December of 1997; the “we blog” pronunciation was a later variation on Barger’s use, formed only after the words web + blog (which was what Barger was talking about) had blurred into the single word “weblog” and then shortened to “blog.”

    Although I’ve seen similar figures used elsewhere, I’m sure there were more than 23 weblogs in 1999 (I was blogging then, and I don’t think I was that cutting edge). I don’t know… maybe early in 1999 the term “weblog” hadn’t spread very far. I don’t think I actually used the term “weblog” for several months — not until I realized that there was a name for what I was doing. (I began by pretty much shamelessly copying the layout and methodology of Arts & Letters Daily.) But certainly by the summer of 1999, when the first really good blogging tools went mainstream, things took off. Certainly there had previously been tons of “Link of the Day” sites, but those pages rarely had annotations along with their links, and the webmasters probably coded them by hand (manually inserting new entries at the top and cutting and pasting to move old entries to archive pages… I spent HOURS doing that stuff, before I finally wrote my own lame blogging tool, which I happily abandoned for the one I’m using now).

    I’m amused to see my blog listed in the appendix as the utter and complete opposite of a personal/journal weblog. (Kirsten, I remember bugging you to put more links in your blog!)

    Although I have a few minor quibbles, this is an excellent overview of the blogging phenomenon.

    Kirsten, after than the basic introduction I gave you last year, you seem to have really taught yourself well. I’m sure I wouldn’t be as invovled with blogging now if I hadn’t been able to practice with you last year — thanks for being an eager and hard-working student.

    It’s been a pleasure to read your paper and contemplate your achievements.

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