BAWS: jill/txt post on genre that kind have has to do with blogs, maybe

See jill/txt’s post, “the whole point of the genre is the long-time accrual of meanings and experiences.” Some good and smart points, Jill is borrowing from discussion about how shows like Lost are rarely thought of as being like a soap opera, even though that’s a show that certainly borrows from some of that form.

In the BAWS project, I’m going to have to address blogging as a genre since that has been the approach that most of the analysis has taken and/or assumed has been based on genre: blogs as journals/diaries, blogs as journalism, etc. That’s all fine and good, but thinking of blogging only in generic terms is first very limiting, especially since that a lot of these analyzes more or less end with this connection between a personal blog and a personal diary. But it also strikes me as inaccurate in that a lot of blogs– second or third generation blogs? ones fueled by tools like WordPress?– have moved beyond some of the generic categories that have been used to describe/contain blogs.

And besides all that, I’m interested in contemplating blogs as something other than a genre. Maybe this makes me a bad scholar, but genre is only so interesting.

Still, what Jill says here is interesting and potentially useful for my project, depending on how it evolves.

Commentpress (and the problem of speaking of blogs on paper)

Cheryl Ball posted on tech-rhet a link to the future of the book project commentpress1.0, which is a WordPress theme that allows for “paragraph-by-paragraph commenting in the margins of a text.” The reason for this, says this post, is to help address this:

This little tool is the happy byproduct of a year and a half spent hacking WordPress to see whether a popular net-native publishing form, the blog, which, most would agree, is very good at covering the present moment in pithy, conversational bursts but lousy at handling larger, slow-developing works requiring more than chronological organization—whether this form might be refashioned to enable social interaction around long-form texts. Out of this emerged a series of publishing experiments loosely grouped under the heading “networked books.”

I’m going to have to absorb that for a while. I don’t know if this is actually a problem of blogs, or if blogs are necessarily better (or about?) presenting pity, conversational bursts and not larger and slower texts. The if:book people might be right; I’m just not sure.

I will say this for now though: first, while I have spent only about 5 or 10 minutes with it, I find the example on the if:book blog site, like this one, to be kind of confusing. Maybe it would be less-so if I spent more time with it or if I was smarter/groovier/etc. I do think the comments along the side there are not a bad idea though.

Second, this is exactly one of the things I was taking notes on/thinking about today with the BAWS project. I have a section/chapter that is going to try to contextualize the technology/tools of blogging as I collect my data/make my arguments, and innovations like this are precisely why. I mean, I don’t know where something like Commentpress is going to go, though, if I were to be a betting man, I’d say it’s likely to remain an interesting experiment and that’s about it. But I am pretty sure that by the time I actually finish my research, finish a book, get someone to publish it, and get it out in the world for people to read and respond to– which, the way that sentence feels to me right now, will be in about 83 years– there will be some changes in what we think of as a “blog.”

This is probably why most book/print projects on technology tend to avoid discussions that are too specific about technology/tools, but it is also one of the reasons why it is so important to describe the technological environment. After all, if you can successfully have a multi-layered blog-like text like the one the Commentpress folks are suggesting, doesn’t that change the theory/assumptions about how blogs function, as a writerly space or whatever else?

A clean, well-lighted space in the big city

Via Maud Newton, I came across this interesting link: The Mercantile Library Writing Studio in New York City. Basically, for as little as $100 a month (if you are just writing at night, for example), you can get access to a desk, a locker to keep personal things, and a computer and/or electrical outlets for your laptop.

I can imagine that the struggling writer living in a dinky apartment in the big city would very much welcome such a space. And this also reminds me of an experience in my MFA program at Virginia Commonwealth University oh so many years ago. A bunch of us got together and had a kind of party with a bunch of MFA types in the art department in their studios. Now these people had cool work spaces with all kinds of mini construction projects and stuff hanging about.

Which reminds me: one of the things I want to continue to do today is to get my work space “BAWS” ready, though I’m close as it is. It’s in the basement, which is not exactly the kind of place where a lot of people like to work (it isn’t as clean as ideal, and it is not necessarily well-lit either), but it is big, quiet, comfy, etc. I just need to clean up and organize a bit so I feel like I can get down to it.

BAWS: Debating the role of blogs and a couple of items potentially worth reading

A couple days ago, I wrote about the Wall Street Journal Online article about the tenth anniversary of weblogs. I guess WSJ online is running a series or something, because today (via boingboing) I came across this, “The Good, the Bad, and the Web 2.0.” It’s a debate between a couple of folks who have books I ought to at least browse through:

“Andrew Keen, who wrote “The Cult of the Amateur,” argues the Web has become overwhelmed with useless noise. David Weinberger, author of “Everything is Miscellaneous,” argues that Web 2.0 tools let users filter out irrelevant (or inaccurate) information.”

I haven’t read the debate yet though….

BAWS: What's the role of commercial/corporate blogging in all this?

This post falls into the category of “note to myself” as I think about the Blogs as Writerly Spaces project: As I searched around and discovered some new themes, I stumbled across something I hadn’t really thought a lot about (even though I did know it existed): blogging for profit. I of course have heard of Gawker Media, but what I found here was Splashpress Media and from that site, Mr. Bloggy and and lord only knows what else.

Anyway, this got me thinking: I hadn’t really thought before about including a discussion about or case studies of people who make money with blogging, but I wonder if that isn’t something I need to consider a bit more carefully. I can’t remember who said this little quip, but there’s some quote about how becoming a professional writer is a little like becoming a prostitute: first you do it for yourself, then it’s something you do for friends, and before you know it, you’re doing it for money.

All I’m getting at is it seems to me that if part of my goal is to study motivation in writing and blogging, then I probably ought to consider one of the most important, obvious, and crude motivations: money. Or at least the ways in which professional status when it comes to blogging is defined, how it figures into the writerly process, etc., etc.

A word about the unpleasant EMU news of late…

Here I am, just beginning with Sabbatical Lite, and already I am feeling out of whack.

Most obviously, I and everyone else at EMU has been following the recent news of the president, the chief of campus police, and the VP of student affairs getting fired/”separated” from EMU. It’s a little discombobulating to hear the story I’ve been hearing/repeating on campus and at (the campus/community oriented blog I started running last September) for months now showing up on CNN, Fox News, in the New York Times, in the UK’s Guardian Unlimited, and 500-600 other outlets, according to

For folks coming here for more info on this– either regular readers or folks who found me on a web search– I would encourage you to take a look at in general, and perhaps at this post, “To first time readers/searchers about “Laura Dickinson Murder.” On this page, there’s a link to the category on “Dickinson Murder,” which has 64 different posts beginning on December 15, 2006 when the rumor of a dead girl in the dorms turned out to be true.

There’s only two things I’ll add here. First, the basic news story that has appeared in the national/international press recently basically summarizes the story well enough, though there are obviously a lot of other details. It’s been a topic of discussion on since December, and very heated discussion since late February when a suspect was arrested and when it suddenly became clear that Dickinson’s death was not “just one of those things” but a murder, and that murder had been covered up.

Second, I think the thing that is most frustrating to me personally and, simultaneously, most interesting about this to me professionally, is that all of this was easily avoided with some simple and clear communication skills. I won’t go into it all right now, but the various reports and investigations suggest that the players involved who came up with the “no foul play is suspected” line that was the seed of the administrative cover-up were working with almost zero actual information about what happened and that the line was more or less a toss-off line to round out a very short web statement/press release. “No foul play is suspected” was as much as anything a sloppy sentence written by a PR person (and apparently approved by Fallon) simply to close out a paragraph, not unlike other toss-off lines like “In society today” or “In conclusion” or something.

Then, after this toss-off and inaccurate line (and I say “inaccurate” because the investigation into the cover-up makes it clear that “foul play” was always suspected by the police investigating the crime) was allowed to go forward, no one in the upper-levels of EMU administration felt the need to correct this. And to be perfectly honest, it isn’t completely clear to me if this did not happen because the principles involved– President John Fallon, VP for Student Affairs Jim Vick, and/or Police Chief Cindy Hall (all now “former” in these roles)– did not want the message corrected for misguided PR and/or investigation reasons, of if these people were just not competent. Fallon, btw, is claiming as his defense that he just didn’t know what was going on, and there have been some cryptic suggestions in the latest reports that he’s got some kind of story to tell and that he was fired because he was about to do something that would have been very bad for EMU. I don’t know, strange.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to get at here is this: I think there is little doubt that Vick and Hall got fired because they tried to cover up a murder in the dorms, either because they didn’t want the bad PR or because they just didn’t know what they were doing, and that Fallon was fired because his defense of not knowing what was going on is about as problematic as actively participating in a cover-up. At the same time, it seems to me that a lot of this mess is also simple the result of sloppy writing and thinking, a terrible misreading of audience, and the lack of willingness to revise. Had someone– anyone– at some point gotten to the powers that be and successfully convinced them that EMU should have corrected the “no foul play suspected” line, none of this would have happened. Had someone published on the web site or elsewhere a statement like “We can’t say for sure there was no foul play involved. We’re investigating, and in the mean-time, everyone ought to review basic personal safety information,” etc., etc., this would have never become national news, and none of these people would have lost their jobs.

There’s always the what ifs though.

Besides this most public distraction, there are some departmental distractions too, things I will not go into right now, and some major budget cuts coming about soon. This puts me potentially into an odd place in terms of my sabbatical lite. On the one hand, my own work is inevitably being interrupted by these distractions (I suppose this post is evidence of that), in part because being the writing program coordinator (among other things) means I can’t just ignore these problems. On the other hand, I have already said I’m going to consciously not get “too involved” in some of these departmental distractions because of my writing and research plans. It’s probably too early to tell, but I think this has a chance of working.

In any event, I feel like this post might help me get some of this unpleasant news out of my head and maybe help me think about how to frame my sabbatical lite plans in the long-term. In the short term though, I think I had better get on to the scholarly/BAWS plan I had for the day: organizing my desk/office space a bit.

Misc. Readings from "Up North"

While I was on vacation with family last week (the curious can read a few things about it here), I did do a little light blog reading, in part with the help of the off-line function for Google Reader. I don’t think I’ve quite figured out how to use it correctly, but I did manage to star a few items that I thought I’d mention here:

"Happy Blogiversary," from

Just as I am ready to get back from vacation and ease into quasi-sabbatical mode, I stumbled across this article, “Happy Blogiversary,” from the It is a pretty good and rather long article that spells out the “state of affairs” of blogging, at least from the point of view of a rather conservative newspaper about the world of business. This is certainly something that would be useful to teach a variety of different classes for sure.

Actually, it’s one of those articles that, in relationship to my “Blogs as Writerly Spaces” project, I find simultaneously really helpful and really intimidating. It’s helpful because it features a number of famous and semi-famous folks– bloggers and not– talking about why they read/write blogs, and it includes some interesting history. But it’s intimidating because it is one of those articles that, in very basic terms, probably sums up the point I’m trying to make with this project. And if my project can be summed up in a WSJ article, well, is my sabbatical project really a project?

These are normal doubts and misgivings at the beginning of a big project like this, I suppose. It feels a little like working on my dissertation. I recall going through these oscillations where I felt like my diss was literally about everything and therefore impossible, and/or that my diss was common sense and therefore irrelevant. I suspect this project will take some similar turns.

Oh well. I’m just easing into this project. The first things I’m going to do is read and clean my desk, so it’ll be a while before I have to doubt myself too much.

danah boyd myspace v. facebook article (and a BAWS example?)

Via jill/txt, I came across this entry from apophenia (Danah Boyd’s blog) called “viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace.” I think it’s interesting, though not necessarily because of the subject matter. Boyd (or, I guess I should say, boyd) more or less argues that there is a class difference between users of MySpace and Facebook– I’ve only skimmed the article, but most of her claims seem reasonable albeit sweeping. For example, she suggests that teens from poorer backgrounds are more likely to be on MySpace than Facebook. That might be true, though at EMU, I’m always surprised by the number of my juniors and seniors who have almost no experience with either of these services.

In any event, I’m not really that interested in boyd’s argument per se (though I think this link could be useful in a class like English 516 or English 444 in a discussion about social bookmarking software), mainly because I have a really hard time getting too excited about either one of these services. I realize this is a bad attitude because there are serious people out there– like boyd, for example– who do serious scholarly work on these Internet environments.

What I’m more interested in is how this figures into my Blogs as writerly spaces project– at least in my own head. boyd wrote this essay– I do not know if she was deadly serious about it or if it was just a toss-off piece– and posted it to her blog. Suddenly, she’s getting a ton of comments and even reflecting here on this unusual level of attention. Her reaction in some ways seems similar to my own reaction on my blog when I was getting an insane number of hits posting about the EMU faculty strike. But while I felt compelled to write even more as a result of this new-found audience, boyd seems to be not that thrilled with the attention. In fact, this post suggests a certain level of “stop bugging me about this already.”

Now, I’m just brainstorming here, and I don’t really know how much of this figures into what BAWS will look like ultimately. I mean, boyd is already something of an internet celebrity, so I presume she’s used to the attention. I am not sure this particular essay has much of an impact in terms of her motivations to write or not write on a blog, though I suppose it has created an unusual exigency from her point of view. It also occurs to me now that a lot of what we’re talking about here is what can only be described as a viral text– and I have no idea why I haven’t made that connection up to this point. In my C&W presentation, I talked about the role that search engines and such figure into the functioning of rhetorical situations, and I think it’s begining to gel more clearly in my head that it is something like this.

And that ain’t that clear, is it?

In any event, I’m going to be following danah’s blog for a while, and we’ll see where it goes with this idea….

12 important U.S. Laws every blogger needs to know

One of my students in Writing for the World Wide Web sent me this: “12 Important U.S. Laws Every Blogger Needs to Know,” which is from something called the Aviva Directory. It seems like an authoritative article, though the source makes me a little suspicious. In any event, it would be a good reading for the next time I teach Writing for the Web, which will probably be next spring, It might be useful for my research project, too.