A couple of pretty interesting reads on just why it is people do this stuff. The first, titled “‘I’m Blogging This’ A Closer Look at Why People Blog” (via Lilia) is a comprehensive look at what blogs are, who uses them and, of course, why. Much of it resonates, and much of it has implications for Weblog use in the classroom. For instance:
For bloggers who think by writing, blogging provides two vital advantages: an audience to help shape the writing and an archive of posts, some of which may be valuable in the future. Personal webpages often perform in a similar way, but the audience is far less defined. In our study, bloggers had “regulars” who they knew were reading their posts. The writing could be directed at them, solving one of the key problems of any writing, i.e., knowing who to write for. The fact of having an audience would keep the writing moving along, as the author knew that people were anticipating new posts.
Most bloggers are acutely aware of audience, even in flagrantly confessional blogs, calibrating what they will and will not reveal. Many bloggers explained that they have a kind of personal code of ethics that dictates what goes into their blogs, such as never criticizing friends or expressing political opinions that are openly inflammatory. Not that bloggers eschew controversy-quite the opposite-but they typically express themselves in light of their audience.
In one example, an instructor was able to create a community of learners:
Rob required students to conduct field studies on topics related to the use of computer-mediated communication within communities and to write weekly blog postings on assigned topics, as well as to read and comment on other students’ blogs. He hoped these assignments would “facilitate the building of the learning community by getting [students] in conversation with each other electronically.” And that is what happened. The students found that maintaining blogs and reading their classmates’ blogs created a sense of community that would have not been generated within a conventional classroom setting.
But another instructor was not:
Although the blog had many visitors, even some from the local press who wrote a story about the site, few commented on the posts. The blog functioned primarily as a website. Colleen noted that students did not feel moved, on their own, to comment, and without a course requirement calling for them to do so, they chose not to. As with other electronic media, blogs in themselves are not sufficient to build community.
And something to show my creative writing teachers:
The most authentic, grass-roots blogging community we studied was that of the poetry bloggers.
The second read is at Crooked Timber and it’s a collection of responses to the following questions:
If you’re an academic who blogs, what prompted you to start blogging? And what keeps you going? What do you try to do in your blog? Does your blog have any relationship to your scholarship? If you’re an academic who just reads blogs, do you intend to start your own blog sometime? If yes, what are the reasons that you haven’t done so at this point in time? If no, why not? Either way, what do you get from reading blogs?
Some really interesting responses, and quite a few references to the issues of privacy and anonymity. I found this one to be especially relevant, but there are many others:
The newest twist for me is that I’ve begun to incorporate blogging into my pedagogy, and have students keeping weblogs. In discussions with students about why so many (at least on our campus) are so uncomfortable with blogging and resistant, we had some provocative conversations about accountability – not everyone wants their words published online where anyone can see and you are held accountable for what you say. After that, I decided to put my money where my mouth is, and allowed the interactive editor at our local newspaper to link my blog, with my real name, on his page of “local bloggers.”
Gloria Johnson says
I’ve been visiting your site the past few weeks while gathering information for a presentation and paper about web logs for my Technology Mediated Teaching and Learning class at Penn. This is the first time I will be using so many references from links and secondary sources. Although I am familiar with the APA reference section for electronic media, I am a bit uncertain about how to write a paper that is more than just a series of hyperlinks. Do you have any suggestions?
Jim Parker says
I was unable to find the material you reference at Crooked Timber. Even when I typed in the URL (which had an extra http in it from the link, I could not locate the item you mentioned.
Will R. says
Jim–I fixed the link
Gloria–I think citations are citations, and if the Web is where you are getting your info, then hyperlinks it is. More and more the best research is making it to the Web.
clopha deshotel says
I am blogging for the purpose of creating wider awareness of a specific thing: updated applications of the world’s oldest political metaphor, Aesop’s Fable “Belly and the Members.” Baum and Brown updated it better than Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus,” wherein the monarch (wizard) willingly separated powers of governance btwn the Lion, Tinman and Strawman (scarecrow). An online search of the term “body-state-metaphor” began when a student discovered a version of the fable from Cameroon and created a coloring book from it ( on the open page at http://www.tomoyama.com/preparehope/ ).
Anonymity might be the key for some students. I was pondering over this issue when I was attending the OC CUE conference. It dawned on me that having students remain anonymous could allow them to selectively filter their audience. Perhaps students want community but only with the kids at their own LUNCH table!
My 9th grade English teacher used to post grades and assignments in the classroom. We had the option of choosing our “handle.” (Mine was silverelfx, which I later used on xanga.com/silverelfx in High School). He could display any piece of writing we did and I felt protected of criticism behind my snazzy name. I choose to allow my innercircle of friends to critique and view my work and built community on my own terms. I HAD to write but I didn’t have to let the whole class read it!
I have seen student work on popular blogs like Xanga. Most of the time, students will keep their precious URL away from me until there was a comfortable level of trust. A student’s best and most personal work will probably be similar to a diary and carry the rules and emotion tied to it.
Teachers could, in certain circumstances where they find students reluctant to post on their blogs, have a ‘NOC LIST’ (a la Mission Impossible). That way the teacher could monitor work and the student could select their audience. Students that find security and safety in writing will tend to open up. That was true of me and true of many non-academic high school student blogs I’ve seen.
The social climate that students experience in the real world transitions to the blog world so easily, especially to new bloggers. Getting the students to write, collaborate, and build a sense of community will take time and we must allow them to slowly define and build trust in that community. In doing so, students will evenually start to OWN their blog, have faith in the medium, and build that community and collaboration writers desperately need.