Not everyone has entered the blogosphere, but for those who have yet to take the plunge, academic or otherwise, reading Morrison’s article on the matter would go a long away towards alleviating that first dip in what is an increasingly vast ocean. Though penned some years back, the piece still has much relevance…
Aimée Morrison’s (@digiwonk) analysis of the blogging world – the “blogosphere” – provides readers with an understanding of the weblog industry. Structurally, the piece is particularly astute in its design, leading the reader through the more accessible knowledge bites that encompass an introduction to the phenomenon of blogging, meandering gradually closer to the more advanced aspects that you in find in both her technological outline, and her description of genre. Throughout, Morrison draws on a range of facts: historical, technical and cultural. Adequately supporting each of her points, she presents to readers a solid understanding of the subject matter.
Morrison begins her analysis of the blogosphere by examining its potential. In doing so, she cites both the academic and creative possibilities that this adaptation of internetworking presents. Justification of this potential is readily available: 21st Century Learning, Ewan McIntosh’s Edu Blogs, Elearnspace and The Edublogger just a minute sample of the vast range of sources that this knowledge-arena has to offer. As Morrison puts it, we are dealing in the “currency of information”, a currency whose value, to my mind, is rapidly increasing in tandem with its availability.
As the author continues to progress, she looks toward tackling the more challenging tentacles of the blogging world, particularly the concept of genre. As a consequence of the unprecedented growth in their number, fitting blogs into specific genres has become increasingly difficult. Just as the Elizabethan scholar might encounter some difficulty in assigning Shakespeare’s tragic comedies to a definite genre, so too will the digital scholar be faced with such a conundrum. Blogs, like Shakespeare, can often be thematically multifaceted. The only limitation to the content of a blog is that of its user’s imagination, and even if we were to develop a complete list of genres, into which all the blogs of the world conveniently fit, requirements for new categorisations would emerge with each passing day.
Having accepted the futility of such an exercise, Morrison continues to examine not the blogs, but their contributors. It is here that she raises the notion of a “carnival of ideas”, a phrase that to me, aptly digests the entire spectrum of this sphere. However, unlike many of her contemporaries, Morrison is not overly celebratory in terms of this particular carnival. She is complimentary, but not excessively, and though it is not stated in the piece, she herself may reserve an air of suspicion, evidence to which might be found in her citation of Viviane Serfaty: “diarists feel they can write about their innermost feelings without fearing identification and humiliation, [while] readers feel they can inconspicuously observe others and derive power from that knowledge”. While a liberatory reading may be attributed to these words, one might also choose to attach a degree of scepticism to this fact. While free speech is something to which we all have a right, the practicalities of everyone voicing their opinion online might not be such a desirable occurrence. Blogs provide a platform upon which all points of view can be shared, but to what extent is this truly desirable? Many digital inhabitants could justifiably argue that they would prefer their sphere to remain untainted by benign personalisations of all things, often poorly expressed, and infuriatingly narrow-minded. The caveat, it would appear, is that while blogging allows everyone to become a writer, not everyone can write. Perhaps, it is this very fact that makes it a genuine “carnival”.
There are other weaknesses to which Morrison alludes, such as the failure of bloggers, and the proprietors of the services of which they avail, to address growing issues in terms of the legal and ethical considerations associated with this form of new media. Bloggers often pull data from across the web, particularly imagery and video, without giving even the slightest of thought to licensing. One would think that a familiarity with open source licensing, such as the Creative Commons, would be pre-requisite to staking a claim within the blogosphere, but such has hardly been the case.
Morrison concludes her examination by focusing on blogging in literary studies. She points to the failure of blogs to overcome more traditional academic conventions, such as journals, but since the time of writing, this situation has improved to a degree. Academics are now choosing to elect blogging over the traditional academic forms that can often delay the publication of their work by many months, if not years. In many academic circles, there remains a reluctance towards this new form, but as the Digital Age continues to set in, those practitioners who have not yet accepted the new wave of scholarly transmission will surely turn with the tide.
“Into the Blogosphere.” Web. 17 Feb. 2011.
Siemens, Ray, and Susan Schreibman. Companion to Digital Literary Studies (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture). Hardcover. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Professional, 2008. Web. 17 Feb. 2011.
Warlick, David. Classroom Blogging: A Teacher’s Guide to the Blogosphere. Lulu.com, 2005. Print.