I have a friend who teaches at a college down in Virginia and every semester, she asks her reluctant freshman to tell the class a little bit about themselves. One of her favorite examples comes from a student who started with, “Dude, I work at Subway, and I’m, like, a sandwich artist?” Yes, aren’t we all.
In the land of the interwebs, it seems, however, that everyone is a blogger. Everyone. Go ahead and read the self-provided mini-bios of several online journalists, writers, no-ones, and everyones. Somehow, blogger (or diary writer) ends up in these bios. Yes, I am officially one myself (even though a direct URL is still needed to view my self-indulgent strokes). My being a blogger essentially came after quite a bit of internal kicking and screaming. I still continue to say, “Dude, I gotta post on my blog.”
In their article, “Gender, Identity, and Language Use in Teenage Blogs,” David Huffaker and Sandra Calvert, the authors examine how teens use weblogs to explore their identity. They studied 184 weblogs, mainly from LiveJournal, Blogspot, Blog-City, and Journalspace. They had to use a stratified random sampling method due to the high number of female-driven blogs. Using a content analysis software package called DICTION 5.0, which was used to create language scores for tone and semantic features. Dependent measures included the disclosure of personal information, emotive features, sexual identity, an overview of language used using DICTION, resolute and active language, and communal language patterns.
The results seemed to contradict previous research. In terms of self-disclosure for personal information, there were no gender differences, other than a tendency for males to share location and for females to provide a link to their own personal website. Males tended to use emoticons more than females, especially the sad emoticon. Males also demonstrated more sureness but there were no gender differences in the sub-scores of aggression or passivity. There was also no gender difference for the sub-score of cooperation.
I was relieved to see that some of their hypotheses were rejected, particularly that females use language that is more passive, cooperative, and accommodating than males. The highly popular blog and Facebook page, “I Fucking Love Science” attracted all sorts of followers, especially after the creation of the Facebook page. The blog shared multiple daily posts several disciplines within the sciences, including biology, physics, chemistry, and more. Many of the posts stemmed from pop-culture science, but the raw nature of the posts spoke to people who typically would not have been interested in the sciences. While the blogger did not attempt to be purely anonymous, it was assumed that the blogger was a male. Little did everyone know that the brash blogger was a female! Females blog? Females swear? Females know science??
Ignacio Siles puts the blogger identity into perspective in “Web Technologies of the Self: The Arising of the ‘Blogger’ Identity.” The article takes on a much more philosophical approach to the blogger identity. Drawing on the work of Nietzsche and Foucault, Siles outlines the technologies of the “self” and explains “how users perform identities on the Internet requires considering how artifacts and practices of the self mutually shape each other.”
Like the other study, Siles analyzed a variety of blogs. He chose 11 online diaries and 10 weblogs wehere he categorized the websites and then annotated and organized them according to Foucault’s analysis of subjectivation (construction of the individual subject). The creation of online diaries is analogous to that of paper diaries, which was “primarily to describe and reflect on certain events in their daily life” and “as a means of introspection.”
A major distinction between online and physical diaries is the lock and key that does not exist online. These are diaries, that Siles explains, were meant to be publicly shared. Siles states that “online diary writing functioned as a Foucauldian technology of the self that helped its practitioners to manage a particular relation to the self, based on the constant exploration of its interiority and grounding in daily life.” Furthermore, he considers the possibility that it is an “enactment of romantic individualism that reveals how this particular form of selfhood also shaped the early appropriation of the Internet among amateurs, outside of the professional computer culture.”
Ah, so here we go. Bloggers are geek wannabes? Well, my experience is that yes, many of them are (this blog excluded — remember, I ached over doing this). I know of countless bloggers who are now being recognized as having tech startups. We know that this is inaccurate for reasons beyond the scope of this post. However, it seems that Siles is explaining that diary blogger types are talking about themselves online in an effort to form an identity, which in turn creates an identity for them. Yes?
Blogging did not actually arise until sometime during the late 1990s. These were created by technology developers who wanted to filter specific information, thus creating weblogs. The blogs were menat to be a collection or a list of links that were mostly related to technology and the Internet. You know, geek stuff. Unlike online diaries, however, a new page is not created for each new post. Instead, blog content is displayed on one page, in reverse chronological order. Also, unlike online diaries, content came from external sources — as opposed to being an exploration of one’s internal self — and they included short comments to their links — as opposed to long-winded passages.
The grounded theory approach (a social scientific method where the discovery of theory is attained through the analysis of data) was used and referred to throughout this paper. Using this approach, Siles explains that blogging provided “techniques for discovering the self and revealing it to others,” whereas online diaries were explicit descriptions of the “inner world.” Blogging also appears to help bloggers with some sort of improvement or change, such as becoming better writers. Blogging also appears to reveal only a specific component of the self, as opposed to the “heart and soul” of the online diarist. Finally, bloggers have defined an identity for themselves that did not exist before, as their activity did not either. No one would ever say that this blog is an online diary — you deepest, darkest ramblings are definitely not being published here.
According to Siles, the two ways that bloggers distinguished themselves from online diarists is that they focus on the exterior rather than the interior and that they “took pride in the technical knowledge necessary to configure their websites.” We all know that technical knowledge is no longer necessary to have a blog, as all you need to do is create a username and password. In fact, blogging may have become just another diary. Siles concludes by stating that the paper “sought to broaden our understanding of technologies of the self by arguing that the emergence of user identities on the Internet muse be thought of as a process of mutual configuration between particular types of artifacts and certain practices for fashioning the self.”
Huffaker and Calvert explore blogs as a tool that allows teens to form and share their identities. Siles seems to do the same. Somehow, writing about something that interests us shares a something about ourselves, whether we choose to or not. Bloggers were once tech-savvy individuals and everyone seems to want to be a techie these days. Maybe that explains the all too popular Big Bang Theory.
Then again, maybe not.