Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Reflections on the Feminist Blogosphere

My first thought about feminism and the blogosphere is the way the blogosphere operates as a contemporary archive of women’s lives. As someone interested in the everyday lives of women, seeing a documentation of women’s lives for future researchers is an exciting proposition. I hope that the systems of digital archiving will allow some of these at least to persist for future analysis.

There are a variety of blogging communities that each have different personalities and engagements of women and of feminists. The largest blogging communities are, I think, Blogger and LiveJournal. It’s interesting to tool around each. LiveJournal is in my wanderings much more personal writing directed at groups of friends whereas Blogger is more of a public space where the blogs are more widely available and often have a particular topical focus, even if that topic is the attentions of one person. Blogging software and distribution has developed a lot in the past few years and the ease of access and, particularly with Google’s acquisition of Blogger, the ease of searching has increased. On my own blog, which is simply an archive of my attentions (and, probably more accurately, obsessions), most of the visitors come from Google searches, often on particular authors or books (Judith Butler is the lead on this front, though Mary Oliver is a close second). The technology of WordPress has always interested me because it offers more functionality, but that functionality requires more time to master and so I stick with Blogger. In many ways, the technology platform informs what is available and how information is presented on the blog and thinking about the implications of that are interesting.

Two other pieces of technology are important to me in the blogging world. First, MacJournal which is the program that I use to blog. It’s easy and keeps on my computer an archive of the blog which is entirely searchable. I love that because there are times I’m looking for something that I wrote or referenced and the software is a wonderful tool for recalling things. The other piece of technology that I love is the Google Reader, which aggregates blog feeds for me. No more remembering a blog to visit it. Whenever I want to read blogs, I just go to Google Reader and there are all of the blog entries that I’ve not read. I can selectively read or I can review everything from my communities of interest or if I feel overwhelmed by the 500 entries, I can quickly mark them all as read.

Newer technologies are affecting the blogging communities in interesting ways, and perhaps undoing the communities. Facebook is in many ways more interactive than blogging communities. The other day, I asked on my status update, “What journals/magazines/periodicals are you reading and why?” So far seven people have responded from my network of friends. It’s interesting to see who responds and what they are reading. I’ve used the status updates to get tips on jogging and other things. In that way social networking offers an interesting intervention into personal relationships and intellectual projects. Twitter has a similar function and I integrate my Facebook status updates with Twitter which links two networks for me. The limitation of these interfaces is the length of space for updates. One of the critiques of blogging is the amount of recycled data and information. This is valid. Writing thoughtful, serious blog entries is time consuming and there are moments I wonder, to what end? Similarly, with the limited time and attention that Facebook and Twitter allow, I wonder, how are we working to develop sustained modes of inquiry and conversations that are longer than 140 characters? Finally, what do all of these communication tools say about public/private dichotomies, for instance, or personal-internal/public-external dichotomies? I think about this everytime someone says after I think I have disclosed something, “Yeah, I read about that on your blog and/or Facebook.”

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