Quite a lot of students are working on blogs for their term papers and even undergraduate thesis. Those would include me, since I’m working on a critical discourse analysis of the Philippine blogosphere (particularly the discourse of the de la Paz-Pangandaman issue).
Two studies to which I’m paying close attention two are 1) Raymund Vitorio’s thesis (from the BAES program of UP Diliman) and 2) Brian Ong’s term paper on politics and blogging. I’ll be sitting as critic in Vitorio’s panel while Bong has been gracious enough to consult with me regarding his Socio paper.
While the former’s a linguistic study and the other, a sociological study, both studies have shaped up to miss what I think as one important about blogging – its discourse practice or the process of how the blog is produced and consumed by the blogger and his/her readers.
Vitorio did a corpus linguistic study (with which I have quite a lot of comments on the framework and method) of Filipino youth blogs and identity formation. I don’t want to preempt Bong’s attempt but according to his Plurk, he’s deliberating studying the comments on two blog posts concerning the de la Paz-Pangandaman controversy. Vitorio focuses on random selections from blog posts while Bong, so far, is concentrating on comments.
Perhaps, we can attribute these limited analyses to the practicality of course requirement completion. Still, in my opinion, the blog as text must be analyzed hand in hand with the context in which it is produced and consumed.
I think of blogging as an asynchronous conversation, much like other web technologies that share its pattern (like message boards/forums). One proposes an idea and through the blogs’ commenting system, people can offer their two cents worth oftentimes through delayed responses (though depending on the popularity of the blog or topic, responses can be instantaneous). In addition, quoting and linking have made the discourse richer and more complex as other people’s ideas (whether to their knowledge or not) are brought into the discussion. Pingbacks, arguably, are part of the discourse since these signify that other bloggerss have thought it worthwhile to refer to the post.
The involvement of other people’s ideas whether voluntarily (through commenting) or involuntarily (through linking and quoting of other people’s works) in a blog post does seem to blur its boundaries. Because of these features, I prefer to think of it as the blog’s assimilation to greater discussion. Perhaps, using netspeak – it becomes a contributor to an Internet meme.
This is perhaps the reason why I believe that in the study of blogs, focusing on just one part of the blog post (whether it’s just the post or the comments) misses out on the essence of the post especially if one is trying to examine deeper underpinnings such as ideologies and politics. Focusing on the blog posts alone discounts how an audience understands the post. Focusing on the comments alone discounts the power of the blog post as stimulus to these reactions.
On the point of view of research though, it is quite unrealistic to scour every blog that takes on the meme. I still believe one can simply focus even on a blog post and take it as an isolated discussion. However, one must take into account the comments even in just the context of that one blog post. And, depending on the depth of the study, I’d say that should also include links and pingbacks and other blogs that have been part of the meme. Quite the scope but there lies the challenge.
I’m operating on the realms of social sciences and language studies here. Many of what I’m asserting here might not apply to other fields or even other approaches within social sciences and language studies. The two studies to which I refer, however, are interpreting ideas such as identity and power from blog posts as text. And to this, I think that an isolation of parts without their contexts would deprive the analyses of grit.