Monday, 17 November 2008

Blogging as new literacy practice (sorry make that practices)

In a discussion board forum, Julia asks:
[1] From looking at blogs and perhaps drawing from your experience of blogging, do you consider blogs to exemplify new literacy practices?

[2] Do you think that it is possible to keep a blog and still be of an ‘old’ mindset?

Here's my response:
[1] I think blogs simultaneously exemplify 'new' and 'old' literacy practices.

Blogs are over a decade old now (Happy Blogiversary) and there are now millions of them used for very different purposes.

It's inaccurate to homogenise blogging as a practice that can be ascribed to any one particular mindset. Like the term literacies, blogging probably needs to be conceptualised as a set of contextually defined practices (note the plural).

Some - but not all - uses of blogging might be said to exemplify new literacy practices where the text-making processes incorporate some features of digital textuality as defined by Guy Merchant (linking to other texts, embedding media, blurring of generic boundaries etc.).

[2] In spite of the affordances of blogging software, there is no reason why a user should not use his/her blog as a tool for verbose reflection (i.e. for monologuing, sounding off, one-way traffic) in an 'outsider/newcomer' mindset way without reader comments, links, quotations, blog roll, tags or embedded media content.

The possibilities for social interaction may well be bypassed by some blog users who see the tool as an online word processor - a bit like Word, or, more accurately Google Docs. For example, an undergraduate might use a blog to make reading notes that will be integrated into a essay; a tech-savvy postgrad might make notes of conference papers attended on an iPhone or ultracompact laptop.

My own use of blogging is more 'outsider/newcomer'; I use it to 'bookmark', tag, selectively quote from articles I've read, web sites I've found etc. that I think will be useful in my professional life. These notes could then be cut and paste into emails or discussion board posts, or I could send a link to the post to interested colleagues. For example, I've mentionned the Michael Wesch videos to a couple of people recently. I probably need a blog post with links to them that I can share quickly.
The next bits are more notes to self ...

Blogging characteristics and affordances:
  • minimal technological barriers to participation

  • dual structure - primary posts and secondary comments - supports dialogue, feedback, review, sharing (but also clearly demarcates readers and writers in an old skool way)

  • RSS feeds can be enabled allowing users to subscribe to new content

  • blog rolls linking to favourite blogs or on shared subject (creation of loosely coupled online learning communities)

  • tagging allowing ease of searching

Some social consequences ...
  • gatekeeper' model irrelevant (sorry Andrew Keen) - we're all publishing/broadcasting now (even if it's to nano-audiences)

  • publicising the private - (see post on Keen and Emo and Clay Shirky)


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