Oct 13 2010

The Glossary Project – Aspects of Autobiography (Subject: Blog)

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-What is a blog?

  • The word blog, is the abbreviation of the compound word weblog. It was later shortened to differentiate between the literary format and the technical definitions.
  • Technical definition: Weblogs originally referred to the website’s log of activities, from site hits (the number of views) to the errors that occurred throughout the users’ interface with it.
  • Literary definition: When people began to use personal websites as journals – posting personal experiences and pursuing personal interests regarding materials gathered from other sources, as well as supplementing their presentation of ideas through hyperlinks – the term itself Weblogs took a more personal aspect. As the trend grew, these webloggers, gave their medium a more casual name: Blog, taking the web, but leaving the last letter of the first part of the word, to differentiate it from the nautical term “log”.
  • It can be used as a verb, where blogging refers to the act of adding to, changing or creating the said blog.
  • A blogger refers to anyone who writes in a blog.
  • The Blogosphere is the “universe” or “world,” to be more exact, of all blogs.
  • John Timmer, a blogger from Arstechnica, quotes an HCI study done by a group from The University of California, Irvine that refers to the immediate “truth” of a blog: “the reality and meaning of a blog exists neither solely in the blog itself nor solely in the reader, but rather in the reader’s active interpretation of, and interaction with, the blog.”This suggests that blogging is not solely defined as a literary term, but as a growing medium that is reliant on the readership and reaction that it causes in its readership. Blogs are therefore, a “living” phenomena, despite being reliant on input from bloggers and readers alike.
  • Vlog – A video Blog. Same concept in video format. Made famous by youtube. Example: The Philip DeFranco Show
  • Blogs are also defined specifically by the place it is founded in. For example, on live journal, it is called a journal entry. On Multiply, it is a blog entry. On Facebook, it is a wall post. On tumblr, originality can be skipped and one may simply “re-blog” another user’s work.

Historical Timeline:

New York Times Article (circa: Feb, 2006) <– Click here for the chronological evolution of blogging, important dates, and people involved.

The kinds of Blog:

According to HCI (Human-Computer Interface/Interaction) studies from the University of California, Irvine, the Literature of the “Blogosphere” can be separated into two distinct aspects of the term Blog: blogs that are defined by bloggers of smaller communities, and the popular, news-focused blogs. This pertains to the personal interpretation of a blog by its readership, its “truth.”

David Bordwell categorizes blogs into: Reviews, which refer to blogs published or presented in websites of newspapers, magazines, radio

Blogs made by the popular sensationalists, news-related, and the politically inclined portion of the blogosphere cater to the public aspect of the blogosphere, whereas the smaller communities like tumblr, multiply, livejournal, etc. cater to the smaller denominations who generally would rather their works be personal, “kept under wraps” so to speak, or be limited in its readership by members of the community it is kept in.

Blogs in the realm of criticism and literature

Many literary critics find that their long-lived medium is in many ways, dying. Some blame blogs, and some blame the dwindling number of readers. Sven Birkerts of the Boston Globe wrote an article regarding the status of literary criticism with the advent of blogs. He contemplates whether it is a progression, a regression, or a mere declaration of a new addition to the medium. He points out that blogs affect criticism in the manner that which it slowly brings its readership away from print and draw them into the digital medium of the blogosphere, and that the realm of literature and criticism is at a state of teetering balance, where neither criticism in print nor digital hold precedence over the other. However, considering the pace at which the digital medium is gaining readership, it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to assume that the it would sooner or later topple print in that respect. The statistics show that circulation of printed media has dropped in the last decade, and this has led many critics to believe that blogs are to blame. There is no statistical data from recent studies that can back this up, but it’s not hard to believe. It is also because of this rise in readership towards digital blogs that many prominent review magazines, newspapers, and companies in the business of literary criticism have slowly cut back on printing and manpower. This is partly due to a recent controversy concerning those of various quarters, literary bloggers in particular, who believe that the printed medium is passe. As a member of the old guard, as well as someone who witnessed the conception and growth of the blogosphere, Birkerts likens the shift to literary criticism from the medium of print to blogs, to an anology of wine and bottles: “Blogs and on-line journals do not simply transfer old wine into new bottles — the wine itself is changing.”He references the younger generation of literary critic bloggers do not inherit the formal writing of the previous generation, and how most of them favor “less formal, less linear, and essentially unedited mode of argument.” He notes that these writers take the “I’ve been thinking” approach, which at some level points to the difference between amateur writing, and professional writing. He states that “What we gain in independence and freshness we lose in authority and accountability.” Because of this lack of a standardized writing format in blogging, which the printed medium does have, allows just about anyone to have a say in the totality of what “truth” it purports to the public, and this takes away from the accountability of The Blog as a literary medium for criticism. The fact that bloggers can hide behind a persona of someone who is “not an expert” disallows the possibility of holding them accountable for their proposed criticism. One can also bring up the notion of how people should never believe everything (or anything, some people purport) that comes from the internet.

A fellow critic whom, as he points out, supports this is one Cynthia Ozick from Harper’s magazine. Her approach to this however, is not focused on blogs, but nonetheless implies it by describing the same loss of accountability and overall authority in the literary sphere.  She describes the situation in an analogy of a game, a “complex game being played without rules, referees or, increasingly, audience.” She concludes by saying that these issues will eventually take care of itself, but notes that for literature to survive, there lies the need for an existence of “a vibrant culture of criticism. ” She describes this needed culture to be of “a broad infrastructure, through a critical mass of critics, of the kind of criticism that can define, or prompt, or inspire, or at least intuit, what is happening in a culture in a given time frame.” In a culture such as the one she describes, she notes that “there is something almost ceremonial, or ceremoniously slow: unhurried thinking, the ripened long (or sidewise) view, the gradualism of nuance” – something that is implied to be absent from the blogosphere.

Birkerts ends his article by stating that the blogosphere in respect to literary criticism is a supplement to the medium. It is a place of provocation and response, and though there is validity in its influence over the new era of literature, the blogosphere is too fluid in its nature to ever hope to focus our widely diverging cultural energies into something that can be grasped.

Literary Issue: Truth (or para-truthfulness = truthiness) in a Blog

During the 2004 elections, thousands upon thousands of nameless faces and writers simply wrote their opinions on rented blogsites under various, untraceable pseudonyms and personas. People who read these blogs were in many ways affected in terms of how they voted, and this all, despite the lack of absolute data and evidence on the part of these writers. This is the point that Stephen Colbert proposed on a 2005 episode of Comedy Central’s “The Word” on his show, The Colbert Report. He proposed a neologism:

Truthiness – The quality of stating concepts or facts one wishes or believes to be true, rather
than concepts or facts known to be true.

In his opinion, this so called “truthiness” trumps truth. Truthiness is based on the feeling or values of one person who hears it, and afterwards, becomes more important than debate and evidence. This is the major issue that is brought up by most critics with regards to blogs. Generally, blogs are composed of personal, highly prejudiced, biased, or partial views on a certain subject, and in this respect, it is a medium which is generally taken with a grain of salt. The tension, however, is that a blog always aims to make a point about a subject, and more often than not, while not always based on hard evidence, blogs generally purport ideas which are of sound, logical reasoning (not counting “trolls”, who seek only to start “flame wars”). Their “evidence” is support from either fellow bloggers or similar-minded followers. It is merely “being right” according to numbers. This is generally why people agree with them. Another issue which pertains to this, though, is that according to the studies done by the HCI (Human-Computer Interface/Interaction) department from The University of California, Irving, subjects in a group of 20 all seemed to limit their blog reading to a specific set of favored and personally trusted blogs. They did skim through others, but only delved deeper into them when time permitted, and only if they interested them. This data suggests that people lean towards generally accepting the truthiness of a blog, because they mostly read what is part of their accepted repertoire of blogs. It is an effect of partiality than a debate in critical analysis.

Examples of Blog Autobiography:

  • Vlogs from youtube <- Blogs in video format (Examples: Philip De Franco, Happy Slip aka Christine Gambito, Nigahiga, Kevjumba aka Kevin Wu)
  • Densha Otoko (Train Man)
  • Various journal-related blogs on tumblr, livejournal, blogger, facebook, multiply, friendster

Contribution to Autobiography

Blogs have allowed diarists and journal-writers to make use of pictures, videos, music as representations of expression in their various entries. They can hyperlink articles, other blogs, and just about anything on the internet which may pertain to their lives, and their writing of it. It grants a more interactive approach, both with either the authors, or for those with no qualms about some levels of privacy, viewers. Some people blog for the sake of viewership, in fact, so blogs grant people a sense of belonging to communities as well. People who write blogs about their life daily, are in many ways, writing their own autobiographies.


Birkerts, Sven.  “Lost in the blogosphere: Why literary blogging won’t save our literary culture.”  The Boston Globe.  29  Jul.  2007  <http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2007/07/29/lost_in_the_blogosphere/>

Timmer, John.  “Blogging meets literary analysis: why people read blogs.”  Ars Technica.  Ars Technica,  9  April  2008.  Web.  19  Oct. 2010. <http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2008/04/blogging-meets-literary-theory-in-new-analysis.ars>

Baumer, Eric, Mark Sueyoshi, Bill Tomlinson.  “Proceeding of the twenty-sixth annual SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems.”  Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Florence, Italy 2008.   Web.  19  Oct.  2010.  <http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=1357054.1357228>

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3 responses so far

3 Responses to “The Glossary Project – Aspects of Autobiography (Subject: Blog)”

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