3.09.2007

Hot Blog on Blog Action (Or "When Academic Blogging Chicks Go Wild")

Last summer, when I was on some sort of second trimester “I am a fricking machine right now, keep the estrogen a-comin'” buzz, I wrote this impossibly long post. My brain was utterly on overdrive as I thought about this whole blogging thing, what it meant to me personally and also what I was beginning to think about it all from an academic perspective. In it I yak on about dominant theories of social networking, such as Barabasi’s, which argue that a site’s power status is acquired through the volume of linkages to it (linkages that are largely not returned). This is why “linky lurve” posts, like my last two, are a “nice thing to do.” Such gestures say “I think you’re special, and you deserve a higher technorati rating darnit.”

But comments don’t count in this measurement at all (and not in technorati ratings either). And I think is a big problem if you are going to do a qualitative analysis of the (largely) women’s community we have right here (hey ladies! And gent! How are ya?). Because commenting is a fundamental attribute to how these here communities (smaller, technically lower "ranked" blogs like this one that make up the “long tail” of the blogosphere) are developed and maintained.

That’s all I’ll say on this for now, but if you are remotely interested, stay tuned for another post on the role of commenting (or not commenting) for us all. (And I so would like your ideas on this one) Anyway. In the beast-post (and apparently I am writing another one right now) I threatened to start researching and thinking about these issues in more depth. Her Bad Mother offered to join me for the ride (and who can say no to such a purdy companion? And her technorati ratings are way higher than mine, so my association can only bring me power and glory, of course. That and the fact that the woman can think up a storm and I love her.)

The first thing we did was send out a panel proposal to the Gender Studies sessions for this communications conference (along with another very sharp blogger who shall remain nameless until I know she does not have a problem with being outed, and then also joining us is one of my b.f.f.s, Paula, who does not blog—what’s up with that?—but who is a supersmart theorist and teacher of writing in online environments). And in order to share ideas and prepare for the panel, we decided to (you guessed it) get ourselves a blog. And it’s right here.
http://blogrhet.blogspot.com/. And our panel summary is here.

Some of you have stumbled on it already and made “uh, I am not sure if I am mean to be here, but here’s what I think..” types of comments. We LOVE visitors! (Otherwise, why make it open?) but we’re also slightly paranoid that we’ll bore the tits off you by inflicting the arsy-academic speak, which is probably stupid because one of our main contentions is that women’s blogs (especially so-called mommyblogs) are knowledge-making communities. (As opposed to a bunch of "creepy" or "mindless" women blogging about all the mundane and trivial details of their private lives and stupidly putting their kids out there in the process, which seems to be popular public perception many of us our familiar with).

Anyhoo. Drop on by. There's not much there now, but we're hoping to change that and even do some cross posting here and at HBM's. My friend, Paula, has a distance from this community that is actually pretty useful (God. I hope she is not going to find the rest of us hideously tedious by day two when we're still banging on about who's been blogging who here, and what this blogger blogged there). Her distance is important in that she can actually ask us questions that force us to define what this community "is," and more specifically the understood conventions and community-building practices of so-called "mommyblogs" (I know my community is made up of more than mommybloggers, and that "mommyblogging" itself is a loaded term, but for the purposes of the panel we're sticking to that focus, even while we're complicating simplistic notions of what mommybloggers actually do).

Most of us intuit how we work our blogs and our communities, and write with presumed knowledge to one another about it, but sitting down and describing how we do this thing we do to an outsider so can be another matter. So Paula's posed a few questions for me, and you can see my initial brainstorm responses below. And, you guessed it, we would love your feedback, criticism, suggestions. If for no other reason than to prove in practice what we're arguing in theory--that we are a deeply interactive, knowledge-making community (and not a bunch of scribbling women with no sense of private boundaries).

Here's a summary of the questions for you:

1. Who are we? (Who is writing these "mommy" blogs?)
2. Who are we writing to? Who is our audience?
3. Why are we writing? What is our purpose?
4. What is the context for our writing? What are we saying? What is our message?
5. How does the medium of blogging affect all this?

And here is my first stab at answering them:

Who are we? (Who is writing these blogs?)
I can only answer this one based on my own experience, and we need to do a wider quantitative survey here--but I would say it’s largely North American women. Mainly white, college degreed, and in the great scheme of things relatively privileged (there are certainly exceptions--do they prove the rule?) Age range is wide, but I would say mainly in the 30 something range, and mainly women with young children (but this might be the bloggers I gravitate to, being a thirtysomething myself). Again, there are exceptions to prove the rule here. There are a lot of women who are educated, have or have had careers, and who took up a blog when they became mothers.

Many SAHMs who use blogging as a means to combat isolation but also women who work—and in this space “mommy wars” between SAHMs and working mothers do not seem to exist—even though the topic is debated widely. I find this very interesting (and I was just talking to someone about this, but can't remember who, so please forgive that I am not crediting you on this!)

Who are we writing to? Who is our audience?
I'd say that those of us who occupy this "long tail" of the blogosphere are mainly writing for one another--it's a means of communication and interaction. This is certainly not to say that higher ranked bloggers are not communicating and interacting, but participating in the community in a reciprocal way would be impossible for bloggers with thousands of readers (and it often feels impossible to those of us with considerably few--hence comment fatigue for many of us).
However, these bloggers (dooce, sweetney, amalah) become dense "nodes" through which other bloggers meet up and connect.

Interestingly, and I've just been chatting to HBM about this, it seems comments are often proportionally much higher in these "community-centered" blogs in relation to visits (you there, lurker;-)). It seems as traffic (and rank) goes up or is perceived to be of high status (and what cues us in that a blog is a "biggy"? That's worth thinking on some more, certainly) comments diminish (dooce is the one glaring exception to this, methinks--proving the rule, perhaps?).

We think this reveals a lot about the way in which audience perceives the blogger, who perhaps shifts from “friend” or “peer” to “writer/author” perhaps? (what do you think, dear reader-slash-friend? Clearly, there’s a lot to say on this alone, but the distinction seems to be one of peer-writer/community vs. author/audience. Not that this is cut and dry by any means—we can all find ourselves vacillating between the two, for sure. (I think. Yes?). (I know I write for an audience as well as for the community--but more on this in another post. That and the fact that I am closet exhibitionist who can be a little more obsessive about her stats and comments than she would like).

I think it would be very easy (and interesting) to do a content analysis of our blogs to show that we are presuming a shared knowledge among our readers (related to kids, breastfeeding, sex, etc). This will reveal a great deal about our perceived sense of audience and also our community.

Why are we writing? What is our purpose?
I know this only anecdotally and experientally: Many women start blogs so they can share photos and stories with friends and families. Others start them because of a sense of isolation (especially SAHMs). Dooce and Sweetney have both written extensively on this. I think other reasons include the wish to write and express one's self. I have written, and so has Mom 101 and many others, on how the blog starts as a means to "be" a writer, but that it becomes about relationships. The community becomes a central reason and motivator to continue writing. (I've been chatting with Slouching Mom about this one via email). Significantly, it can also become a central reason people quit--it can feel overwhelming at times (again--worthy of another post).

Along with community--and I am not sure if this is the same--is the addiction of knowing you have readers via comments and webstats. This becomes another incentive to keep writing. The sense of validation it gives us.

What is the context for our writing? What are we saying? What is our message?
Everything. Certainly the recounting of personal experiences is most common. The sharing of experiences concerning kids, relationships, life as a mother. The sharing goes on in the form of posts, comments and interlinking. One person might write a post on breastfeeding, citing news events, and then another person posts on the same topic, linking to the original--continuing the conversation, and so forth. It would make a very interesting network map. Networks and conversations emerge around specific topics (the cocktails on playdates debacle and its overwhelming response in blogland is an excellent example, as is the response to the infamous Time article on "hipster parenting").

To a point, it is good form to always mention the original post and link to it--this builds trust and a sense of good faith (stealing ideas and posting links to news articles or such as if you found it yourself is considered bad form).

How does the medium of blogging affect all this?
Well, obviously, the linkages I mention above could not take place. Neither could the comments. The blog as a medium is critical because knowledge and ideas emerge as a result of conversation and interaction. You can track how a topic is discussed, how the community interprets it, and the consensus (or lack thereof) about what it all means. There are many other significant ways in which we bloggers adapt our blogs to signify belonging to a particular community (and I myself an exception in this, because Oranges don't signify nothin' relevant here, which was actually one reason I chose them).

These include:
1. Using "Mom" "mommy" or "mother" or even "Mrs" in the blog's title. (and/or using a child's name "Keira's Mom"; "Bub and Pie" etc.)
2. Developing graphical banners that ironically play on notions of "perfect" motherhood--often through nostalgic visual references to "wholesome" 1950s mom and/or Pulp fiction iconography: http://mom101.blogspot.com/
http://www.girlsgonechild.blogspot.com/
http://www.suburbanturmoil.blogspot.com/
http://sarahandthegoonsquad.com/

Or alcohol (to signal--'let's have a drink together, relax, have a chat"): http://www.mothergoosemouse.com/
http://www.suburbanbliss.net/
http://mommyofftherecord.blogspot.com/

The visual rhetoric of our blogs is worthy of a book alone, not to mention the role of photo-sharing. I would argue, along with Her Bad Mother, that photo-sharing is a critical means by which the community comes together and establishes trust and a sense of intimacy, though this issue is highly contentious and debates also center on the issue of children's privacy and potential risk factors that come with this activity (you'll have noticed that I do not share pics, and mainly because my husband is on the other side of the fence on this issue and as I respect his views and wishes--and want my dinner cooked for me when I get home--I don't post pics--but you should know, my boys are freaking gorgeous).

******************************************************************

Tell me. What I am missing? What am I getting wrong?

OK. I am going to stop here. Too much already. But as you can probably tell, I am very excited by all this because I think it's important to talk about what we're doing here. And do it ourselves as opposed to let others do the talking and theorizing for us. What we are doing by blogging our lives is in many ways pretty radical (remember finslippy--mommyblogging is a radical act? yes. yes it is). The next challenge is to keep articulating just exactly how it is radical.

So. if you have the time, let me know your thoughts. If you are not a commenter, then do consider emailing me (gingajoy at gmail dot com). I'd really like to know your reasoning for not commenting (or you can just tell me to mind my own business). No judgements whatsover--jeebus, most of the people reading this post will not feel the need to pontificate on it openly, and that might be the wiser gesture! (I am a self-confessed Attention Whore, but thankfully, not everyone else rolls that way that way) But if you have anything to say, I'm all ears, people. Talk to me (to us)!

40 comments:

Birchsprite said...

I'm not a Mommyblogger... or North American..... I just love reading about other folks lives (nosey irish person) and then I think it becomes addictive. I feel like I'm involved and learning about loads of different people, that in my ordinary life I wouldn't have a chance to meet! Which is very cool!!

slouching mom said...

I am always ready and willing to pontificate. On just about anything.

There are many other significant ways in which we bloggers adapt our blogs to signify belonging to a particular community.

The blogroll is important in this regard, surely. The blogroll is more than just a means of giving other bloggers a peek at our favorites. If you scan a blogroll, you can tell within seconds whether the blogger you are reading identifies herself (and himself) most strongly as a serious writer, or comedian, or journalist, etc., etc. The blogroll then becomes as important a means of identifying your motivation for blogging as anything else, I think. Some bloggers even categorize their blogrolls, making explicit this kind of impression-managemen (e.g., these guys make me laugh, these guys are raunchy, these use big words and say profound things).

slouching mom said...

That's management, not managemen.

DD said...

This is not the Beast Post??!

I'm officially frightened.

metro mama said...

I agree with what you say--I'll try and come up with something to add to it when I have a little more time (I'm supposed to be working on a term paper right now!).

Lisa b said...

hey Joy
I had a look at the other site a few weeks ago. The panel looks very interesting. I didn't comment there as I have just escaped from grad school and am resting the theory part of my brain. Or maybe it exploded. I'm not sure.
I'll comment here bc ya asked but I am afraid its a little superficial. In short I agree pretty much with your answers. The one difference for me would be that community attracts me to blogging more than the idea of being a writer and being read. I like to read and comment on people's blogs so I started my blog so they could come by and get some idea of who I am.
Though I find it useful to be able to read the experiences of other moms I would not have started blogging if I had not found all the TO blogger mamas.
I did a course on blogs in the first year of my MA. I never really understood the whole online community thing. For me there would never be a draw to be part of a community unless it would lead to real life connections. Since I started blogging in June this understanding has changed tremendously. I'm really interested to read more about what you all are thinking.

Mrs. Chicky said...

*clapping*

Well done! I never, ever, read posts this long (I bow to your writing stamina) but you had me from the beginning. Love your theories. If I could add one, bloggers - parent bloggers included - tend to be, or feel like, misfits. Whether they are perceived to be in our real lives or not, we seem to enjoy this stripped down version of community. The bare bones, the soul laid bare, without the interference of facial expressions and body language. I've tried to write about this myself but get side tracked (ooh, sparkly!) and never get around to finishing it.

Sigh. Would you mind being my new girl crush? ;)

themikestand said...

I'm fine, thanks!

Mimi said...

Hm. Blogging format. It's different than a web forum or an email list, because everybody has her own home turf. She can decorate how she wants, post what and when she wants. Invite comments or not. Delete them or respond to them. It's a very (paradoxically) controlled form of interaction. I come to your site (your home) and leave you a nice comment in a conversation that is driven by you, in the hopes that you will come to my site (my home) and read My Giant Speech and leave me a pleasant comment in return. It's very formal, actually.

Home turf. It's all about home turf.

Wanna advance copy of my chapter? Seriously, I'm all over Hering et al. And a buncha other people. And I'd like to join team blogrhet for sure.

I turned off the breastpump to make this comment ...

Lawyer Mama said...

So much to say, I'm not sure where to start! Well, I'll start with the last question about commenting - I don't comment on many sites b/c of the dynamic you mentioned earlier between writer & reader. If it's a very popular site, I tend to be more of a reader unless I'm drawn into the conversation through outrage or just a "hello, I see you there!" For other blogs, like most of the ones I frequent, it really is an ongoing conversation. And comments are a huge part of that.

I'm glad to have some background for Blogrhet & what it is and now I'm super excited to see where it goes!

And, wow, now I am reeeeeally looking forward to your beast post!

bubandpie said...

Oh, so much to say. You can go ahead and out me, Joy (I don't mind being known as the "formerly unnamed blogger on the panel").

Re: Mommy Wars and the lack thereof: In my very first post, I made one of those defensive remarks fending off anticipated judgment about weaning. Now, whenever I come across one of those "don't jump all over me..." comments I always see it as a sign of a neophyte, someone who doesn't realize we don't do that stuff around here.

(Of course, you did include a "flamers go elsewhere" provision in your post about sleep training - but that testifies more to the inherent flammability of the subject matter rather than any real likelihood of being attacked.)

We are capable, of course, of fighting fiercely - we just don't (usually) fight about BF vs. FF or CIO vs. AP or SAHM vs. WOHM or any of the other acronym-based wars that seem to take place everywhere else motherhood is discussed. What we do fight about, occasionally, is blogging itself - in part because "the blogosphere" is the shared space we all inhabit, and sometimes we argue about how it should best be used or characterized. As Mimi says, though, the "owned" nature of a blog - the home turf aspect - seems to breed a certain kind of mutual respect. (In a shared space, we might yell at each other a little more, but it's just rude to do so when you're dropping by to visit somebody else's "turf".)

Re: Commenting behaviour. SiteMeter measures traffic, BlogTopSites measures unique visitors, and Technorati measures links: all three of those measures are significant, at least partially, because of what they reveal about a site's value for advertisers. Comments, on the other hand, reveal other things: the degree of interest readers have in a post, and the degree of comfort they feel in their relationship to the blogger and her readers. These indicators are of little value to advertisers, though they might be very meaningful to the blogger.

I think it's interesting that proportionally fewer readers comment on the "big" blogs. I think it suggests that people comment primarily to establish relationships (which may not seem feasible when you're the 70th commenter) rather than to advertise one's blog to legions of readers.

Re: Visual rhetoric: I am dumb. It has, literally, never occurred to me to examine the visual rhetoric of banners and such until just this minute. (This, also, is because I have so limited a visual imagination - I felt the same lightbulb pop of shock the first time I realized we could actually analyze the rhetoric of illustrations in children's books.)

Both of the banner trends you've identified signal not only one's status as mommy-blogger but also one's identity as not one of "those" moms (the kind who identify with June Cleaver, the kind that are horrified by those who drink on playdates). There is definitely an aspect of "I'm a mom but I'm still edgy and ironic" going on there, part of the purpose of which is precisely to proclaim that around here, writing about motherhood doesn't have to mean preaching, judging, or self-immolating. Sometimes that may come across as "we're the cool moms," but I think Mrs. Chicky is right - many mommy-bloggers feel like misfits, and find in the blogosphere a community of women who feel the same way we do about things that a randomly selected group of moms at the local playgroup would either by unwilling to discuss or would approach quite differently.

When I chose my banner, I didn't really examine why I liked the archway image - I just liked the way it looked. But now I think that what appealed to me most is the way the arch, along with the dark brown border of my template, helps "frame" the content of the blog. One thing I like very much about the blogging medium is its internal boundaries, the clear distinction between my blog and yours and even the distinction between posts, each one of which is a titled, link-able, discrete unit.

When I chose the name "Bub and Pie," I was thinking in much more audience-oriented terms: I wanted my blog to be easy to remember, so everything matched, from the title to the URL to my Blogger ID. Incorporating my children's nicknames was meant to signal my mommy-blogger status but also to simply make it easier for newcomers to remember who I was and who my children were.

Great questions, Joy (my comment is almost as long as your post!).

Oh, The Joys said...

(I'm pretty sure the Bararasi post my first Ginga.)

I wrote about blogging and relationships today (instead of butts) - Kismet!

The question "what is your message" intrigues me. I'm sure I don't have a message beyond "I'm an idiot!!!"

ouch.

mamatulip said...

I absolutely want to share my thoughts with you about what you've discussed in this really smart-sounding, educated post. I can't right now, as the beasts are awake, Oliver is being Oliver and Dave just got home, but I have it bookmarked in my Bloglines and I'll think on your questions and come back to answer them...soon. I might just end up emailing you though, if that's okay, as to not crowd up your comments. :)

karrie said...

I'm not really sure that I have a message. The words 'mother' and 'weird' are in my blog's title, and both are accurate descriptions, but they do not give the whole picture. My blog partially functions as a message board, connecting women I know in real life, women from a parenting site and then random gals I pick up online. ;)

Good writing--like yours--will always reel me in, but I feel most at home on the fringes of the blogosphere. Many of the blogs on my blog roll only have a few regular readers. Generally speaking,those are my people. I'm not particularly hip or cute, and I've never been much of a joiner.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

I started my blog to connect with, hopefully, other like-minded souls who may find my stories mildly comical or interesting. I've had a hard time meeting others 'like me' in person since I've become a mom, but in the blogosphere, there are many people who I feel are almost kindred spirits!

To answer your question as to why I do or do not comment: I used to be very picky about when I commented b/c I was afraid of looking less humorous, ironic, intelligent (take your pick) than the other commenters. However, after having a blog for a while, I realized that getting comments were my little pats on the back that made blogging so satisfying to me. So, I've tried to comment now almost every time I read something. The exception is when I read the really big bloggers b/c, then I feel a bit lost in the crowd.

Oh, and I'd love to have a fun image on my banner but I'm totally a neophyte when it comes to this type of thing and have no idea what to do or how to do it!

Kelly in Kansas said...

I haven't been lucky enough to be a mom but wanted to let you all know that the interest and work it takes to explain your sense of your community to the non-mothers reading your blogs is much appreciated. I get to be a lurker in a slightly different contextual sense.

Furthermore, have no doubt that you all are doing groundbreaking work to establish what a community means in and out of the blogosphere and where those interactions begin and the limits they may or may not have. It's essential to understanding what virtual communities are.

So, not only are you doing vital work on the homefront, you're doing it for the entire blogsophere.

Mom101 said...

Wow! I'm duly impressed with all of this. And like slouching mom, happy to toss in my .02 if you want to email me.

I will say that Kristen/Motherhood Uncensored and I discuss the commenting thing a lot and I don't know that it's entirely correlated to readership. I have very active commenters, sometimes 3x what Kristen has, and yet she has about 3x the traffic I do. For some reason some posts just inspire discussion.

As far as the retro-50s icons I will say from experience that there are two reasons for it:
1) Irony
2) Free clip art

Her Bad Mother said...

(waving weakly from back of lecture hall)

I'm here, and following the comments, but am physically diminished and unable to muster intellect.

Will be back - keep talking.

(Head slumping forward on arm)

Bon said...

interesting. and for me, timely...i've been gestating a post on the significance of mommy blogging since i (belatedly) happened upon a conversation about kids' online identities and pix and stuff at http://fraser.typepad.com/socialtech/2007/02/pictures_of_chi.html

i myself haven't worried too much about the privacy/safety end of exposing O to the mild glare of the spotlight, but i do wonder about what it means to create an online identity for him that, since it is vaguely connected to his real name, may actually be searchable by that name into his adolescent years. is mommy-blogging the equivalent of publishing all those embarrassing stories and pictures one might eventually want to haul out on his first date? at what age (his age) does my self-given right to expose him in this manner expire, or does it?

i know it's not entirely on topic with your blog chicks go wild conversation of the moment, but...it is a meta-conversation i've not happened upon yet in the mommy-blog world so i'll throw it into the mix, anyhow.

as for the rest...yeh, i fit your identified demographics. thirty-something, North American...though i'd never actually read a mommy blog when i started and it took me the first six months to figure out that there WAS a community out there! my partner blogs, on social networking stuff, and i was stuck on bedrest and tired of writing mass emails to entertain myself and bore my friends.

now, almost eleven months into the experiment, i'm only starting to get a sense of the scope of community out there. it fascinates me...particularly some of the places like you mentioned where the "notorious" divisions in mothering styles and choices end up being non-starters. i think part of that may be the inherent "advertising of self" aspect of blogging comments, but there's also some kind of understanding operating in the community that certain kinds of drawing attention to self are going to backfire.

i'm hooked, both by my growing sense of community (and instant audience, god that immediate gratification of feeling heard really is addictive) but also by the conversation.

can i go wild too? will keep on gestating that post and link it in to y'all.

Catherine said...

This is soooo interesting to me - I always love theories and research. You hit the nail right on the head with a lot of your thoughts, I think. I've been thinking a lot lately about how I've blogged for over a year now, but only recently realized that there is a "club" or "community" or something that I wasn't entirely aware of...and am not sure where or if I stand in it. So interesting to me....

Mayberry said...

I have a love/hate relationship with comments. Love to receive them, of course; sometimes love to leave them. But sometimes feel weighted by the obligation to do so. I feel constrained by both limited time and my ability to always come up with something interesting, clever ... worth reading.

ozma said...

Oh hon, my brain is sludge right now.

I wish I had something smart to say to this fascinating set of ideas. Love the nodes idea, by the way.

I am enjoying the idea of distancing myself from this behavior--of seeing it AS behavior.

You are surely right about the pictures and revelation of one's offline identity as critical. Is it trust? Or does it just flesh out the blog- character--you know the person speaking? Making them more real to the reader?

A few things from my personal experience.

I've had several of these. I actually started in 2002. Each voice I adopted seemed to take on a kind of persona. I think that is a critical thing for internet writing--some kind of identity marker--I think it's interesting how it is not consciously created by the writer but seems to create itself. We get a sense of the person writing and the blogs with more power as you say often are better at conveying that sense. You are seduced into forgetting that this is a kind of limited form of communication and this medium probably conveys only a bit about actual people and could be misleading.

Or are actual people as we knew them before the internet now vanishing? Or is being an online person now an extension of your actual personhood--a new 21st century way to be a person? Or do I sound high right now?

Another thing as a reader is that I gravitate to these websites as friendly zones in a discomfiting world. They seem safe. As a reader, they are reassuring in some way.

It might be partly you know what to expect. Part of that safety could be formal: I think people play around with genre but people don't cross blog genres too often in a single blog. No spaceships at the OK corral.

That last one is obvious, I know. I think it shows how rule-governed this activity is and how it is very unlike diary writing and much more like journalism. Or maybe the rules are the kind of social rules that govern club membership or something? You don't talk about the death penalty at book group.

Finally, as my contact with actual people has decreased due to work and child-rearing responsibilities (as they say) my attachment to the internet has increased. (I.e., as I have fewer and fewer friends in real life--I PATHETICALLY CLING TO THE INTERNET). I've wondered 'what caused what?' Again, this might be particular to my life and the way people have been very mobile in my life and a bunch of other things. But there's got to a bigger phenomenon here (I tell myself so as to reduce my own sense of dorkitude.)

Why are these people creating websites to decrease isolation or to share information? Is isolation just a natural thing or is there something making us more isolated now?

The bowling alone thing. It may seem as if we are not bowling alone here--it's a network, we share, here are other people. Yet, I suspect some of us are in a certain sense. We're kind of together and kind of alone. Are we satisfying the same need we always had--to meet people and communicate? Does this internet thing satisfy them well? Or are there new needs this satisfies?

dani said...

I mostly fit your demographics. I'm North American late 20's mommyblogger.

I began blogging during my pregnancy as a less painful conduit to the family. (We were having a lot of problems). Now, I've started my own blog as a way to talk about more than just my son and his progress.
I also know that for most of us, as new or established parents, we feel a little lost in the parenting landscape. Blogging is a perfect way to see what lies ahead for your children as well as to get support when you need it.

As far as commenting is concerned. I know that I read a lot of the bigger blogs but by the time I'm there to comment, I feel that everything I want to say is already out there. I also comment to be part of the community. I know that I'm excited when people comment on my blog and continue the discussion.I try to give the same back to those that I read.
I'm excited to see where this goes.

flutter said...

I have so much to say about this that I fear I may blow up your comment box. However none of it as eloquent as what you've already said.

JudesMommy said...

Part of my brain is on overload right now from your incredibly long, yet can't-stop-myself-from-reading-it-ALL post.

The other part of my brain is on overload from all the thoughts about our new frontier of feminism which seems to be in a huge state of redesign right now, and how blogging is becoming head designer on the project.

I started blogging with a simple desire to share my son's antics with family and friends. But once I discovered the amazing community of mommybloggers, I felt a sense of belonging during a time of identity crisis as a new mommy. I'm thankful for blogs and mommy's who are willing to bare their souls sharing the ups and downs of life as Mom. Without all of you I'd still be wondering who I was rather than in wonder at who I am becoming.

slouching mom said...

judesmommy, I think you're right, and I hadn't thought of it that way before. I read two or three bloggers with kids older than my 5- and 9-year-old (there really aren't many), so that I can get a preview of what's to come, on the theory that being forewarned is a good thing.

Andrea said...

I've stolen your questions and used them as a meme--to be posted shortly--and hopefully will come back to respond to some comments here, too.

gingajoy said...

So, so much to say in response to all of these amazingly helpful and insightful comments—I am already beginning to adjust my thinking about certain issues, or sharpen my opinion/sense on others.

First of all, I want to give a big shout out to slouchingmom.com who has kept some this discussion going for us while I've been offline a little (weekends--kids--no daycare--internet withdrawal--aaaghhh!)

Rather than respond to everyone here individually, I am going to consolidate your opinions into a kind of addendum for this post.

I think the issue of isolation and this being a "safe" space is more significant to me now. As are questions concerning the nature of identity and trust that occurs here. I hear a lot of "this community is very real to me" at the same time I hear "but I am sometimes concerned about that--that I am too reliant on it." (Ozma--you are brilliant on this one. And I think the idea that this is about a new mode subjectivity is brilliant).

Bub--I am so glad you are *out* (I will make it official next post!)

Thanks to those who have commented on BlogRhet, and Andrea. Meme! yes! This would be a dream come true! Huzzah!

I'm going to be visiting each and everyone of you this week. Prepare to be stalked, and perhaps licked (in the form of a comment)

mamatulip said...

I started blogging after three years of not being able to write more than a grocery list. I've always been a writer, personally and professionally, but after my mother died I could not bring myself to do it. At first I was devastated, but my therapist was convinced the desire would come back. She told me to wait, and I trust her implicitly, so I did. And just after I had Oliver, the urge to write hit me like a ton of bricks. So there I was, with a two year old and a newborn, with no time on my hands, wanting desperately to write. The easiest and most timely thing for me, considering I am a very fast typist, was to start a blog. So I did.

When I started blogging I had no idea what kind of 'world' was out there. A few of my friends had blogs, and I read theirs and commented on them, and vice versa, but in the beginning the concept that *other* people, outside of my friend circle, would read and comment was completely foreign to me. I remember being absolutely shocked when people that I didn't know began to comment on my blog...and kept commenting, on other posts.

I started blogging because I had the desire to write again, and once I started it became more than that. I wanted to record certain moments that happened in my home -- with my kids and my husband -- so I'd have them "on record". I wanted to keep those memories forever, you know? And as I got more comfortable with blogging I began writing about my mother, and her death and how it changed my life, and how becoming a mother just a few months after she died changed me. It became quite therapeutic for me, because sometimes I express myself better through the written word than I do vocally. Some of the posts I've written on my blog have triggered huge 'soul-searching' moments for me, and have really compelled me to look closely at who I am, who I want to be and what I want from my life, and myself.

I had to stop and consider how personal I wanted to get on my blog at a certain point, though. I had to consider what subject matters were okay for me to blog about and which ones weren't. There came a time when I was like, "Okay, this is going on the WORLD WIDE WEB." I'd forgotten that; it really did feel like I had this little corner of the Internet that was mine and mine alone, and I had to really consider what I wanted to post and what, like fights with my husband or scuffles with the in-law's, I just didn't.

Yet there came a time in my blogging "career" when I became absolutely overwhelmed with it. When I took that little break last fall, I was totally overwhelmed with the pressure to write good, funny posts, to be present on the web, to leave well thought out, coherent comments on other people's blogs. There is, I think, a certain amount of unseen, unspoken pressure when it comes to blogging, yet I think a lot of it is pressure that I put on myself. When I came back to the blogging world, I came back with no pressure. I told myself that it was okay if I didn't comment on every. single. post. written by the many, many bloggers that I read. I told myself that I didn't have to blog every single day. I realized when I was on my break that the fun of blogging was gone, and it was mostly my doing. I vowed to return to blogging and enjoy it, and if I started to feel pressure I'd back off for a couple days. So far, so good. I love the blogs I read, and I read them when I can. We all have lives outside of our computers, and I think sometimes, it's easy to forget that. I know I did.

I think the blogging medium is more powerful than some people realize. There are times when I write a post that I think is kind of silly and the response I get is amazing -- people comment and share their experiences, their stories, or simply thank me for writing about something that touches them. That's AMAZING. All I've ever wanted to do through my writing is touch someone, just one person, and knowing I have the power to do that on my blog blows me away. It truly does. Blogging is something much bigger than I thought it was, or would be, and sometimes that's a wild thought to me, but mostly I think it's pretty fuckin' cool.

And...for now, I'll stop. I can hear three-year-old footsteps making their way down the stairs, probably looking for an extra good night kiss. :)

Sandra said...

I am enjoyng reading all this blogging academia ... but especially your post. Interesting on a million levels. I have much to say but a certain 5 year old is yelling mommmmmmmmieeeee so I'd best be running. Will try and come back soon to participate in your hot blog on blog action.

Aurelia Bell said...

Oh, goodness, where to start? I'm just going to grab a chair and jump in.

I'll mention the race/class issue that we talked about at blogrhet as I think that alone may be enough for this little comment box.

I didn't mention over there that I think it is more of a class issue, but race tends to mask class. There are more mothers without access to the internet than there are mothers with it. This, then, leaves a whole part of the group on the outside of the discussion. Most of these mothers also happen to be women of color. However, creating a giant, collective movement is practically impossible, so a small part of the group must be the ones to act. In this case, mom-bloggers (honestly, I do say mommy-bloggers, but can never bring myself to actually type it) have a fantastic opportunity to recreate and foster an evolution of motherhood. I just think this evolution has to keep in mind that the goals and definitions of non-mom-bloggers may be different. The concerns and debates present on many mom-blogs, like should we dress our children with ironic onesies or do we have a drink at a playdate, are non-issues to most of these other mothers.

The mothers at my daughters school, a mostly black school with many kids bussed in from the projects, said blogs were something for white women and the one who did try to maintain a diaryland blog couldn't make it to the library enough to post. Granted, this is a small sampling, but I don't think the sentiment or pragmatic problems are too uncommon.

I think, though, that mom-blogs have huge potential in that the movement, as it were, already starts with bright, introspective women seeking to community build.

AmandaD said...

My head is spinning from your post and all of the comments. I don't know that I am answering any of your questions in this comment, but perhaps the words will have value just the same. I find the pictures alongside comments on all of these wonderful blogs to be like book jackets that tickle my fancy, I want to lift them up, feel the weight of the pages or the roughness of the paper. I want to read the forward, skim that chapters, scan for unfamiliar words or names of places I have been. I find comfort in knowing they are there on the shelf, some new and shiny, some tattered and worn, each loved. There is now awkward getting to know you phase, no cause for dishonesty as you realize it might not be what you had expected. There is a capacity for honesty and acceptance that seems absent in a lot of "real life." I started blogging as a way of ceasing to fail at letter writing. Producing the only grandchildren and living a across the country there was a hunger for news and photos that I was ill equipped to sate by mail. I am not sure when it happened, but I fell in love with the keys, I found forgiveness for my foibles as a new parent, I found flexibility in the chronicling of milestones outside the confines of a pastel keepsake journal. Strangers found me and became friends. I never stopped writing for me, or for people who I thought would want to hear or see pieces of my life. I shudder when we are summarily written off as narcissistic posers with no true ablity to write. Is there anyone who truly writes for altruistic measures? What's a byline?
As time has gone on I have learned more about keeping track of traffic etc. I'll admit to a soaring heart when I find someone has linked to me. It's acceptance, inclusion. I have seen other blogs close or become pasword protected out of fear or harassment. I echo HBM sentiment about posting photos of her wee one. I share pictures because they illustrate my words, becuase I love them and do see these entries as my gift to them, sure, today it is for me, but I often write thinking in terms of the stories I would have liked to have been able read about myself. I should stop. This comment, not the blogging.I am eager to keep track of this study. I hope I've done more than take up space. And I sincerely hope that this community continues, there are too few opportunities to connect with people when we are confined to traditional visiting hours (or am I the only one who blogs by the light of the moon?)

Gunfighter said...

I'm not a mommyblogger (clearly) either, I'm a dad.

I read several "mommy" blogs, regularly (I try keep some balance).

Nice place you have here.

Cheers,

GF

Stefanie said...

I think I started blogging as a way to keep writing and "putting it out there" when my daughter was born and I was having severe PPD. But, it soon became addicting. The problem with my not commenting even though I often read is you get so sucked in that you feel you have to comment to everyone's blog you read or they won't comment on yours and you won't feel popular blah blah blah but I don't like to get caught up in it. That's why I took down my topblogger rater thingy. But I have a site meter just to see how many peeps check out my blog, commenting or not.

James, Ava, Angela, and P.J. said...

I started a blog so that friends and family can keep up with us since our move half way across the country. When looking up info on my son's sleep terrors I came across this amazing community of mommies out there that I had no idea existed. It is nice to check in with some of you every so often to see what is going on. In a way it has helped me to not feel so displaced. I rarely comment because am not always ready with something meaningful to say, but am feeling like getting out of my shell more, and also using my blog more as a means to express myself. I am a sahm now with a need to have a bit more than the interaction of the wee ones, and the blogosphere gives me that. Thanks gals!

Mary G said...

You started me thinking to the point that I just wrote a post about your questions. Too long to reprise here, but thanks a lot for the questions and the persepective. It's a great comments column too.

michelle/weaker vessel said...

This sounds really interesting! Congrats to you and your team.

karrie said...

Btw,are you familiar the ARM in Canada?

Association for Research On Mothering.

Ann Douglas posted a link a few months ago to a call for submissions for an

ARM Anthology on Mothering and Blogging The deadline for abstracts has passed, but the anthology is not due out until next year, so maybe there is some flexibility.

Tina C. said...

here's my comments as a non-blogger, who is not planning to open her own blog ever (I just like reading them.) comments sections seem like little clubs where other bloggers are always commenting on each others blogs. i try to throw my comments in the mix cause i'm obnoxious that way and also trying to speak up for myself as a reader/non-blogger.

i see the mommy blogging community as just that. one community within the larger community. probably it's not going to be speaking for all mommies out there. and it would probably fractionalize along the regular lines most groups usually do as more mommies join into the blogging world.

i find myself more drawn to blogs that are local - somehow reading a blog of a local gal seems more titallating that i could drive by her house and know what's going on in there cause i read her blog.

don't like dooce. never have. prefer funny blogs also. long ones are draining to my eyes and hard to read.

CrankMama said...

Ginga, you are a peach! as is HBM... I think I'm less "thoughtful" about blogging than you.. Yet and yet it is a place I come to gather my thoughts and try and laugh with the rest of you...

Laughter and insight... these are my primary motivations.