Everyone knows that getting put on a listserv is the equivalent of infesting your inbox with headlice, and the English department listserv is no different. I’ve deleted scores of messages of several recognizable types: Upcoming Conference, Upcoming Lecture, Does Anyone Have This Library Book, Furniture for Sale, Political Opinion, and that staple of all mailing lists, Extended Argument Over What This Listserv Should Be Used For. (Actually, I didn’t delete the latter e-mails; they were too funny.)
Occasionally, though, something comes my way which is kind of relevant. A couple weeks ago, an Upcoming Conference e-mail appeared; I took the time to actually read it, for once, and saw that the conference concerned something I know a little about–to whit, blogging. They were looking for abstracts for papers to be read at the conference; they specified that non-academics and graduate students are welcome (presumably because the average English professor doesn’t know what a blog is). Well, this sounded like something I could do. I spent the week tinkering with an abstract (how the hell does one write an abstract? I had to ask), sent it in on Friday, and yesterday got an e-mail saying they accepted my paper and would I like to come present it at the conference in San Antonio in April.
When I read the e-mail, I honest-to-God let out a little squeal. I’ve been a student for a little more than a month, and I’ve already been asked to read at a conference! That’s like if I decided to convert to Catholicism and they offered me a spot as Bishop. Of course, that’s just my ego talking–in reality this isn’t as significant as I’d like to think, since this isn’t some hot-button, heavily-competitive academic topic; they even specified that grad students were welcome. It’d be more impressive if I was invited to read a paper on Conrad, say, since that’s a heftier and more populated field. Still and all, it is my first conference, and I am going to read a paper to an audience. Wow.
This means a lot of money to spend–registration plane tickets hotel–and a lot to do. I have some logistical things to work out to make sure I can go, I still have to come up with a title for my paper (how should I know?), and, further down the line, I have to write the damn thing. What I’m going to be writing about are small blogs, or as I call them, “localized” blogs: blogs which are primarily read by the blogger’s own friends. This blog is an example: almost all of the readers are people who I know personally, and many of the readers know each other. This means that whenever I post an entry, I have (or think I do) a good idea of what the other readers are going to think about it; the same is true when someone posts a comment. What I’m going to be looking at is: What happens when the private issues of friends are put in a public sphere? Many of you who have been reading blogs of this type are familiar with the kind of sticky questions and conflicts which can arise when the blogger posts an entry that some readers wishes he/she hadn’t, or when an entry that is “directed” at one reader is picked up by the others. I’m interested in looking at the kind of unique problems a localized blog causes, and the possible social purpose to those problems (e.g., perhaps blogs serve as a “safe” space in which social tensions can be aired with less guilt or awkwardness). Most of all, I’m looking at how the blog affects the friendships of its readers, and how those readers affect the blog.
Which brings me to: a plea for help. Many of you are bloggers (I use “blog” here to include LiveJournal, OpenDiary, etc.), and all of you, by definition, read at least one blog. Can any of you think of any examples, on your own blogs or on someone else’s, of entries and/or comments fitting the model I described above? If so, would you give me permission to use them in my paper? (If they’re yours, that is; if you point me towards a friend’s blog I’ll ask the friend for permission.) All names, usernames, identifying details, and so on will be changed, of course. Anything you can provide–especially permission–would be a huge help. If you have any links you think are relevant, please e-mail them to me. If you have any deleted entries that you think would help, you can e-mail those to me; again, I promise anonymity. Thanks for helping out with the quest for knowledge.