By Liz Cullen and Yuna Park
Jodi Dean’s expo on “The Death of Blogging” explains the social and psychological affect of the rising accumulation of blogs, as she argues that quantity is overcompensating for quality and meaning. Yet, I cannot help but reflect on one passage of her text: “Blogging lives. Rather than “the lingering remainders of a cultish enthusiasm for self-expression that is rapidly wearing off,” the new technological forms and practices emerging around and from blogging indicate the spread and morphing of drives to connect and express” (Dean 38). Dean’s argument is one of the ever-persisting Faustian Bargain. True, the number of blogs is making it ever more difficult to obtain true quality and content, yet mainstream media now seeks information form the everyday internet user in order to create their pieces. The impact this presents is that everyone is now a reporter, a storyteller, or a vital source of information. While a debate on the psychological affects this has on the public and users of this medium still remains untold, it seems that certain specific groups of bloggers are able to overcome issues of quantity and control. Our travelogue those shifts on a focus of the Mommy blogger, as these women (and sometimes men) are able to thrive in an active blog community. While some are able to retain incredible popularity and money as a result of their blogs, lesser known bloggers also gain a sense of self-worth and respect as their raise their children and document both success and failures.
The fact of the matter is though, Mommy Bloggers have certainly gained presence and recognition even in traditional news media, as everyday Mothers utilizing this medium are sought after to share their first-hand knowledge on raising kids. In an article from NBC Philadelphia, local Mommy bloggers conducted research for the news agency on which stroller was safest and most comfortable for your toddler. Another story from the Asheville Citizen Times, interviewed their own sect of Mommy bloggers to analyze how this group of people were able to further their voices outside of their own blogs with usage of twitter and Facebook. Another critical example comes from Mommy bloggers in Cincinnati, Ohio, who are using their blog platform as a way to collect donations for the people of Japan that were affected by the recent tsunami. This Fox news article demonstrates that even “unpopular” Mommy bloggers in terms of overall hits and prestige, still can retain presence amongst the masses of Mommy bloggers that exist. Although Jodi Dean argues in her text that the quantity of blogs is affecting the overall quality of their content, Mommy bloggers are able to prove that sometimes this quantity does not affect meaning and purpose–especially for a specific niche of individuals.
While it may be tempting to write off parenting blogs as a niche of unnecessary chronicles – what that color of poop means, how to get a barf stain out of a blouse, the most soothing color of teething toy - what we have found in our research is that “mommy blogs” far surpass most preconceived stereotypical notions.
So far, we have sent emails to well over a 100 mommy bloggers, most drawn from a list most thankfully given to us by our classmate Lara (thank you again, Lara!) The responses have begun trickling in, and we anticipate 10-20 responses for the final draft. The emails went out to a wide range of bloggers, ages roughly 30-50, with anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of followers. We were successful in getting both popular bloggers, as well as numerous everyday mommy bloggers who chronicle their lives mainly for relatives to see–or just as an internet log of those first crazy years with their newborns. It seems that many of these bloggers use the medium as a tool not only to cope with the difficulties and joys they encounter raising children, but also as an outlet to reach out to other new moms in order to seek both advice and bestow it upon others.
We asked the bloggers 10 questions about parenting/mommy blogs. We have listed the questions below and our rationale for asking them. We have also included a brief hypotheses of the overall shape of answers, based on what we have seen thus far and our own anticipations, so that in our final draft, we can analyze to what extent mommy blogs met or defied our expectations, and to really contrast what we think about mommy blogs to how they actually exist in the blogipelago.
Our research conveyed the following:
1. What is your blog about? How personal would you say your blog is?
- We wanted to get a feel for how the bloggers self-identify their blogging topics. The general theme is parenting, but within that we wondered how much they consider their blog a community, or a place for personal thoughts/feelings, a source of news/information, etc. We wondered how the different types of blogs might affect their perspective on mommy blogging and responses to our other questions.
2. Who is your intended audience? Does that match up with who your real audience is? If you are willing to share, approximately how many readers do you have?
3. How often do you update? Do you believe it is very important to update frequently? Do you use any other social networking media such as Twitter to supplement your blog?
- To elaborate on the idea that the unit of the blog is the post, we wanted to see how much emphasis mommy bloggers put in updating, and if they feel different social networking platforms are useful supplements to blogs. I have noted 2 responses where bloggers said that they are updating their blog less than they used to, but increasing their Twitter usage.
4. Why did you begin blogging? Why do you still blog now?
Our hypothesis is that most bloggers began blogging because it was a way to reach out and make friends even when they had to stay at home with their children. We are curious if this will be supported in the responses, or if there is variance in response based on age, or how successful the blog is.
5. How would you define success for your blog, or any other parenting/mommy blog?
This was an important question for us because we believe it makes a difference whether mommy bloggers define success on a personal level (“it makes me feel good”) vs. a more economic (“I can generate revenue from it) or social (“I can make friends, or even become popular/famous”) level.
6. Do you agree or disagree with the claim that blogging has become overcrowded to the point that it may be leading to its own irrelevance?
We prefaced our interview questions with a brief summary of the discussions about blogs we have been having in our class. Here we are inviting bloggers to put in their own 2 cents about the claim that blogging is becoming oversaturated. We presume since these are current bloggers, they will not say that their blogs are irrelevent! But we hope to see how and why they think that way.
7. How do you or any other bloggers “stand out” as a mommy blog?
This question is useful to us to understand what bloggers believe their readers are looking for, and what the rules or expectations, if any, there are about what a successful blog looks like.
8. Why is the community of mommy bloggers like? Is it very tight-knit? Do you ever meet other mommy bloggers in person?
We are interested in seeing how “isolated” mommy bloggers are or perceive they are. What do they define “tight-knit” as? Is it mostly an online community, or is there a real-life component?
9. What would you say is the purpose of your blog?
This question ties into the “why do you blog?” question, but we hope the nuance of the question will produce different answers. Do mommy bloggers see their blogs are personally fulfilling, a point of reference for other mothers, a way of building community, or a combination of all of these things? There responses here will help us answer the question of whether or not blogging is or can be meaningful and not simply entertainment.
10. Do you believe that your blog, or mommy blogs in general, have the power to affect and change culture?
This is a very open-ended question, and we hope to see how passionately mommy bloggers believe that their blogs matter, that they are an important part of the blogipelago. If they are unsure or do not believe their blogs can affect culture at large, then it would suggest it is more of a self-contained community, by mommies and for mommies with little interaction with other communities.
For the final travelogue, our goal is to further explore this research and connect the content to part of Jodi Dean’s argument on blogging quantity and loss of actual meaning. Although it seems that a vast quantity of noise is created within the communication model that exists in the blogsphere due to the rise of everyday bloggers, we believe that examples like the Mommy bloggers prove that blogging can ultimately be used as a instrument to share crucial information with others of like-minded and in a particular situation. We are open to more suggestions and critique in formalizing this final travelogue.