blogs as class content
Blogs are a rich source of class content. Even if you don't
feel ready to start a blog for yourself or have your students
start blogs, you might consider tapping into this vast collection
of writing. Here are a few applications you might consider
for blogs as classroom content.
Blogs as Genre
Any class that examines autobiography or the diary should include
blogs. These online journals challenge notions of audience
in these genres, allowing the class to examine the transformation
of a traditional genre in a hypertextual world. With a little
searching, you can locate blogs appropriate for any class,
whether a blog written by a high school girl (useful in examinations
of feminism) or a blog written by a celebrity (useful in
thinking about fame and popular culture). In many ways, the
genre itself is still in formation—blogs don't have any hard
and fast rules just yet, not in terms of style or audience
or publication or technology, so an examination of a variety
of blogs or the history of blogs can help students see how
genres themselves emerge.
If you'd like some readings to open a discussion of genre,
Meg Hourihan's "What
We're Doing When We Blog": Hourihan is the person
behind Megnut, and one of the developers of the Blogger
service. In this brief article, she argues that what binds
bloggers together is the format, implicitly making an
argument for blogs as a distinct genre of electronic writing.
- John M. Grohol's "Psychology
of Weblogs: 2002" and "Psychology
of Weblogs: Everything Old is New Again": Grohol provides
an interesting counterpoint to Hourihan. He argues that there's
nothing special about blogging, replying directly to Hourihan's
article to claim that the unique features she find in blogs
are a part of older forms of electronic writing such as
Blogs and Public Opinion
Blogs often comment on current events. Sampling blogs on issues
like the war with Iraq or recent elections or the terrorist
attacks of 9/11 can give students access to a range of public
opinion and rhetoric in action. This sampling can be useful
to contextualize readings in class or to consider how issues
examined in class play out in the "real world." Finding blogs
on a topic is relatively easy: just pop a topic and "blog"
In terms of the war in Iraq, a good grouping of readings would
probably include "Where is Raed?"
and "L.T. Smash," (both
discussed in the introduction to this piece) as well as "The Agonist," by Sean-Paul
Kelly with frequent updates on the war (also interesting since
Kelly was caught plagiarizing material word-for-word) and
which offers an anti-war perspective.
Blogs as Design Inspiration
I've also used blogs in my web authoring class as a source
of valuable design inspiration. Surfing through the blogs
at Blogger in particular can give students a multitude of
sites to look at while thinking about design issues like layout,
graphics, and color. You might also have students look at
blog templates at a site such as blogskins.com
to find sample color palettes and layouts.
Blogs and Visual Argument
Because blogs are web-based, issues of visual design are foregrounded.
You might ask students to consider the relation between the
content of a blog and its design: how does the design reinforce
the identity being inscribed in a blog? How does it undercut,
challenge, or complicate it? These questions are useful in
any design-oriented class, but are also valuable in a class
that asks students to consider aspects of visual argument,
particularly as it relates to written argument.
One interesting aspect of design to consider in relation to
blogs is the way they inherently privilege vertical space.
Blogs typically have a columns of links and a columb with
the text of the blog. How does this vertical orientation influence
the overall argument of the blog?