The Art of the 21st Century Self (Miller & Shepherd)

Miller, Carolyn R., and Dawn Shepherd. “Blogging as Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog.” The Norton Book of Composition Studies. 1st ed. New York: Norton, 2009. 1450-1473. Print.

“In the blog, the potentialities of technology, a set of cultural patterns, rhetorical conventions available in antecedent genres, and the history of the subject have combined to produce a recurrent rhetorical motive that has found a conventional mode of expression” (1469).

Briefly, the authors explore “emergent culture of the early 21st century” via the blog. This is a good example of a genre analysis as well as a good discussion of emergent mediated activity and its kairos. Widely-applicable (though dated) notes follow. Many of the trends Miller and Shepherd point to here have only increased in volume (in both the auditory and the more general senses) and intensity. Oh. This is a blog.

the kairos of the blog

  • Darwinian approach to genre: genres are evolving phenomena, stabilized-for-now sites of social/ideological action (1452)
  • kairos: “social perceived space-time” “both the sense in which discourse is understood fitting and timely–the way it observes propriety or decorum–and the way in which it can seize on the unique opportunity of a fleeting moment to create new rhetorical possibility” (1452).
  • cultural trends of the 1990s
    • weakening boundary between public and private
    • expansion of celebrity culture into politics and beyond
    • mediated voyeurism
    • mediated exhibitionism
    • “Both voyeurism and exhibitionism have been morally neutralized and are on their ways to becoming ordinary modes of being, subject positions that are inscribed in our mediated discourse” (1457). i.e. “What are you doing today?”

the genre of the blog

  • content: immediate and personal (i.e. ‘real’): offers a “thoroughly perspectival reality anchored in the personality of the blogger” that is “highly mediated” relying on the “logic of transparent immediacy” (1459)
  • formal features: frequent updating, reverse chronology, brevity, but frankly hard to characterize
  • typified social action: pragmatic, self-expression (self-disclosure) and community development (1461)
  • ancestral genres: many and diverse (from logs and political journalism to commonplace books, anthologies, and diaries)
  • exigence: “an ‘objectified social need’ that functions as rhetorical motive” (1467)
    • generic exigence of blogs; some culturally kairotic “need for cultivation and validation of the self” (1467)

“The intensified, mediated identity is the rhetorical achievement of the blog. The subject selects, displays, and comments upon the mediated reality of the internet, becoming thereby a validated part of that reality and defining for itself and for others its own nature–or rather a rhetorical version of its own nature” (1468).


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