Outline for my Thesis on blogs

December 18, 2007

What follows is an outline for my thesis on the topic of the literary merit of blogs. I am very eager to receive feed back and suggestions also advice on where to search for more content. Thank you in advance.



Here I want to introduce the topic starting with describing both the intermediality in art today as well as the multimedia aspects of the internet. I will begin this thesis and the introduction with a discussion of my own blog and my own travels in the blogosphere. I know the idea of an intro is to introduce the topic so I plan to extend the conversation here to touch upon how blogs have affected much more than just an e-community.

·         The story of my own blog

o   I feel that the best way to dive into this topic is to describe how I dove into it. I don’t plan on this being long at all but I do intend for it to wet the pallet of the reader and to engage them into why this might be of interest to them.

·         Art in the 21st century

o   This section will focus on two major trends: intermediality in “old media” and multimedia in “new media.”

§  With the study of intermediality I want to focus on works like The Pillow Book and the popularity of adaption to emphasis the cross media work being done today. The thesis of this section is to suggest that old media (Print, TV, Radio, Film) are working very hard today to interact, TV shows based on films, films based on musicals based on films, films acting as visual novels, and of course novels made into musicals made into films. The idea of all this cross over and what may be driving it, to enhance the story and bring the story to multiple audiences, or both.

§  The second aspect of this section is to look at the role the internet has played in this. Again here there are two trends I want to focus one. One is the role of the internet in regards to old media, viral marketing campaigns, characters from television shows having their own blogs, publishers adding literary content to accompany a novel on line. The second part is to look at art that can only exist online. This will work to introduce the blog but it will also look at a graphic novel made exclusively for a Facebook application, digital/visual poetry as well as the new version of blogs that incorporate every type of media (visual, auditory, and textual).

o   I will conclude this section by connecting these two elements to suggest that when in modernism the importance of the medium was fundamental to advancing its specific art, the 21st century has abandoned such uniqueness in favor of a new medium, a multimedium (the internet).

Section 1: The Blog

This section will focus entirely on getting the reader acquainted with the blog. Here is where I plan on providing the history of the blog, beginning briefly with the history of the internet, and followed mostly by the development of the weblog and then the blog. The goal of this section is for the reader to understand all the elements that go into the creation of a blog today and how that is new and different from say ten years ago. I want to stress the development of user friendly software along with the development boom of the internet itself. Since I plan on discussing the online literary community later, I want to make sure the reader understands the power of such organizations such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, Second Life, Blogger, WordPress, and a few others that are key players in the literary world of the internet.

·         The Blog: Past, Present, and Future

o   This part is pretty self explanatory; it will describe in brief the history of the weblog as well as parallel it with the development of the internet and later the development of social software and web 2.0. This terminology is important and will all be explained here.

o   This chapter will then focus on the world of the blog today. I want to provide the reader with an understanding of how the blog is being used today.

§  Starting with the original weblog feature as a web filter.

§  Moving on to discuss the most popular use as a public diary.

§  Briefly touching upon its new role in journalism.

§  Lastly talking about its community development power.

o   Before moving on to the future aspects I will provide a section on the use of blogs and other social software tools, such as the examples mentioned above. The ultimate idea is for the reader to understand what is meant by “digital life” and how one might experience a “second life” through their online persona.

o   The third part will be to talk about the blog’s potential future and where bloggers today want to see it going.

§  This will mostly focus on its potential as a new form of publishing as well as its untapped power as a community builder.

·         NOTE: It may be beneficial to break up this into three sections instead of slating it all under one. To be honest I have not put much thought into exactly how I am to organize all of this beyond dividing it up into sections. Perhaps this section would have three chapters: Past, Present and Future. There is arguably enough material to do that. Or perhaps this section may not be as pertinent with the discussion of literary merit and should be reduced to just a chapter in the following section.

Section 2: The Literary World Online

            This section may be the largest as it will focus on the developing literary community on the internet. The key components of this section are the literary blogs. There are two major types of literary blogs, blogs that are producing their own literature and blogs that are acting as book reviewers. In addition to these two types of blogs I will also focus on the extensive community elements built around blogs of this sort: annual writing competitions, online literary journals, blogging communities voicing opinions about the established literary authorities, and published writers blogging about the writing process.  

·         The New Literary Medium

o   This first section will delve into the literary merit of a blog. I will divide this into three aspects, which will be first is yet to be established but generally I see it going as follows:

o   The Public Journal: I want to look at this “genre” as fiction itself, similar to an autobiography. This genre has no regulations forcing it to be factual and has no pre-established criteria save the general concept of what one logs in his/her diary.

§  Thus I want to explore what makes this genre unique: it has no fixed end, it is written by one author but is aided by the contributions of the general public who choose to contribute, it has no limitation as to the type of medium used in an entry (videos, images, and sound bites can all be added), and it uses the power of hypertext (text that can be linked throughout the web allowing for the artistic experience to then incorporate more writers and more readers and more communities from across the internet).

·         Each of these points will be further explained, especially the last on hypertext theory. I plan on spending some time discussing hypertext theory and its original research long before the blog existed.

o   The fictional blog: This section will look at how the same aspects of the public journal are then applied to a piece of fiction that is submitted to an audience via a blog. Basically this section will look at writers who are publishing through blogs rather than print.

§  Questions to be raised in this section are how the blog format affects narration; what role do the commentators play; and how the story is being presented (this is different from the first aspect in that the first point will focus on how the blogger is utilizing the specific attributes of a blog to expand his story, such as hypertext and multimedia elements; while this section will look at how these elements are being presented in the blog, what makes up a post? How are they archived? And so forth).

§  Another aspect of this section is how the blogger relates to the work of fiction; is it explicit that we are reading fiction? Does the blogger chime in with commentary on how the story is progressing? In general does the writer acknowledge his own separate existence from the story or does he allow the entire blog to be part of the fictional story. These aspects are important to evaluate how narrative is being changed when fiction is being written for a blog versus print.

o   The portfolio blog: this final section will expand on the blogs where the author controls the blog beyond any one specific story. For example a novelist may make one blog for just that one novel. This would fall under the previous section. But that same novelist may have a blog for submitting poetry and short stories, that blog would go here. The idea is to look at how fiction is being presented in compilation.

§  Other things I want to touch on but they may end up in other sections are the works of blogs by multiple authors and the literary works done in other online mediums, such as Facebook and Second Life.

·         The New Literary Community

o   This section will focus on the literary blogs that discuss literature. General trends of these blogs are to provide book reviews, assist in online marketing of authors through interviews and promotional pieces, discuss events affecting the literary world such as the writer’s strike, independent book store closings, the release of the Amazon Kindle and so forth. More specifically I want to focus on the literary blogs that are run by writers themselves as some of the time they discuss the writing process, making it much more personal for their audience as well as aspiring writers who my stumble upon their site.

o   Literary Blogs by Writers:

§  This section will arguably be the most dominant in this part of the thesis as these blogs have had some large scale affects on the literary community. I have yet to outline the specific ones I will look at but for sure this will include The Elegant Variation and Bookslut two book review blogs that have taken a lot of readership away from the New York Times.

§  The goal of looking at these blogs is to look at how they change the way the community looks at reading, these are not critics writing at us but rather with us and trying to engage us in a discussion of the merits of the texts they are reviewing.

§  I also plan on commenting on the fact that in response to these blogs, The New York Times created their own blog called Papercuts.

§  In this section I will also look at how these writers describe their own work and engage their audience in the writing process, providing updates on how they are conducting research, going through the motions of writing each day, working with copyeditors, and lastly the feeling of having a published book arrive for your approval.

o   Literary E-Journals

§  In this section I want to look at the movement to collect and catalog work electronically and avoid printing almost entirely. There is one being formed through facebook that I plan on reviewing as well as blogs that are attempting to archive literary blogs themselves as well as help in a wiki movement to archive sources of electronic literature.

§  I will describe in this section as well the phenomenon of the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo which takes place in November and is a competition for anyone interested to attempt to write a novel in one month’s time while blogging about your progress through their website, or linked to their website should you already have an established blog.

·         There was much discussion along the way with this event and many bloggers described in depth the struggle to meet their goals.

·         Many bloggers blogged each other words of encouragement and such.

·         Surprisingly everyone is very friendly to each other, not really any signs of competition.

o   Connecting with the Real World

§  Here I want to look at how the literary world is incorporating blogs into the print world of literature. I will define the “Virtual Book Tour” here and discuss how it is quickly becoming a necessity for any up and coming author. I also want to look at the roll of programs like Myspace and Facebook in the marketing aspects of book promotions. This will not focus as much on blogs but rather discuss how Web 2.0 and 3.0 is augmenting the literary community.

§  This section will also focus on the death of book review sections in newspapers and suggest the correlation between the decrease in print reviews and the increase in digital literary communities.

Section 3: Publication

Finally with this third section I want to look at the question hidden behind this entire discussion: will blogs replace the book? To answer this I want to introduce the new forms of publication: Print on Demand or POD publishers. I will make the suggestion that the democratization that blogging provided for writers has been further established by the development of these POD publishers who will assist independent writers with publishing their books, each POD is different and some bloggers have blogged heavily on which are the good ones and the ones to avoid. Furthermore I want to look back at the journals I described early to discuss the differences between print journals and e-journals. In the end I will suggest that the printed book will continue to exist but its existence will most certainly be challenged by this new community.

·         PODs and traditional publishers

o   This section will focus on the development of POD publishers; I have some that I am looking at specifically to use as explanations for how they work. Also many bloggers have discussed using PODs and have thus incorporated them into the literary blogging community making them important when describing the role that publishers play. I will also discuss that they are still a print service but one created for an internet world. So this small section will have two parts.

o   The history of the PODs

§  This section will provide the history of the POD publications and look at their use today. I will also provide here examples of PODs and talk about how they are used and their popularity among writers.

§  Many articles have been written about how they are affecting more traditional publications.

o   Blogger response to PODs

§  Here I want to briefly address how bloggers are responding and communicating with PODs, many bloggers share their lists of which ones they like and don’t like and so on.

·         Digital publications

o   This section will return to the digital journals I mentioned earlier and discuss them more form the aspect of how they differ from their printed cousins. I want to look at how those differences affect their form, content, and readership. What is also important is to look at how digital writers perceive them. Do writers write differently know that what they are writing will not be printed but rather digitally presented? So to stick with the same form as the previous section this will have two aspects.

o   An aesthetic analysis of the digital journals themselves

§  I am still working on choosing which ones to follow but the idea is to compare them to print journals and look at how they work differently and similarly and what compels these differences or maintains these similarities? Is the medium of the internet being used affectively to establish these journals? Are they just digital replicas of what could be printed?

o   A community analysis

§  Here I want to look at the people who both contribute to these journals and those who subscribe to them. What do bloggers have to say about digital journals? How do writers write differently for them?

·         The Future of the Book

o   With this last section I want to expand the discussion a little to introduce the new Kindle device by Amazon along with some other anecdotes I have come across in regards to digital presentation of literature. Writers are looking to write for digital screens and devices, such as cell phones. I want to engage the reader in thinking about how the book might be affected not by digital publication but simply by digital democracy and community. And were the book to be replaced, would writers then write differently knowing it would never take that form? Will the Kindle change the way we write if it succeeds in changing the way we read?


            Finally with this last section I will conclude the thesis by suggesting that the blog may in fact be a new style of literature, rather than a degradation of language. But I will also look to describe the current literary community both online and off. Two very important points I want to stress here is that even this paper will be dated from the moment it is written and that much of the discussion has been on the potential and not the actual. It is important to concede the point that no work of fiction that has appeared on a blog has had the readership of a New York Times best seller. But like the former point states, this thesis is dated and that might not even be true come March. I want to look at the possible reasons why this is still very much a potential outcome and not an actual one, mostly I will discuss the newness of this medium and that like Film it will need time to establish itself.

·         The power gone bad

o   To start the conclusion I want to share the story of Kaycee Nelson, a fictional character who had a blog and blogged about being a college student with leukemia. She became very famous as her words were extremely encouraging and empowering; she was even quoted by the New York Times. But eventually it came out that she was entirely fictional.

§  Thus I want to talk about how all this creative power can be abused and used to deceive. But on the flip side it is still art, it is shocking like Duchamp was but in a new way. 

·         The potential may or may not become the actual

o   This section as stated above will look at why we are still discussing the potential of blogs and not the actuality of them. Though much of my discussion will be on the actuality very few have utilized blogs to the full extent of the medium and this section will look into why that is. More specifically I want to focus on the theories that suggest this dilemma is due to the newness factor of blogs and that a new medium of art needs time to establish itself before its masterpieces are produced.

·         Final Thoughts

o   This last section is where I will suggest my own opinion that a blog represents a new genre of literature while also suggesting the fact that even my own work is dated in regards to this topic, that tomorrow will bring a totally new perspective. Furthermore I will use my idea of what a blog represents to connect all the elements of this thesis back together, the multimedia aspect, the literary community online, digital journals, public diaries, printing on demand, and everything else back the blog.


Now for a little bit on film.

December 11, 2007

I’ve been avoiding this subject as I find myself split on the issue. Part of me, the forever a kid part of me, loves big blockbuster films, the types of films that employ numerous special effects and great action scenes with good comedy and epic adventures. One such example of a film which ended a trilogy I find myself one of few who enjoyed all three is Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. I know this film was too long for many people and for others it was just too far removed from reality, with all its supernatural elements, that it failed to live up to what the first film had created. But for me it was perfect. I loved that it went too far and was too long and even utilized elements directly from the ride to remove itself a little too much from the rest of Hollywood.


Yes, it did do that! You see when the whole team was entering that weird ghost world called World’s End, there was roughly thirty seconds of white screen with sound bites from the ride itself, having the effect of removing us from the cinematic world and dropping us back in reality, reminding us where this trilogy comes from. This very subtle use of that technique is the trend in cinema I feel has been lost in recent years.


Now enter that other part of me, that part that wants cinema to challenge conventional ideas and especially this superhuman hold that narrative has on film. Why does film have to be a narrative to be a film? The answer is it doesn’t and I’m sure there are many out there that can point me in many directions to films that don’t follow a traditional narrative, but the point I’m trying to make is that a complete removal from narrative makes film video art, and it ends up in museums rather than cinemas. So what I am really asking for is that artistic desire to challenge and push the envelope, that break from rules and traditions that is controlling film so closely these days. I think that no other medium suffers from such a financial hold as film does.


I want to be proven wrong so let the recommendations for “artsy” films start. But also I hate that they have that title, I hate that this traditional narrative form of film has become The norm. No one goes around saying I want “artsy” paintings, painting has retained itself as an art, what happened with film? I’d also suggest that this isn’t limited to film but rather that film has the larges financial hold on it. Music, theater, literature all suffer similar industrial blocks.


Now the better question is are these blocks? Are these media being controlled and suppressed in order to turn a profit and turn are into an industry or rather is the industry where art is today? Perhaps what I am complaining about is no different than someone from the turn of the century complaining about the loss of perspective in modern art, perhaps this entire complaint is no different than those who thought modern art was the end of art. Hmmm can we except that industrialized art is just as much art as those that “do it for the art and not the profit?”


That is a question I leave for the discussion to decide…


Primitively Narrative

December 11, 2007

Modernism, with a capital M, does not define just one artistic movement in just one medium. Modernism has evolved into a term used to describe a “modern” approach to the creation of art, and has thus become representative of a number of movements ranging from Impressionism to Cubism to Primitivism to even the Second Viennese School of Arnold Schoenberg. What is at the root of much of the modernist movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century is a new self awareness when dealing with a specific medium. Artists working in each medium began to look at how that medium acted uniquely in conveying an artistic idea. This new approach allowed for each medium to react to the trends in other media and adapt to its own, in a way that highlights what is unique about that medium. Igor Stravinsky, a Russian composer, and Franz Kafka, a Czech writer, demonstrate two modernist artists who used modernism’s self awareness to develop similar modernist themes in very different media. Igor Stravinsky challenged the narrative-like structure that dominated romantic composters, in The Rite of Spring, to describe his homage to Russian folklore. Franz Kafka challenged our narrative expectations in literature with Metamorphosis to better describe our fractured relationship with nature in modernity. Both works use the unique approach to narrative in their respective mediums to convey the modernist trend of primitivism and to comment on modernity’s influence on society.

Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring combines musically challenging compositions with physically aggressive dance movements to present a primitive scenario. The ballet tells the story of a girl who dances to death in a ritual sacrifice while being watched by elders in a circle. The first performance in Paris in 1913 was originally a ballet with the famous Vaslav Ninjinsky’s choreography and Stravinsky’s music before Walt Disney got his hands on it in 1940. The original work reflected Stravinsky’s love for the folklore traditions of pagan Russia. The concept behind Stravinsky’s ballet is a vision he had where a young maiden is sacrificed for the pagan god of spring. Using this theme as its foundation, the choreography under Ninjinsky greatly departs from a traditional ballet style and uses instead primal styles that favor rhythm and sensual poses. Stravinsky aided this theme through changing the emphasis of the musical score from harmony to rhythm. Rhythm as the driving force allowed for the pieces to be “immediately perceived as a barbaric and violent subversion of an entire musical tradition” (Bethan Jones, 2003). The very thematic choice of this ballet caused an uproar as the audience who, waiting the curtain to rise, was expecting the demure conventions of classical ballet.  The choice represented a desire within contemporary artists to recognize and describe the world before the effects of modernity. Modernity represented a new dependency on technology along with a new sense of over stimulation through this dependency. To artists like Stravinsky, this represented a problem of society, one in which its members were becoming too complacent to the world around them. Stravinsky took it upon himself to break this complacency by shocking the audience in ways only his specific medium could, employing rhythm over melody and utilizing dance moves not traditional to ballet. 

Stravinsky, as a modernist, did more than just choose a “modernist” theme, primitivism, to create a modern composition. The composition itself became modernist through the way it expressed that theme. Using as a foundation the modernist tendency to evolve that which makes each medium unique, Stravinsky explored and then challenged the intensely dominating tendency in music to follow a narrative pattern. With Rite of Spring, the musical emphasis shifts in favor of dissonance, rhythm, and ultimately unpredictability through constantly changing time signatures and off-beat accents. To a member of the audience what this means is that he would not be able to predict the ending of a movement as one typically can with more romantically inclined compositions. A good word used to describe such romantically infused music is “flow” an observer would be able to flow with the music and follow it as it reaches its complication elements and through to its resolutions. Stravinsky recognized this narrative tendency and challenged it by not following the complication elements with resolution. Ultimately Stravinsky created a work of art that was unparalleled in its complexity and thus posed a great challenge to the orchestra which had to learn it.  This idea of describing primitivism by imitating the idea of primitivism in the compositional elements is strictly a modern approach. It utilizes what is unique to the medium of music to express a tendency unique to the time.

Two years later and on the other side of Europe in Prague, a Czech writer was hard at work on what would become one of the most popular examples of utterly disturbing literature today. Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis describes the extremely bizarre story of a man who finds himself transformed into a giant roach-like bug one morning. The story does not, as one would expect, describe how his family helps him to find a way of returning to normal, nor does it describe the undeniable surprise his family should have in discovering his unfortunate predicament. Instead, this disturbing story relates how the family struggled to maintain their lives. The problem came from that fact that as a human, Gregor financially supported his unemployed parents and child aged sister. Thus now that Gregor was a bug, this family had to both take care of him, or try to at least, and secure a new means of financial support. The themes presented in this strange work are reflective of the disconnect in modernist society with nature and the fractured relationships among members of this crowded urban environment. It is not the loss of their son that bothers Gregor’s parents, but rather that now they not only have to find another means of receiving financial support, but they must also put up with a giant cockroach living in one of their bedrooms. It is not the same primitivism that Stravinsky utilizes in his work, and perhaps that is significant in regards to how Modernism affected different media. Kafka does address more directly the primitivist tendency of modernism in other works but here he focuses more on how we can’t react when we lose control of our controlled environments. His choice of a bug for Gregor’s transformation is suggestive of primitivism as well, through the concept of a bug not belonging in modern society. Bugs represent the outside, natural, primal world that is removed by controlling and structuring our own modern world.  But there is a sense of a redeeming quality as well in this work that is triggered by the transformation. Since Gregor can no longer support the family, each member, mother, father, and sister, all are forced to find jobs and reconnect with the outside world. Thus, Gregor’s death at the end of the story “was like a confirmation of [the family’s] new dreams and excellent intentions” (138, Metamorphosis). So perhaps this metamorphosis was exactly what the family needed to return from its isolated spot in modernity. It acted a sudden shock of primal power and catapulted the family from a life of dependency to a life of independence.

To describe this tale of redemption for the Samsa family, Kafka uses a traditional narrative form without ever identifying his narrator. The entire story is described by a voice that is neither sympathetic towards Gregor nor surprised by his transformation. He starts the story plainly with “as Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect” (89, Metamorphosis). The narrator is providing an incredibly bizarre introduction with no emotion; it is very matter-of-factly described as if it is something that just happens at times.  Furthermore, Kafka has chosen to include a reference to “uneasy dreams” from the night before, almost as if to suggest perhaps that whatever happened in those dreams was the cause of this sudden transformation. But no connection is ever made as the night before does not come up again. Gregor spends little time thinking about how it happened and instead works on repositioning himself on his feet rather than his back. What is interesting about this first sentence is Kafka’s play with traditional narrative concepts. Traditionally, when a change of such magnitude is inflicted upon the protagonist, an explanation of why and how that change occurred always follows, yet here we are given neither. He is deliberately playing with the expectations we bring to reading narrative in order to further de-familiarize us with the situation he has imposed. He further manipulates the narrative by focusing the second paragraph on a magazine cut out that Gregor has chosen to frame that displays “a lady, with a fur cap on and a fur stole,” (89, Metamorphosis). This framed magazine clipping is never brought up again in the text and the model displayed in the picture does not relate to Gregor in anyway, save  for Gregor’s primal attraction to her. Instead of giving us clues to Gregor’s predicament, Kafka revels in compounding our confusion by jumping between meaningless objects located in his room and Gregor’s hopeless concerns for getting to work on time. But with greater scrutiny we can deduce that these objects and Gregor’s thoughts are not unrelated to the theme of primitivism, after all we are presented with a woman in fur and a man who is frustrated with modernity. It is that frustration that opens the door to the fascination with primitivism and the relationship between modern man and primal man. A woman in fur works to remind Gregor and the reader about that primal sexual relationship not discussed in modern society. Thus just as primitivism subverts the customs and traditions of contemporary society, Kafka subverts the customs and traditions of narrative to describe this primitivism.

Kafka as a writer and Stravinsky as a composer both find unique ways in their media to disrupt narrative traditions and subvert cultural customs by introducing primitivism. Music, being inherently abstract, works with a distinctly primitive narrative story to break away from the narrative traditions in composing musical melodies. Literature on the other hand begins as a rather literal form of artistic expression and thus uses more subtle themes of primitivism to break away from its narrative customs. Both artists use our expectations against us to challenge the way we interact with their works, but where Kafka does it to further distance us from what is happening in his story, Stravinsky does it to better connect us to the intensely rhythmic production being displayed on stage. This difference comes from music’s inherent abstractness and literature’s inherent literalness. With modernism as a new approach to art, the idea of using the theme of primitivism allowed artists to comment on the frustrations with modernity in contemporary society. Fundamental to this approach is a self awareness of the medium; it is in this aspect that the two works become different, despite their similar themes. A modernist must seek to explore what makes his medium unique. In that respect each of these two artists broke from the traditions imposed on them through the narrative expectations of each medium. Thus both artists were able to explore primitivism and modernity by manipulating that which is fundamentally to their medium.

Narratology enters the blogosphere

November 23, 2007

I would like to change gears a little bit here and delve into a conversation on Narratology, a relative new field dealing with narrative and its transmedial aspects. A leading author on the topic, Marie-Laure Ryan, defines a new definition of narratology for the contemporary transmedial world of today in her book Avatars of Story. I would like to start by quoting her definition of story and narrative:


“Story, like narrative discourse, is a representation, but unlike discourse it is not a representation encoded in material signs. Story is a mental image, a cognitive construct that concerns certain types of entities and relations between these entities. Narrative may be a combination of story and discourse, but it is its ability to evoke stories to the mind that distinguishes narrative discourse from other text types.” (p5, Avatars of Story)


Using this definition we can expand the concept of narrative to include more abstract media such as music, where the story is not specifically established but rather our absorption of the melodies are interpreted through narrative means. Ryan acknowledges this through identifying the terms we use to describe musical narrative such as exposition, complication, and resolution. What I find extremely intriguing about her approach to narrative is that she sees it more as a scalar rather than a binary feature. Basically she is of the mind that rather than being or not being a narrative, something (that being a musical score to a novel to a film) falls under a level of narrativity, basically it has a level of storiness that makes it more or less a narrative. What is useful about this definition, and this relates to a recent comment made on my Art or art post by Kaz, is that it removes the debate on whether something is or isn’t a narrative and places the emphasis on how different narratives relate.

            This will become extremely important when we start to look at how the internet functions as a medium of artistic expression. The internet will allow for the audience to become participants in a much more constructive and collaborative way. I bring this up because I think that the exploration of narratology, the storiness of a work of are despite the medium, will have a big impact in looking at how blogs will function as their own style of literature. It is the thesis of my thesis that blogs should be treated as a new genre of writing, something to be compared with poetry or pros. I believe that the largest element that differs the blog from other forms of literature is the blog’s ability to allow for collaborative creation. Unfortunately one only speaks in potentials at this stage and my research has yet to show me established artistic blogs, comparable to say the New York Times Best Seller List, but I doubt that that is entirely true so I ask my readership for help at this point. Show me the hidden treasures of the blogosphere.



Narrative Blogs

November 17, 2007

Narratology, ie the study of narrative, is fairly new and somewhat controversial in the world of critical theory. For reasons that I am only beginning to understand, narratology takes the point of view that a narrative, that which is loosely defined as a story, can exist in any medium, that even music follows a narrative pattern, classical music that is. They are not saying that all music is a narrative at its base but they are saying that a narrative can exist in music and can be expressed by it. Now this idea becomes very interesting because it is something that connects all forms of art. Perhaps the only thing beyond the title of art and the various descriptions of different movements, is narrative. Does it truly exist and some super connection between mediums?

Well I bring this up now because in placing blogs as a medium we have to make sure they fit this mold, and obviously enough they do. However there is something interesting in blogs, that is their innate ability to disrupt one chain of thought with the hyperlink. Blogs being based on hypertext fundamentally do not have to follow a narrative path. Now one could argue that that is true as well as the narrative existence in a blog, that they both can exist, like classical and modern compositions are both music yet one doubles as a narrative. And that is true. But the existence of classical music as a narrative was designed that way, and introduced to its audience that way. Blogs cannot be compared to that because they work fundementally different. When one stumbles upon a blog they rarely stumble upon that first post, I know for myself I did not start receiving views until I posted on journalism, thus it is extremely rare for someone to start reading a blog with the start of the blogs narrative, but not impossible. However this brings up a very important difference between blogs and almost all other types of art, the interaction with the reader. Blogs are not stand alone art works, they exist as art based on their interaction with readers. This last point is very debatable, but what isn’t is that blogs are not linear, even if the creator’s intent is a linear blog, few readers will approach it as such.

A second interesting difference or rather challenge to the idea of narrative in blogs is the influence of the comments, if you have a blogger who is slowly publishing a novel through their blog by publishing each chapter, say each week, that narrative they are developing will be interrupted by the commentary received through replies to the posts.  Yes it is still a narrativ, but it is an evolving narrative, one that one could say is self reflexive, always evolving and reestablishing itself.

These ideas of mine, that of comparing blogs to narratology, are not just my own but rather represent my initial thoughts upon starting to read Avatars of Story by Marie-Laure Ryan, a narratologist with some very interesting ideas.