What is Blogging?

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SWBAT understand the purpose of blogs, as well as something of their rich, history as a written form

Big Idea

... the web-log (blog) is one enduring web-based writing format ... learn how to utilize it!

Context and Background

6 minutes

I discovered just the other day that blogging is only slightly older than my seniors, members of the class of 2014, born in 1995 or 1996.  Blogging began in, probably, 1994.  I share this fact with my students as a way of cultivating interest -- how neat to study an artifact of your own life’s brief history!

Blogging is legion on today’s internet; in fact so much so, that the lines between Commentary and News Story and Essay and Blog are very, very blurry and becoming so difficult to discern that it soon will not be worth making any distinctions.

For purposes of Adv. Comp., though, I want students to approach their blogging for our course in the old pre-Drudge Report sense of a web “diary” or “journal.”  Indeed, I want them to develop a personal voice across their several posts for the Research Notebook under the “My Research Blog” page.  In order to do this, though, I find it important to understand something of the history of the medium, so I provide an “interactive” lecture/talk, as outlined in the following section.

Interactive Lecture

28 minutes

After my short opening remarks, I plunge into an “interactive” lecture or talk, guided by my own blog post of 9 October 2013.  I’m speaking about the history of blogging in a blog post -- HA, get it?

As I read through my notes, I ask students to follow my links in INDIVIDUAL tabs.  This request becomes more apparent in the section that follows.

[my post of 9 October 2013]

During the course of the semester, I will ask you to add entries to your "Research Blog" -- the first entry regarding your Editorial is forthcoming soon.  In order to write quality entries, I find it appropriate to know something about the history of blogging and understand who (or maybe what) is influential in the "blogosphere." 

The term blog was coined in 1997 by internet phenom and self-made, Chicago writer Jorn Barger who frequently "logged the web" or "web-logged" in his early uber-blog "Robot Wisdom." (Later, the longer iteration, "web-log" was simply shortened to "blog.")  

Barger named the new writing style, but its first practitioner (of repute) was another Chicago native Justin Hall. Hall started an online diary. "Justine's Links from the Underground" in 1994 while attending Swarthmore College.  Hall still actively blogs (and how cool is it that his site url is, simply, links.net?).

Hall, along with others, were simply prolific, "web-site-updaters" during a time when web-authoring required some, at least, rudimentary knowledge of coding and the use of FTP, and, during the period of internet development between 1994 and 1999 Hall and his compatriots were more or less writing, rewriting, and overwriting HTML files.  Think of this process as writing, rewriting, and overwriting a Word doc., say, that you send via email to the same people over and over again each week.

However, in the late 1990s, improvements to software (or more aptly internet browser functionality) coupled with improvements in the stability of the internet, led to actual "posting" or "logging" capabilities, and the era of the ubiquitous WYSIWYG was born.  One of the earliest iterations of this newer technology, launched in 1999, was blogger.com from Pyra labs, and, in an endorsement of the future-leaning of blogging itself, internet colossus Google purchased blogger.com a mere four years later in 2003.

From 1999/2000 until about 2009, or roughly the first ten years of broader appeal and increasing use, blogging was generally an individual writing activity.  However, now, most influential bloggers are part of "multi-author blogs" (MAB) like "The Huffington Post," "Mental Floss," "Talking Points Memo," and "Gawker."  Also, most major, traditional newspapers have bloggers or use blogging as part of their general news reporting; David Pogue, a technology writer for The New York Times, is an excellent example of a traditional newspaper columnist who has adapted to the only-slightly-different-pose of a blogger. 

Many have commented on the increasingly useless game of labeling web-based writing as either "journalism" or merely "blogging."  The prolific and highly influential Andrew Sullivan, formerly of the MAB "The Daily Beast" has made a notable career eschewing traditional print forms altogether.

Adding New Interests

18 minutes

After my talk, I have students, depending on the time remaining in the period, add three - five NEW URLs to their “Research Interest List” (for the web Notebook).  Obviously, the fact that they have opened all of the links from my talk in new tabs, makes this easier for them to complete.  

I circulate around the room encouraging, questioning, and observing their list additions up until the final bell.

As an important caveat, I should mention that adding URLs to the "Research Interest List" is, of course, optional.  Again, as with the previous lesson, the point is simply to ask student to "keep track" of their new "finds" in some format that is conducive to ease of reuse.  Have students add these new "finds" to Evernote, MS One Note, a Google Doc table, etc.