I started reading and writing about mom blogs in 2010, when they were firmly established as a thriving part of popular culture. Scholarly publication moves more slowly than self-publication, and so the books and articles declaring mommy blogs “radical feminist acts” were just coming out, among them “The Radical Act of ‘Mommy Blogging’: Redefining Motherhood through the Blogosphere” (Lopez, 2009) and Mothering and Blogging: The Radical Act of the Mommy Blog (Friedman & Calixte, 2009). My own writing about this moved even more slowly. I was attempting to remake myself from a mixed-methods social scientist into a feminist critic while directing a campus advising program and then chairing a department. And mothering. And teaching new course preps in social media, feminist theory, and narrative rhetoric. Before I knew it, the blogs I was studying were changing and the tenor of the scholarly conversation turned less celebratory.
Last year, one of several lengthy and constructive reviews of my work remarked: “…mommy blogs are a bit passe…the author would need to reframe this study as being oriented toward documenting internet history.” My first reaction: “What?! How can you say that the blogs that fascinate me are no longer relevant?!” And then: “Hmmm. What would it look like to reframe what I have as moments in the fast-moving streams of media, motherhood, and autism?” And then: “Maybe what is most interesting about these blogs is not only what they did at some moment but what it was that enabled that moment, and then disabled it in fairly short order?”
Every semester since 2011, Day Three of my social media class begins with this quotation: “We can’t talk about consequences if we can’t articulate capabilities. What is it about these media that changes interaction and, potentially, relationships?” (Baym, 2015, p. 6). Specific platforms come and go but if we can identify the kinds of technological affordances and practices that facilitate interaction, that knowledge may last longer than the platform. It may be that the blogging moment that so fascinated me has passed (although I will explore, rather than simply accept, this supposition). I do not wish to attempt yet another self-re-invention as media historian; instead, I aim to examine how particular capabilities of blogging platforms and the bloggers who used them intersected with a particular set of personal, social, and political circumstances to produce a set of narratives that were (and are) personally and politically empowering.
And I have also decided to see what it would look like to do this in a format inspired by blogging. I hope that eventually these words will appear on a printed page in a bound volume but they will start, here, in electronic space and I intend for the final product to resemble some of the attributes I find most striking in the best blogs: a sequence of short reflections, written in a lively voice that blends analysis with experience, that curates contributions from other writers. A book can’t quite capture the interactive comments and links that a blog enables and it is quite likely that this blog will not produce the kind of lively interaction I have seen in the blogs I study. Nonetheless, I hope to play with possibilities. I wish to produce scholarship that is broadly accessible and egalitarian in its “use” of others’ stories. I also hope that the experience of producing the book as a blog first will be part of the multifaceted ethnographic approach in which this research is grounded, that thinking and writing about how the medium influences the message will be enhanced by doing this work in a blog that morphs into a book.