My self-directed independent study of Bakhtin continued this week with Sue Vice’s Introducing Bakhtin. I’ve been thinking about how and where Bakhtin’s ideas may be useful for understanding the blogs I have been reading. Here’s a very preliminary sketch:
Bakhtin calls for attention to relationships between style and content, form and ideology. Much of the research I’ve seen on mommy blogs looks at content. In the broader literature on blogs more generally, I’ve seen studies that examine technological form. I want to explore convergences between content and form and to look at form not only in terms of technological affordances, but also language style. Bakhtin has ideas about how to do that, including attention to genres, languages, styles, and their association with particular social positions.
Bakhtin takes a social view of meaning as situated within temporal and contextual connections. Blogs have potential for connectivity and interactivity so a framework that emphasizes dialogic meaning seems especially appropriate. For example, how does the unfolding of content in a blog, along with archiving and linking, connect with Bakhtin’s ideas about utterances orienting to previous and future utterances? How do links and comments amongst bloggers create a kind of dialogism?
With respect to the particular blogs I am reading, there are competing Discourses surrounding motherhood and surrounding autism. I came to Bakhtin seeking insight into the interrelationships among competing Discourses–not just THAT competing discourses were present (a conclusion drawn in quite a few studies) but how they interrelate and what kinds of textual strategies have potential to open up alternative discourses rather than reverting to the dominant one. How does this map onto Bakhtin’s notions of heteroglossia, both within the writing of a particular blog but also through the text that is created with links, comments, archives, blog rolls and the like?
How might the notion of the chronotype capture some of the ways the blogs I study are talking about time and development? How does the temporal structure that is distinctive to blogs connect to chronotype? How do connections across space and through time shape the dialogic meanings and structure of the blogs I am studying? Does Bakhtin provide tools for thinking about the form and content of the journey metaphor as an alternative to conventional trajectories of child development?
I’m curious what Bakhtin might make of blogs as a genre. There are debates about whether blogs constitute a genre; amongst those authors that say it does, how do the generic features they identify compare to the novel and to Bakhtin’s ideas about the potential for dialogism? I am discovering that Bakhtin had definite ideas about how and why novels were particularly amenable to dialogism. I wonder what he would make of blogs.
Dear reader, comments are enabled. My independent study would benefit from a bit of group discussion and/or expert input.