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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hallowed Ground Sacred Journeys

So, I work at BYU.

The project that I've been spending over a year working on is starting to go up now. Enjoy.

Which church history site would you like to see?

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Day C. Jane Came Clean

Last night I had a rare and beautiful opportunity. C Jane Kendrick of the blog C JANE ENJOY IT came to my class and spoke about her experience blogging. The day before she came she tweeted something that made me nervous,

Yeep... as many of you know I use the term "mommy blogger" a lot. I love the term. I think that can be empowering. Mommy blogs are a radical action, which endows women with the ability to embrace the impossible act of motherhood and be OK with failure. I had just taught the class all about "mommy blogs". How was I going to pull this one off...

Luckily, I found that C Jane and I have a similar view, although our semantics are very different. Mommy blogs that are not an accurate representation of motherhood (either in a utopian or dystopian way) are not empowering. What is empowering, however, is C Jane. She stated her purpose as a blogger as, "to portray a Mormon woman who doesn't conform to the cultural stereotype and is OK with it. I only say that mission because it is my mission in real life." I get that. I've lived in Provo for the past few years. Mormon women often present themselves as perfect, or at least feel pressure to be perfect from the world around them. It is a classic example of "New Momism" in action. I have seen women who are feel pressure to conform to the social stereotypes in Utah County. They feel guilty because they do not fit into this picture perfect representation of how Mormon women are "supposed to be". It can consume them.

"My goal is always to represent myself as a see myself. That is always my goal." She wants to be "an authentic woman inside her own culture". She sees many women in the blogosphere as inauthentic. They present their hoped-for selves, but either they either refuse to see or refuse to admit that there is anything wrong in their life. C Jane is going against these representations. For the most part she is getting support for it, however, there are always those that will disagree. When she began blogging these antagonists bothered her and it affected the way that she wrote. However, she claimed last night that, "I'm not scared of this [anymore]". She disabled comments on her blog and only allows people to email, Facebook, or tweet responses to her. This forces at least some sense of authenticity from her readers. Even when she does receive negative feedback she realized that it is not the amount of positive or negative feedback that indicates her effectiveness as a blogger. It is the amount of feedback. The more feedback she gets the more her posts resonates with people.

For many women in the Provo area going against their culture can equate to going against their faith. However, C Jane stated, "I have a core, strong testimony about the gospel, but I don't have a testimony of our culture." The culture and the faith are not the same. There is often slippage. That is why she helped found the Rooftop Concert Series, that is why she blogs, that is her message to the world. Just because you are an LDS woman doesn't mean that you have to be perfect. It doesn't mean that you have to submit yourself to the patriarchal order of our culture. "If we were all to live our religion, then there would be a lot more women who are far more empowered." As a mother she states that woman are not to, as is taught in the primary song, "give oh give away" until you are burnt out and useless (that last part is NOT in the song...). "The best approach to motherhood is to focus on yourself. What can I do so that I'm a happy mom? What can I do, for myself, so that I can give?" Focus on finding yourself first. Once you know who you are, what you need, and what you can handle you can help your family.

Perhaps this is why C Jane believes, "that my mission as a blogger is not the same as a mommy blogger." The balance of mommy bloggers is greatly weighted towards utopian mommy bloggers who present their lives perfectly. She views the term as something that corporations coined for marketing purposes. The commercialization has changed blogging from personal narrative and prose to the misleading personal presentations of womanhood. "There is such a temptation to present yourself as perfect online, it is... prevalent in female blogging," she stated, "Especially in the female realm, blogging has been disappointing."

C Jane, obviously, is not perfect. She is often misinterpreted or misconstrued in her writing or vloging. "I'm trying to give as much of me that is truth, but I can't give everything." All we see are fragments of who she is. She said of her followers, "It turns out that nobody really knows me." All they know is the digital representation of her that she portrays for them.

Thank you C Jane. Thank you for your honesty, both last night and on your blog. You are fighting an uphill battle for the representation of women in the blogosphere. You are not alone.

All quotes were taken from a lecture C Jane gave at BYU the night of October 20th, 2011.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New Newsfeed

Over the past couple of days Facebook has changed. For my wife, it happened months ago. When it first happened she hated it. It was all over the place, Posts didn't make sense. Everything was jumbled. However, as other features were added to Facebook, especially the added emphasis on lists, were added on then everything clicked. All of their recent updates have blended together to create a symphony that allows users to better follow their friends.

Now, before you grab your pitchfork and storm the castle lets look at the new layout and how these features blend together. First, let's look at the new newsfeed.

At the top you'll notice that the "Most Recent" button is no more. That honestly made me a little bit sad. I loved looking at my most recent button. For many of you you'll see "Top Stories" listed at the very top. You also might saw "Why is there so many random stories listed as top stories". The long complicated answer that Facebook gave us was " When you pick up a newspaper after not reading it for a week, the front page quickly clues you into the most interesting stories... Now, News Feed will act more like your own personal newspaper. You won't have to worry about missing important stuff. All your news will be in a single stream with the most interesting stories featured at the top" (blog.facebook.com).  You're own personal newspaper? Really? What's a newspaper? Okay, let's translate that into something that we can understand. Through an algorithm based on the number of likes, comments, and type of post it is.  It may also have something to do with the number of mutual friends you have with the author of the post and your interaction with that author.

If you do not like what kind of content is being marked as a "top story” then they have made it easy to change. Simply, you must click on the blue corner in the upper left of the post. If you want a post to be marked as a top story then you click on the top left corner and it will label it for you. The more that you do this the better the algorithms will be. Therefore the most important information will be the first information that you get.

Now onto their answer for the most recent button: the Ticker. The ticker provides real time updates about your friends' activity. You can then scroll through those posts and if you see something that interests you then you simply hover over it to see the post, see the comments to that post, and a place to comment on that post. It places all of the information associated with that post.

So, have you ever just wanted to know what was happening with friends in your area or perhaps your family? Facebook has now brought a feature into prominence that makes this easier: lists. They sorted your friends that have already established a relationship with you, either through work or family or education or geographic location. Now, these lists can be changed, deleted, added, and customized in every way. Yes, this is a supposed rip off of Google+. However, I will stand by the idea that lists have been a part of Facebook for a couple of years, they're just bringing them to the forefront of their service (in response to Google+).

Have a family reunion that you need to advertise but don't want all of your friends to be bothered by your constant announcements? Click on your "Family" list and update your status to that list. This can also be done from your main newsfeed.

Now, onto one more feature of lists that I think is way cool: the "Subscribe" button. 

Ever wanted to find out what was going on with a celebrity without all of the crap that fans post on the fan page? Now you can click on the subscribe button on their personal page. Then, when they post something publicly that post appears in your newsfeed. This is awesome for so many reasons. The boundaries between celebrity and fan are breaking down. They're becoming more accessible.  In the future I see CEOs of major companies and political leaders breaking down their boundaries through Facebook. This feature has been around on Twitter and Google+ for a while granted, but it's one of the most powerful aspects of social media: the ability to connect with people who previously were unreachable.

Now, Facebook is going to change again. Soon. Tomorrow. However, I feel safe in saying that the new features will only add to what has already been done. If you are interested in some concrete hypothesizes about the future changes I recommend this post: http://www.staynalive.com/2011/09/youve-heard-rumors-here-are-few.html

What do you think of the new Facebook?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

3 Things Google+ Needs to Realize to Maintain a Social Network

1.     Social Networks are More about Sociology and Psychology than Technology
The idea of putting people into circles is great on paper. It allows for complete control of privacy. However, Facebook had to change their entire friend request system because people were panicking about friend rejections. They changed the response to a friend request from a “yes” or “no” to a “yes” or “not now”. It seems silly, I know, but it’s real. Lumping someone into a “acquaintance” or some other category will cause people this same angst. What if someone fits into multiple circles? I know that you can place someone in as many circles as you want, but the idea of categorizing all of your friends frightens some people.
2.     Monetization is essential, even if you’re Google.
We all understand that monetization is going to happen. Google advertising tactics have literally revolutionized the advertising world. I assume that advertising on Google+ is going to be much like that on Gmail or the searches. However, they need to realize that people expect that and a bad advertising layout will drive people away and from the look of it I cannot for the life of me figure out where they are going to go. On the right hand side? Maybe? I don’t know.  Just don’t get us used to no advertisements and then spring them all over the site.
3.     Remember, it’s a Social Network, not a Google+ Forum.
Maybe it’s just my feed or maybe it’s because the first people that you let on were all techies, but all that anyone ever talks about on Google+ is Google+. It’s becoming a technology forum. It’s going to continue as you release new features that fully integrate Google with Plus. We all know that Google Calendar and Maps and every single Google side project will become integrated. You’re trying to centralize the Internet experience. This will keep perpetuating itself as more invites get shared and people relearn the ins and outs of the site. However, people will become bored with all of the talk about Google. I know I am.  If you’re trying to keep people talking about Plus you will turn off a lot of users. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Online Identity: It's Your Choice

Well, well, well... so much for posting about this two weeks ago and so much for this series. June has come and gone way too fast. However, as promised I wanted to talk about how I believe personal Internet identity is all about choice and how Facebook is not bringing the downfall of marriages, employment, and digression. Wow, a pretty hefty task... I'm not sure I'm up to this right now.

I get really tired of people thinking that everyone else controls their online identity. They live in fear that an embarrassing picture of them is going to be posted online. I've actually heard of people who choose to withdraw from real world engagements because they fear that their actions will be broadcast online. The thought of their digital identity being tainted by someone else scares them to death.

To put it nicely these people are ignorant (wait... was that nice?).

Now before you respond by saying it's unfair that my actions in the digital sphere can affect those in reality and that I have no control over what other people post about me online let me proclaim fervently that you are in control of your image. You have two choices.

One: don't do anything you wouldn't want to be posted online. This does not mean that you do not attend social functions. It means that if you do not want people to see that embarrassing picture of you drunk at last night's party then don't get drunk at last nights party (or at least make sure no one takes a picture).

Two: Facebook has a handy button below everything tagged with you in it "Remove Tag". You can also ban certain people from tagging you in photos or outright ban everyone all at once. You can set it so only certain people can see your photos, statuses, posts, etc. Or you can even say that certain people can only see specific posts. Therefore ensuring that your grandmother won't know about anything that you won't want her knowing.

Ultimately you are in control of what information is available to you online. If you don't want it there don't allow it to be posted, or better yet, don't compromise your image by participating in activities contrary to what others think about you. It takes effort, time, and a quick click of the finger sometimes, but it is possible. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Facebook and Privacy

I was talking to my wife earlier this week about our style of parenting for a paper that she wrote. We don't have any kids at the moment so it involved a lot of hypothetical situations and discussion about worst-case scenarios and a lot of tangents. One of these tangents was about a seminary lesson I had my junior year of High School. My teacher told us about "the privacy of a public place". Now this lesson was in relation to having intimate conversations while removing temptation, but it got me thinking about privacy on the Internet, especially Facebook.

The Internet is perhaps the most private public place (Or is it the most public private place?) available for the general populous today. There have been many cases of people posting private pictures online only to face real life repercussions from these images. Perhaps the most infamous of these situations was when Stacey Snyder was denied a teaching certificate when she posted a picture of herself titled "Drunken Pirate" on her Myspace page. What role does privacy play online?

Facebook has some of the most intricate privacy controls available on a social network. Every aspect of your profile page can be monitored to the point that one can assign individuals that can view (or not view) content on his or her page. However, Facebook has not always handled privacy issues with the most grace. In 2009 the launched a new privacy policy that set all users privacy settings so everyone could see everything by default. In 2006 there were protests when Facebook launched the newsfeed, and everything you did was published on one page. However, both of these incidents were handled appropriately. The news feed was left alone and people accepted it. The privacy policy rollout was apologized for and users were notified of the change.

This week there was a change in Facebook that caused quite a stir. They released a photo recognition feature to facilitate tagging in photos world wide (the service has been available in the US since January. Again, I will admit, Facebook stumbled on its release, setting everyone to allow this feature to tag pictures of themselves (except incidentally those that did not allow themselves to be tagged in any photo). The question of the day, however, is it a stumble? Why would Mark and the rest of the Facebook team want this to be an automatic feature? It couldn't possible be because it is useful and kind of awesome. It's like the Newsfeed. People got scared of the easy access of the information. In other words, they are scared of the public nature of the private place.

People want to be in control of their online identities. They want to be able to prohibit anyone from being able to disagree with them or post a semi-scandalous image of them. For good reason too. There are the Stacey Snyders in the world. There is a solution, one that I will talk about more next week: the need to constantly monitor your online identity. You decide what stays and what goes.

What are your thoughts on privacy online?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Facebook Friday: My Facebook Identity

So, I make it a habit to explore Facebook's privacy and account settings every few months and today I discovered something fantastic. You can download all of the content that you've posted on Facebook... ever. This means that all of those mobile pictures that you sent to facebook on your old phone can be downloaded easily to your computer in a matter of minutes. To do this simply go to Account Settings and click the button "Download Your Information". Let me tell you, its a riot. I've spent the better part of the evening going through ALL of my wall posts. Ever (except for some reason relationship statuses are not on there... odd... I guess the people at Facebook figure you don't want to remember all of the breakups you've had). Anyway, as I was reading through this history I noticed a shift in how I presented myself online.

(First Wall Post)
N. M. No one has been on your wall? Well I'll be the first then. And if I'm not the first just act like I'm the first one k? So I thought of you today cause I just got done reading one EXCITING chapter of BIO! I saw a picture of a flagella and IMMEDIATELY thought of u! haha..Aww pearson I miss ya buddy! How's school going for you so far?
September 2, 2006 at 6:18 pm

(First Status)
David Pearson is falling asleep...
September 7, 2006 at 11:05 am

(Favorite Wall Post)
S. N. DAVID! Just a friendly note to remind you not to kill youself, burn down a forest or have a friendly rondez-vous with a moose. 

P.S You are your roommates are NUTS!

November 8, 2006 at 4:16 pm

After perusing through my first year on Facebook I remembered how much I used to write notes. I had just come from Myspace and loved the note taking feature there. It seems strange that I never use that feature anymore. I guess its because I have a blog now... yeah, that's it. However, without this tool the medium changed. Facebook became a place, not to inform others of my thoughts and feelings, but rather a place to present an image of myself. It became, like Zuckerberg often describes Facebook, a "utility" for personal expression.

Anyway, time rolled on and I went on my mission. To Facebook I was pretty much dead. The only activity was a couple of photos tagged, a ton of birthday posts, and about a billion friend requests. Then...

David Pearsonis home.
July 8, 2009 at 5:31 pm 

While I was gone Facebook changed dramatically. They took the "is" off of statuses. It became a platform. They made the wall more conversational, so there are significantly less wall posts. These changes in the medium changed the message that I presented online. I monitored the content on my wall. I changed my privacy settings. It gets sparce from here. I had developed a filter on what content I published on Facebook for a couple of reasons. One, I was older, more responsible, and thought more about my e-identity. Two, Facebook opened to the public while I was gone. My parents were my friends. My Bishop was my friend. I saw that what I posted online directly impacted my real life. It was no longer a different person. The two worlds merged. 

Anyway, I came back to BYU and became a Media Arts major. I quickly realized that making films was not for me.

David Pearson uploaded a video to YouTube.
This is the short film that I made for my media arts application. It didn't turn out of cool as I wanted, but it still looks good.
 November 3, 2009 at 9:59 pm

David Pearson never knew what the weeding out process was until he started classes this semester.
January 8, 2010 at 6:15 pm

David Pearson is grateful for digital editting. Although it still took him 6+ hours to edit 4 and a half minutes of film.
February 4, 2010 at 5:12 pm

During that time I started dating the woman that would later turn into my wife. I'm going to digress and show of some of the clever statuses from this time of my life.

David Pearson Thanks J M for the great night!
January 23, 2010 at 2:30 am

David Pearson is lucky. Thought everyone should know.
February 11, 2010 at 1:10 am

David Pearson She said YES!
April 13, 2010 at 11:12 pm

David Pearson "Hold on, I'm still fontasizing." - J M while adjusting fonts for our announcements.
May 1, 2010 at 4:09 pm

David Pearson Announcements. Check. License. Check. Beautiful bride to be. Check.
July 1, 2010 at 12:00 pm

July 6, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Somewhere during that time I realized that I like people far to much to make films. I want to study them. However, I also love the media. That's when it hit me. Social Media. It is the perfect combination of Media/Man interaction. It allows me to focus on media while looking at how it impacts both individuals and cultures.


As I've thought about this post for almost three weeks I've realized that Zuckerberg is right. Facebook is a utility, not in the sense that it can help build a house or fix an engine (although I suppose it can). Rather it helps users communicate who they want to be. Zuckerberg once said that he wants there to be only one identity. There is not the person you are at work and the person you are at home and the person you are online. There is only one of you. This choice is not, however, just to present an accurate persona of yourself online. This choice is to use utilities and tools found online to shape the person you are offline. Facebook, and other social networks, allow people around the world to define who they want to be. This process has contributed to the democratization of the world in cultures' eyes. If a person is able to choose his or her identity then he or she can change the world around them. So yes, you only have one identity. However, it is up to us to decide on what it is. 

What has your experience with Facebook been? How has your Internet identity changed?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Facebook's Success

If you're like most people you check Facebook on a daily basis. It is literally a worldwide phenomenon. As of the beginning of the year there were 500 million members worldwide (350 million of them outside of the united states). When it was founded it went viral faster than any other website has ever spread. Within ten days of opening up at Stanford 85% of the population was actively checking their accounts every day. Within ten months there were 1 million users (and that was when only college students could access the site). Today over half of all users log onto Facebook.com daily. The average user spends nearly 24 hours per month on the site. How did this site become so popular so quickly? How has it captivated our attentions so thoroughly that the world has become obsessed with the site? Perhaps a brief lesson on the history of social networking will help us understand why Facebook succeeded while hundreds of other social networks fell by the wayside.

The first true social network, SixDegrees.com, was founded in 1997.  It allowed people to connect to each other in order to figuratively shrink the world, making the degrees of separation contract between individuals. However, it ended after a short run and was never very successful. After its disintegration social networks were largely limited minority groups or special interest unions. In 1999, Livejournal.com, the world's first weblog site was formed and became the first widely successful social network. That was really it for nearly three years, the only option people had was either to participate in special interest groups or write an online diary. However, in 2002 Friendster.com launched and the world saw a shift in social media. The Internet became a place to meet new people, to connect with old friends, and develop romantic relationships. However, Friendster.com became so popular it couldn't keep its servers running long enough for people to truly commit to the site. Myspace.com was founded in 2003 and quickly overtook its competition. Young people everywhere flocked to Myspace because they could personalize their pages (a feature that at first was discovered through a security glitch in the site). It also contained easy to use browse features so that people from all over the world could make connections with others who shared the same interests.

Then, in 2004, thefacebook.com was launched in Harvard. Within a few days the campus was saturated. A few months after that and over 25 campus around the country were actively involved in the website and after the summer over 100 universities, with an ever increasing number of universities. Myspace and Friendster were becoming things of the past. In 2006 Facebook opened its doors to everyone and became one of the most frequented sites online. With all of the growth that it faced, even in its infancy, Facebook never once went down. Its servers never crashed, its lights never once went off. A large part of this was because they could control how and when a new school would be "turned on". So they could set their servers up for the sudden growth. However, there is one reason that it has outlasted all other social networks.

Facebook is not a place to meet people. It was never designed that way. Myspace, Friendster, and even Sixdegrees.com were places to meet people. It was a place to make connections. Facebook is about maintaining friendships. It helps people to maintain friendships that they have offline. You may not know these people well, but you met them in real life. By adding them as a friend on Facebook you are vesting interest in their lives. They're not some imaginary friends that you can forget about just as easily as you found them. No other site has done this as cleanly and as simply. I'm not sure if any other site will.

Since them Facebook has become a place for developing programmers to release their products. It has become a catalyst for real world revolutions; it has become a reference for future employers. In many ways, it has defined our generation.

What has your experience with social media been like?

Here's a video for you. It's just cool.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mediate Gender: Performing New Momism in the Blogosphere (Part 4)

True New Momism: Marriage Confessions

            Katie Brown has been blogging for nearly four years. Her blog covers the span of two children, one major move, and a whole lot of fights between husband and wife. Over the years her site has gained the theme of "Laugh. Fight. Stay Married". She admits,

I’m not a marriage expert. I’m not the best example of motherhood. But I live and learn and then spill my guts about it here in my own little corner of Cyber Land. I may not have all the answers, I may not make all the right decisions, but I’ll share every step of my journey with you so we can learn and grow together (Brown, "Home", 2011).

            Her blog provides the requirement for new momism, "that no woman is truly complete or fulfilled without kids" (Douglas and Michaels, 2004:4). However, it counters the idea that new momism "promulgates standards or perfection that are beyond [mother's] reach" (p. 5).  In a recent post she talked how her relationship with her husband, Chris, has changed since having their second baby. She fully admits that it becomes much harder for relationships to develop and grow with children. There simply isn't the time to cultivate their relationship with their kids. To add to the potential problems, "in the middle of the night when we wake up for feedings and we’re tired and we’re cranky, it’s hard not to take sharp, pointed criticisms personally" (Brown, "Euphoria", 2011). This was pointed out again in a recent experience she blogged about where she discusses an argument she had with her husband in the middle of the night while he was taking care of their daughter Gracie (Brown, "In My Dreams", 2011). However, even with these changes she admits that the good greatly outweighs the bad. More poignantly she states, " If you’re really, really lucky, your life will never be the same" (Katie, "Euphoria", 2011).
            The Browns present readers with a far from an ideal marriage on their blog. They openly discuss fights and arguments online. They've battled with depression and feeling they're loosing their identity through their children. They've had their house broken into, lost their jobs, struggled to find daycares, moved across the country (giving up prominent positions in Connecticut) just to be closer to family. Their son, Michael (referred to as Bean on the site), has developed a more needy attitude since Gracie was born. However, it is clear to see that Katie is fulfilled through her children. She is living the ideal new mom life. She is a professional. She is a mother. She does not shirk any responsibilities in either sphere of her life. However, she makes no attempts to hide her dirty living room while taking pictures. She makes no attempts to pretend her marriage is perfect. She makes no attempts to idealize her problems. She is honest in her representation of herself.


            Motherhood is a complex structure in society. It contains many facets and diverse representations. New momism problematizes many of these facets of motherhood by attempting to pigeonhole motherhood into a June Cleaver model of parenting. While many mommy bloggers chose to directly support or contest new momism there are some mothers that are able to present a different view of it. They provide examples of how motherhood and family relations are both fulfilling and imperfect. They present motherhood as a "radical act" that is powerful because of the imperfections and shortcomings of mothers. These women perform their gender roles imperfectly because gender itself is an imperfect role. Women are pulled from two opposing camps, one which they are told that family and child rearing are the most important role they can perform and the other which states that they need to be strong, independent women. Blogging provides opportunities for women to fulfill both of these roles, which are thrust upon them.

Now that you've read my thoughts what is your experience with Mommy Blogging? Do you think it has any value? Why?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mediate Gender: Performing New Momism in the Blogosphere (Part 3)


            Douglas and Michaels (2004) wrote about the phenomenon, new momism, which is occurring in mediated representations on women. New momism can be simply defined by saying "no woman can be complete or fulfilled until she has children" (p. 4). However according to second wave feminists, no woman can be complete without working in a professional field. Motherhood has become the need to, not only work full time jobs, but also come home and preform all of the roles that women traditionally perform. New momism both supported and challenged by mommy bloggers. It is supported by mommy bloggers that present their lives in an idealized manner. They never speak ill of their children or their husbands. However, there is also a movement to portray motherhood as exactly the opposite manner. They talk about how much they wish that they could have kept their job when they had children. They represent their children as parasites that cannot do anything right. In short they present motherhood as a dystopian society as opposed to those that present it as a utopia.
            Both representations do not fully represent motherhood. At its heart, new momism is about fulfilling women. It is about finding the balance between professionalism and momism. While much less common there are representations of this as well in the blogosphere. These representations give a different version of new momism and motherhood in general. Through their autobiographical blogs they "are creating a different picture of motherhood to what we see in the mainstream media. "Instead of the vision of the loving mother, we see women who are frazzled by the demands of their newborn baby, who have no clue what to do when their child gets sick, who suffer from postpartum depression and whose hormones rage uncontrollably" (Lopez, 2007, 732). Although this image is different than the image of new momism that Douglas and Michaels portray of new momism it is fundamentally the same.

Utopian Momism: Nie Nie Dialogues
            Stephanie Nielson started blogging near the end of 2004. Within only a few years she had a highly popular blog where she discussed her children, husband, and their lives. However, in 2008 she suffered a tragic plane accident with her husband and was burned over 80% of her body. Normally this would break any persons will. However, Stephanie used it to inspire other people. She travels around the country speaking at conferences on dealing with disappointment and adversity or on body image and self worth. On her blog she presents her life as she presents her accident: a blessing. In a recent post she describes one of her children's swearing problems. Problems such as this have faced many women in the past. However, it does not bother Stephanie. She breezes through it without breaking a sweat. Even though her child has an imperfection she knows that he will overcome it. Even more, her children's minor imperfections are joyous to her (Nielson). She is a seemingly perfect mother notwithstanding all of her heartache. As inspiring as this representation of motherhood can be, it can also be disheartening for people who have not suffered as much as her yet still complain about little things.

Dystopian Momism: Dooce
            While Stephanie Nielson views motherhood as a blessing in everyway, Heather Armstrong, author of the blog dooce.com, presents motherhood in a highly dystopian way. Her blog is definitely one of the oldest blogs authored by a woman online today (she's been blogging for over then years). In 2005 she became popular enough that her husband quit his job, making her the breadwinner of the family (Armstrong, About Me). Yet even with her success, she is overly critical of anyone claiming to have a happy family life. Her children are represented in a much different way than Nielson's children. In a recent series of posts Armstrong chronicles her daily schedule for her audience. Within the first fifteen minutes she's already telling her kids to go back to bed, complains about her daughter's obsession with her stuff animals, and her dogs usual excitement in the morning (Armstrong, First Fifteen Minutes, 2011). This is far Douglas and Michaels's image of new momism. In fact, it is more closely related to second wave feminists that wanted women's liberation from traditional roles.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Mediate Gender: Performing New Momism in the Blogosphere (Part 2)


            The role of mommy blogger itself is an example of gender performance. West and Zimmerman (1987) explain that certain roles are gendered. For instance the gender qualifier male is used to describe a nurse that is a man and female is used to describe a business executive that is a woman. This is because traditionally these roles were either male or female. This is much like the qualifier mommy being added to blogger to describe a woman blogger. While there has been some progress in distinguishing mommy bloggers into other categories it is still common to refer to a women who blog as mommy bloggers.
            This title is not universally accepted by mommy bloggers. "Despite... success, the title of ‘mommy blogger’ is not always wanted: it can be both a source of pride and a source of embarrassment; it can both compliment and demean" (Lopez, 2009:730). Many women feel that if they are known only as mommy bloggers that they cannot write about anything else. This is not the case. In fact, many so-called mommy blogs mix autobiographical information with topical information (Carstensen, 2009). By assigning female bloggers the role of mommy blogger they are limited in what they can and cannot write about. If they chose to post about politics or science or a topic other than motherhood they break their gender role and therefore will face criticism by their readers.
            Many women who blog topically chose to write about their children in order to "establish their footprint in the blogosphere" (Lopez 2007:734). It, however, is clear by reading these blogs that many of these women are "simply mothers and occasionally write about their children" (p. 734). While there are many exceptions to this statement (i.e. men writing about their children) it brings to light how mommy blogging is a role that these bloggers perform. Men and women are always performing a role because "gender is not merely something that happens in the nooks and crannies of interaction, fitted in here and there and not interfering with the serious business of life" (West and Zimmerman, 1987:130). While not explicitly stated, men are male bloggers just as women are mommy bloggers because gender is omnipresent. It is always being performed.


         Another way to look at blogging is through the lens of gender as a structure. Just as government or the economy is a structure that effects society, gender is can also be seen as a structure. It is inherent in ever aspect of society. Ridgeway and Correll (2004) put it this way, "Social relational contexts bring sex categorization into every activity and sphere of life in which one person casts himself or herself in relation to a real or imagined other, be it in person, on paper, or through the Internet" (pp. 521-522). They go on to describe how thinking of gender this way give scholars the opportunity to analyze gender, not as a symptom of social influence, but as a cause of this influence. 
         Blogging also illustrates gender as a structure. Carstensen  (2009) wrote that blogs, "[range] from the reproduction of gendered structures in public spaces, to enthusiastic female bloggers, to chances for creating various gender identities" (p. 116). Van Doorn, van Zoonen, and Wyatt (2007) explain how gender is represented in blogs through analyzing their performances of gender on their blogs. They conclude, "[blogs] facilitate a mode of gender presentation that remains closely related to the binary gender system that structures people’s daily lives, they also offer a ‘rich’ environment... resulting in multiple heterogeneous performances of gender" (p. 155).  Therefore, in blogging, while gender as a structure supports many representations of blogs it also provides an environment for women to explore there relationship with their gender.

Works Cited