I haven’t finished writing this but my head is aching and all my muscles are screaming at me to get OUT OF THIS OFFICE and so I’ll post this unfinished draft anyway. It’s for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory, as I mentioned in the previous post. Feedback would be very welcome – oh, and there can be up to eight bibliographical references, and that’s really hard to find. Anything I’ve missed? Is Steve’s paper published anywhere?


A weblog, also known as a *blog, is a frequently updated website consisting of dated posts arranged in reverse chronological order so that the reader sees the most recent post first. Weblogs are usually personal but the form is also used by companies, groups and communities. The first weblogs appeared on the World Wide Web in the mid-nineties, and the genre became widely popular around the turn of the century, when free web services allowed novice users to easily sign up and publish their own weblogs by choosing a template, typing each post into a web form and pressing a button labeled ìpublishî. In addition to the dominant textual form of weblogs there are experiments with adding sound, images and videos to the genre, resulting in photoblogs, videoblogs and audioblogs.

Examples of the genre can be placed on a continuum from online *diaries that relate the writerís daily activities and experiences to less *confessional weblogs that comment and link to other material or that discuss a particular theme. Newspapers have included weblogs in their online versions and many weblogs have a strong journalistic flavour.

Weblogs are serial and cumulative, and readers tend to read small amounts at a time, returning hours, days or weeks later to read entries that have been written since their last visit. This serial or episodic structure is similar to that found in *epistolary novels or *diaries, but unlike these a weblog is open ended, finishing only when the writer tires of writing.

In addition to the serial form, weblogs are characterised by their use of links. Most weblog posts stem from a concrete experience: something the writer has read, heard about, done or seen. [more on links, also blogthreads and conversations between blogs, and possibly comments and trackbacks

Many weblog entries are shaped as brief, independent narratives. [e.g. Julia/Julie, Francis Strand, connect to me and Steve]

Projects, macronarratives ñ Flight Risk, The Date Project…

Weblogs are a new phenomenon and there is as yet little formal scholarship on the genre, though there are an increasing number of conference papers on the topic as well as discussions of the genre and its narrativity in weblogs. The best way to explore the weblog genre is to move from one to another using the links between them until you find one or more than you appreciate. [might not be quite appropriate for this kind of piece]

Further Reading

Lejeune, Philippe (2000) ìCher Ècran…î Journal personnel, ordinateur, Internet. Paris: …ditions du Seuil.
Rodzvilla, John (ed.) (2002) Weíve Got Blog: How Weblogs are Changing Our Culture. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.
Mortensen, Torill and Walker, Jill (2002) ëBlogging Thoughtsí
(about 450 words)

8 thoughts on “first draft is full of holes

  1. Jon

    Considering the expected Date of Publication (2005) I wouldn’t use the phrase “Weblogs are a new phenomenon”. In two years I guess that won’t be the case anymore.

  2. mcb

    I think it’s a great definition Jill- very comprehensive. It’s an increasingly difficult thing to define- almost needing quite separate definitions for the various aspects of blogging. You’ve managed to sum it up very well, I think.

  3. Anders

    Your definition has several aspects: 1. Layout: “consisting of dated posts arranged in reverse chronological order so that the reader sees the most recent post first.”Why is it important how the posts are organised? It is often done this way, but does it matter? What if you read a blog by following a link to a Moveable Type-kind of permalink, and then continued reading using “next” and “previous” links. Would it then be less of a blog experience? I would tone down the boring technical layout aspect, and rather hightlight the social power and writing style of the genre, which is what really separates blogs from Web newspapers. Nytimes.com is also “consisting of dated posts arranged in reverse chronological order so that the reader sees the most recent post first” as well as “serial and cumulative.”
    2. Power relation: “often personal, but…”. I would like to see a stress on the fact that this is a soapbox medium. It is a small medium, very unlike the centralised mass media. To me, the moste significant aspect of blogs is the empowering of regular, non-technical writers.
    3. Update cycle: serial and cumulative. Great!
    4. Links. Will be good, I am sure. This is where you’re the best thinker.

  4. erik

    I’d agree with Anders – the most important aspect of blogging is the voice it offers to the individual, even if often that is a small voice, heard only by one or two strangers. However, blogs allow an exchange of views and ideas with people that would not otherwise be connected in any way.
    The down-side of blogging is that audience is a lot less define than for a newspaper, say. I can tell only the most basic information about the people who come to my site, often only that they visited, where a print publication allows for more concrete market research, and the more concrete feedback of letters pages and people buynig the paper.

  5. Alvaro

    I know very little about weblogs but I find your definition very appropriate. I disagree with Anders and would not drop the design description since definitions should be a thermometer of what changing things are at the moment of writing the definition. On five years a new definition will be able to trace the historical changing pattern of the object defined.
    If you ask me I would emphasise the “mediatic” aspect of weblogs and the fact that they are a new way of bridging or mediating personal communication within a “public” sphere. The fact that some of them have an audience says a lot about the significant changing conditions they are bringing and the empowerment this represents.

  6. Henning

    This looks good Jill, I think you have grasped the essence of what a blog is.
    You write ìmore on links, also blogthreads and conversations between blogs, and possibly comments and trackbacksî. This is an important part, I think it is one of the reasons that blogging has become so popular. The social aspects that linking, commenting and trackbacks lead to are giving bloggers the chance to form online communities.

    Concerning Anders comment on ìWhy is it important how the posts are organised?î. I would like to say that a definition on blogs should of cause point out that posts are ordered in a reverse chronological order, the latest on the top. This because it is the way that most blogs are organised. There is also another answer to the question, concerning if the posts should be organised in another way. But this is another discussion (and an interesting one).

  7. Dennis G. Jerz

    Jill, I liked your draft. I look forward to seeing your expansion to the section on links. I think the phrasing for a scale running from “online diaries” to “less confessional” may perhaps still emphasize the self-reflective personal weblog, as opposed to the filter, k-blog, “What’s New,” or annotated bibliography models, and variations such as Fark or Slashdot where most of the action happens in the comments. You might clarify your reference to “personal” — it could mean “individual” (as it seems to mean when it’s contrasted with corporate or group authorship) but it could also mean “emphasizing the subjective nature of the point of view”.

  8. Jill

    Ah. Good point, Dennis. It’s “subjective” I mean, well, and also “individual”. And you’re right, I am skewing the definition away from the filter-style weblog, but that’s because the definition’s for a book on narrative – perhaps I should see whether I can work them in anyhow.

    Thanks for all your comments. I’ve written out a final draft, that I posted here too, and I’ve added some things based on feedback from you – except Dennis’s because I only just saw it 🙂

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