My talk at Brown today is titled “Weblogs: Learning to Write in the Network” and is going to be mostly about using blogs with students. I’m going to stress network literacy and how blogging is not simply keeping an electronic journal, it’s distributed and collaborative; it’s learning to think and write with the network. I’ll also talk a bit about the ethics of insisting students blog in public.

Weblogs are good as learning journals (searchable, writing practice, catching thoughts, intellectual workout, valuing one’s own opinion, discovering interests, even recommended as therapy) but all these things could be done in a paper notebook – though the knowledge that other people are (or can be) reading is important.

What’s more important to teach our students is network literacy: writing in a distributed, collaborative environment. Weblogs are the first native web genre. Serial, unstable (ethics: edit? annotate? delete? change your mind? – compare net journalism, post-editing), networked.

Obviously blogs use hypertext. Formal sides of the genre pretty standard (my weblog definition) Personal web diaries have less links, usually; topic-driver weblogs link, comment, crosslink and reflect. Some blogs break with the standard list of half a dozen entries. Diveintomark is a mostly technical blog with some personal things. First post in full, rest just excerpted list. Surftrail has each entry on a separate page and uses different layout for different kinds of post: Vivaldi Weather; Hypertext Rhetoric; Typography. Lots of different ways of organising an individual weblog, though some dominate

Community sites provide community infrastructure: Livejournal, Fotolog.

Weblogs, on the other hand, are distributed and individual, though there are of course hosting services, templates, systems. Weblogs cluster together (Bernstein: a-life) manually using links and blogrolls, and dozens of different systems interpret these linsk to show larger connections. Rather than relying on one central infrastructure, new exostructures are developed continuously to give different views of the blogosphere. Trackbacks, comments, blogrolls, referrers, Blogdex, Technorati.

Bringing network literacy to the classroom means jolting students out of the conventional individualistic, closed writing of essays only ever seen by your professor. Here’s how I tried to do that, using blogs in my web design & esthetics class last spring: concrete tasks, in classroom; set up tasks where students linked to each other, feedback, link good or interesting posts from main course weblog, encourage feedback and editing of posts, reading and linking to other weblogs. In future: teaming up with another group of students elsewhere, crosslinking? Encouraging linking is key.

Overturns conventional power relationships – who defines who? The story of the blogger who blogged a date, his date, who googled him, her friend the journalist, who wrote an article about it, how it hit the top of
Blogdex‘s list, the bloggers at Metafilter who researched the background, Todd the journalist’s response. Parallel in academia: Henry Jenkin’s article, his response to disgruntled bloggers posted in a student’s blog. The person or people written about talk back and are more powerful – on the web – than the traditional authority. Collective voice, power of the link.

Best learning experiences unplanned: L. and the web diarist; the way students started teaching each other, connections between students and others.

How empowering is it to be forced to blog? Privacy concerns, some universities might worry about IP – everything we did in class is on the course weblog. Blogging isn’t for everybody (student reactions: anger, playfulness, frustration. Some take off, and are still blogging their studies and lives, a semester later (see blogroll for course) This semester: freer, less structure, no assessment. Still many who’ve used it. Both groups: students help each other. Useful links or explaining how to do something.

Liz Lawley found that
quality of student blogging was much more divided – some very good, some very bad, none in the middle – than most other student work. Some take to blogging, some can learn to appreciate it, while it just doesn’t work for others. Ditto for most other workforms.

Alternative: the closed model of Livejournal – but for students? A different way of creating community.


  • My definition of “weblog” for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory
  • Torill Mortensen and my paper on using weblogs as research tools (pdf).

19 thoughts on “talk at brown

  1. Francisco J. Ricardo


    An open and profuse apology for not being at your amazing talk at Brown today. I would have given anything to be able to attend (especially being

  2. Francisco J. Ricardo

    Hey, my last comment-cropping wasn’t cool…

    ** I meant to finish the phrase : especially being 50 miles away!

    ** Also, it seems that I can actually spell *continually* correctly on occasion!

    [Moral: don’t blog comments when sitting in a meeting!]

  3. Francois Lachance

    Dr. Jill, Mam’m, is “networked literacy” an immersion into sociality?

  4. Masataka Kawanaka


    I guess the word “network literacy” is a little bit unfit for your idea because the word “network” reminds me the technical side of the word. So, I think saying just “public writing” seems to have closer meaning than “network literacy”.

    BTW, your article is very impressive for me.

    Best regards,

    Masataka Kawanaka

  5. real-icon

    On the other hand I doubt that the term “public writing” expresses the idea of interaction between different writers, their dialogue, the dynamics of response and counter-response, as well as “network literacy” does. Writing in public implies that there is a potential audience, but nothing about their reactions. For me, “network” denotes a more complex pattern of interrelation. I do not necessarily associate a technical background with it, rather a kind of social fabric – and thus a mirror of literal textuality …

  6. blogshop

    Jill Walker Talks Blogs
    Jill Walker writes in her blog on a talk at brown: My talk at Brown today is titled “Weblogs: Learning to Write in the Network” and is going to be mostly about using blogs with students. I’m going to stress…

  7. Anonymous

    Web Logs as Network Literacy
    (Via “Anne”) Jill Walker pushes me a step further along in my thinking about Web logs as genre when she frames it as “writing in a network.” Click.

  8. Kerri

    Jill Walker on weblogging

  9. technica

    jill/txt: talk at brown
    jill/txt: talk at brown

  10. the chutry experiment

    Saturday Afternoon Fog/Jill Walker at Brown
    I’m still recovering from a rather late night last night, specifically a lovely potluck dinner with several of my colleagues (my contribution? George’s “easy summer recipe,” naturally), so this entry serves more as an “external memory” reminder. Via Ka…

  11. Tuttle SVC

    How empowering is it to be forced to blog?
    Had I been in Providence yesterday, I would have been pissed to realized I’d missed Jill Walker’s j talk at brown. Some snips from her notes: Bringing network literacy to

  12. real icon@reality

    Respublica litterarum – Netzversion
    Gruppenarbeit und damit verbundene Techniken werden in den Geisteswissenschaften bei uns immer noch viel zu wenig und vor allem nicht systematisch gefˆrdert und vermittelt …

  13. eBlog

    Weblogs som lÊringsverkt¯y
    Jill Walker er en innflytelsesrik blogger som holder til i Bergen, men som skriver p engelsk. Hennes bog er viden sitert – og nylig holdt hun en forelesning ved Brown university, USA om Weblogs som lÊringsstrategi… Til  bli klokere…

  14. Det perfekta tomrummet

    Blogging p universitet
    I’m going to stressnetwork literacy and how blogging is not simply keeping an electronic journal, it’s distributed and collaborative;

  15. CommonMe

    jill/txt: talk at brown
    jill/txt: talk at brown “My talk at Brown today is titled “Weblogs: Learning to Write in the Network” and is…

  16. Remolino

    Les carnets: apprendre ‡ penser et ‡ Ècrire dans la culture de rÈseau
    RenÈ Audet me signalait il y a quelques jours un texte dans lequel Jill Walker’s dÈtaillait le contenu d’une intervention qu’il avait ÈtÈ invitÈe ‡ faire ‡ Brown University. Le texte est trËs intÈressant. J’en retiens particuliËrement les courts extra…

  17. Mario, tout de go...

    Tout en signant des cartes de NoÎl…
    C’est un dÈbut de semaine bien particulier… L’accalmie de la tempÍte (non pas que les conditions atmosphÈriques se soient amÈliorÈes, mais le fait de travailler de la maison…) permet de vaquer ‡ des occupations qu’on se sent coupable de “faire ‡ l’…

  18. Your Guess Is As Good As Mine

    Network Literacy
    Now if she just would start writing those tawdry novels!

  19. Marcia Hansen

    Critical blogging approaches network literacy because critical blogging requires succinct writing of critical thoughts as an outcome of research expertise. But network literacy is more than that. It’s what Jill Walker says in her talk at brown post: “it’s learning to think and write with the network” (para. 1)… But one thing Lawley and Walker don’t specifically mention is rhythm…

Leave A Comment

Recommended Posts

Triple book talk: Watch James Dobson, Jussi Parikka and me discuss our 2023 books

Thanks to everyone who came to the triple book talk of three recent books on machine vision by James Dobson, Jussi Parikka and me, and thanks for excellent questions. Several people have emailed to asked if we recorded it, and yes we did! Here you go! James and Jussi’s books […]

Image on a black background of a human hand holding a graphic showing the word AI with a blue circuit board pattern inside surrounded by blurred blue and yellow dots and a concentric circular blue design.
AI and algorithmic culture Machine Vision

Four visual registers for imaginaries of machine vision

I’m thrilled to announce another publication from our European Research Council (ERC)-funded research project on Machine Vision: Gabriele de Setaand Anya Shchetvina‘s paper analysing how Chinese AI companies visually present machine vision technologies. They find that the Chinese machine vision imaginary is global, blue and competitive.  De Seta, Gabriele, and Anya Shchetvina. “Imagining Machine […]

Do people flock to talks about ChatGPT because they are scared?

Whenever I give talks about ChatGPT and LLMs, whether to ninth graders, businesses or journalists, I meet people who are hungry for information, who really want to understand this new technology. I’ve interpreted this as interest and a need to understand – but yesterday, Eirik Solheim said that every time […]