Friday, December 29, 2006

The Madness to My Method

Research Proposal
Carnival Collectivities: Blogging and the Formation of Online Feminist Networks


Although it may be putting the cart before the horse, I thought that it would be appropriate to share the methodology that I am using for this project. I welcome feedback and look forward to discussing my research plan in more detail.

Introduction

I am applying for the Reality Grant offered by the Feminist Fantasy Foundation to fund my M.A. thesis in the Women’s Studies Program at the George Washington University. In my M.A. thesis, I will be researching how feminist networks are created online through blogging. Specifically, I will focus on blog carnivals as a site of community building. To explore feminist blog carnivals, I will rely primarily on the theories of Benedict Anderson, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Erving Goffman. Utilizing these theories, my project will consider the following questions:
• What is a blog? What is a feminist blog? How do self-identified feminist bloggers define their feminism?
• How do blogs compare with other forms of feminist writing?
• How do feminist communities develop online? Specifically, how do blogs and blog carnivals play a role in the development of feminist networks?
• How is feminist activism conducted in the blogosphere? Specifically, how do blog carnivals contribute to activist efforts?
• How does the digital divide effect who is able to participate in online communities? What issues of access, such as technological skill level, literacy, or financial ability, shape who is able to participate in the blogosphere? How are these issues of access intersect with other identities, such as race, class, gender, location, ability, or age?
My research will incorporate my participation in the feminist blogosphere. I plan to maintain my own blog about my research project, A Blog Without a Bicycle. I will host a feminist carnival as well; I will publish the 26th edition of the Carnival of Feminists on my blog on November 1, 2006. These activities will allow me to better understand the feminist blogosphere(s) through my experiences participating in these online communities as a blogger and carnival host. Further, I will interview self-identified feminist bloggers to learn more about how the members of these communities perceive their collectivity. My interactions in the feminist blogosphere(s) will provide me with the opportunity to solicit feedback on my analysis from the individuals who compose these communities, which will help to insure that my final report on feminist blog carnivals is accurate and representative of the diverse group of individuals who participate in these communities.
Once I have completed my project, I will distribute my research through my blog and the academic infrastructure provided by the George Washington University for making M.A. theses available in their library system. I will also pursue publication of articles based on my research in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals and later revise my thesis so that it will be able to be published as a trade-press book. By sharing my research in various venues, I will be able to share what I learn about the feminist blogosphere(s) in both academic and popular arenas and Carnival Collectivities: The Formation of Online Feminist Networks will have the potential to benefit multiple audiences.

The Feminist Blogosphere(s): Personal and Political

From Blogs to Blog Carnivals

The influence of popular culture is difficult to avoid in an age of a fast-paced, global media and most individuals who have access to this fast media focused culture have heard of the internet phenomena of blogging whether or not they have actually visited such a website. The ephemeral and immediate qualities of the internet make it difficult, however, to trace the development of novel trends and emergent technological forms online. Therefore, despite the fact that many individuals are familiar with this internet genre, there is no authoritative definition of what constitutes a blog. There does seem to be, however, a general consensus among internet users about what is expected to appear on websites labeled as such in terms of both form and content.
Blogs first began to appear online in the late 1990s and originally functioned as lists of hyperlinks designed to be helpful to other tech-savvy users who were surfing the internet at a time before HTML browsers or high powered search engines were available (1). As Rebecca Blood writes, these early blogs could best be described as, “links with commentary, updated frequently (2).” Over time, these lists became a way of sharing the cataloger’s personal interests with others and individual blogs evolved into unique, eclectic websites containing both personal and political content. By 1997 the term “weblog,” for which blog is shorthand, had been coined to describe these websites and by 1999 blogging software had become widely available, as websites devoted to providing templates for blog creation and clearinghouse listings of blogs proliferated (3). With these tools, greater numbers of internet users were made aware of blogs and were able to create their own; online self-publishing flourished. In fact, blogs became so popular that mainstream media sources and private corporations recognized the necessity of incorporating them into their more traditional methods of reporting and advertising.
Today, there is general agreement about what qualifies a website as a blog. Formally, the major characteristics of a blog are that it is “a reverse-chronologically ordered, source/author- and –time-stamped, text-based linguistic stream (4),” or “a website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in reverse chronological order (5).” The position of recent posts appearing before less recent posts reflects the fast-paced atmosphere of the internet and the way that the demand for updated material influences the form of new internet media.
In terms of content, readers expect blogs to be “online journals that can be viewed by the public viewing the Internet (6)” where bloggers share their “opinions, thoughts and interests (7).” On a blog, an individual or a team of individuals regularly publishes posts about a specific topic from a wide variety of perspectives and concerns. An element of autobiography influences the themes of these posts, as bloggers refer to events in their online and offline lives and focus on subjects that are significant to them. In addition to biographically driven content, blogs often include hyperlinks to other websites, graphics, and streamed audio or video. New instantiations of blogs that are not primarily textual are being developed; these recent versions of the blog include photoblogs, vlogs, and audioblogs. Photoblogs are composed mainly of images, vlogs (videoblogs) contain videos that are often introspective monologues, and audioblogs capitalize on recording software developed for digital music players. As new technologies emerge, additional incarnations of the blog can be expected to appear in the blogosphere, or online blogging world (8). Like many other internet forms, blogs create alternatives to mainstream media.
Some bloggers distinguish between “filter-style weblogs (9)” that closely follow the original hyperlink list format of early blogs and “blog-style weblogs (10)” that provide intimate insights into an individual’s life through journal-like postings. While this distinction obscures the ways in which many blogs vacillate between these two styles over time, it does provide a potential (yet partial) explanation for the development of blog carnivals, which began to appear in the early 2000s. In their basic function, blog carnivals seem to serve the same purpose as blogs, specifically a filter-style weblogs; they both provide current lists of links to websites of interest. While filter-style weblogs may include the hyperlinks of a variety of types of websites, blog carnivals primarily link to blog articles. Wikipedia.com (11) highlights the differences between these two forms its definition of a blog carnival:
A blog article that contains links to other articles covering a specific topic. Most blog carnivals are hosted by a
rotating list of frequent contributors to the carnival, and serve to both generate new posts by contributors and
highlight new bloggers posting matter in that subject area (13).
Like filter-style weblogs, blog carnivals provide topical reading lists of internet sources; unlike filter-style weblogs, blog carnivals are geared towards providing a current cartography of the blogosphere. Blog carnivals unite bloggers who share common interests, encourage bloggers to pursue certain themes in their writing, increase traffic to the host’s blog, and promote the work of other bloggers. Blog carnivals create online communities by fostering collaboration and networking between individual bloggers.

The Feminist Blogosphere(s)

While some academic research has been done on blogging, this scholarship has largely focused on blogs as forms of life writing or new media. Less work has been done on the potential that blogs have to make social change and their roles in social movements. Even less research has been devoted to exploring the import of blog carnivals, which is likely because of the novelty of the form. Because many women are often underprivileged in technological fields and because the systems of oppression that exist in the offline world translate to the online world, it is important for feminist scholars to make sure that academic attention is given to these developing areas in terms of race, class, gender, and other issues of diversity. While being conscious of the digital divide, or the “much-cited problem in regards to inequities in online access and access to information technologies in general, (13)” and its implications, my project will explore the feminist blogosphere(s) and the ways that online feminist networks operate both online and offline. I will pay careful attention to how questions of access and how access relates to intersections of identity, such as race, class, gender, location, technological skill level, literacy, ability, or age. Hopefully, this research will reveal the positive potential blog carnivals have to promote social activism and feminist ideals while also pointing out the inequities of access to information technologies.

Theoretical Foundation

As previously stated, I will be using the works of Benedict Anderson, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Erving Goffman as the theoretical foundation of my analysis. Many feminist philosophers have illustrated the applicability of these theorists’ concepts to feminist scholarship, especially in studies of literature and identity performance (14). In terms of my project, Anderson, Bakhtin, and Goffman offer useful frameworks for assessing online communities, blog activism, and internet identity. Anderson provides a scaffold for understanding how blog carnivals form communities with his concept of “imagined…communities (15).” Bahktin’s study of the carnivalesque can be applied to such online feminist communities to understand their potential for disrupting hegemonic discourses. As communities are made of individuals and as feminist blog carnival communities are composed of individuals with a specific self-asserted identity, Goffman’s work on the performance of identity is helpful in assessing the presentation of feminist identities online. Feminist theorist Judith Butler’s writing on performativity will also inform my analysis and provide a basis for comparing online and offline identities by contrasting her conception of identity with that of Goffman; where Goffman sees personal choice in the performance of identity, Butler views an individual’s agency as more circumscribed by social constructs. Both of these perspectives on performativity are useful for analyzing an internet subject’s presentation of self-identity, as users have both choice in terms of revealing information about their identity and limitations in terms of what identities they can inhabit based on real-world conditions and experiences.

Method

My Blog

Carnival Collectivities: Blogging and the Formation of Online Feminist Networks focuses on how blog carnivals function to create feminist networks both in cyberspace and in the physical world. Before beginning my assessment of the feminist blogosphere(s), I will gain personal experience as a feminist blogger by starting my own blog. Using the free service provided by the popular blog hosting site Blogger.com (16), I will publish my own blog, A Blog Without a Bicycle. The focus of the content of the blog will be my research process. Keeping a blog will allow me to network with feminist bloggers and to elicit feedback on my project. It will play an important role in facilitating the process of conducting interviews as well. I am aware, however, that the digital divide will determine who is able to access my blog and I will have to take this into account as I conduct my research and draw conclusions from it.

Interviews

To gather information about the feminist blogosphere(s) and to test the accuracy of my analysis, I will be interviewing self-identified feminist bloggers. I will recruit participants to contribute to my project through my blog. Although I am not able to estimate the number of self-identified feminist bloggers who will read my blog and subsequently choose to participate in my project, I hope to interview a minimum of ten individuals. As previously stated, the digital divide will be a significant factor in determining which individuals have the ability to participate in my project. As a conscientious feminist researcher, I will be responsible for attempting to interview as diverse a group of bloggers as possible and seeking information about groups of individuals who I am not able to interview.
The interview process will proceed as outlined in the following steps:
1) Self-identified feminist bloggers will post a comment on A Blog Without a Bicycle after reading the informed consent form.
2) I will contact individuals who commented on A Blog Without a Bicycle and request an interview with them.
3) After providing an additional informed consent form, I will interview the volunteers.
4) If additional questions are raised throughout the course of my research, I will contact selected individuals again for follow-up.

Methodology

My Blog

With an awareness of my privilege and power as a researcher, I am aspiring to a high level of transparency in my research process. I will keep a blog, A Blog Without a Bicycle, which will detail the goals of my research and the methods that I am employing. Also, I will post interviews (with interviewee permission) and sections of my thesis (forthcoming) to A Blog Without a Bicycle so that participants can comment on my conclusions and provide any constructive criticism that they may have. As Shulamit Reinharz states in Feminist Methods in Social Research, “[s]elf-disclosure initiates ‘true dialogue’ by allowing participants to become ‘co-researchers (17).’” It is this “true dialogue” that I hope to produce in the interviews I conduct as a part of this project. By following the guidelines provided by Kathleen Blee and Verta Taylor in “Semi-Structured Interviewing in Social Movement Research,” I am making “efforts [that] seek to reduce the interpretive authority of researchers and expand those of participants in the analysis of social movements (18).” Although I will be engaging in participant-observation by keeping a blog and contributing to the feminist blogosphere, I know that the true experts in this area are feminist bloggers themselves. By giving feminist bloggers space to provide feedback through comments on my blog and through interviews, I hope to provide the most accurate analysis of feminist online networks. Because much of my reporting on the research I am conducting with involve my analysis of the information provided by individuals in interviews, I will be including an appendix of all of the interviews I conduct over the course of my research. As Reinharz highlights, “[t]ranscripts of the interviews…familiarize readers with the people who were studied and enable readers to ‘hear’ what the researcher heard (19).” These appendices will provide a site for readers of my research to evaluate my interpretations (and misinterpretations) and to draw their own conclusions.
Additionally, I will allow participants in my study to select how they will be identified in the reports of my research. Other feminist researchers have utilized the practice of allowing participants to choose their own pseudonyms (20), but in my research this choice addresses a particular concern about intellectual property. Although researchers often go to great lengths to protect the identities of their participants, doing so in this case would fail to credit feminist bloggers who are public figures in the blogosphere with their ideas. To avoid exploiting my participants while also respecting their privacy, I will be asking participants to indicate how they would like to be identified in reports of my research.
It is important to note that there are many challenges specific to internet research. As Lorna Hicks describes in “Internet Research,” securing data transmissions, obtaining informed consent, and dealing with malicious behavior are just some of the issues internet researchers face (21). In “Ethical and Legal Aspects of Human Subjects Research on the Internet,” Mark S. Frankel, Ph.D. and Sanyin Siang discuss some of the difficulties internet researchers face, including the debate about if material posted on the internet should be categorized as public or private and in which cases these designations are less clear (22). The concern that is most relevant to my research is that of assessing identity. Hicks describes, “the difficulty of confirming the adult status of online subjects and the ‘personhood’ of pseudonymous identities” (23) and Frankel and Siang assert that, “it is quite easy to mislead others about one’s geographical location, gender, or race (24).” Because there is no way for me to verify the identity of all of the participants in my research, I have made the decision to adopt a policy of “believing the interviewee (25).” Although contrary to the skepticism advocated in positivist approaches, I believe that a rule of not questioning the veracity of participants will enrich my research (26) as opposed to compromising it because of the trusting and mutually respectful relationships that such an attitude will allow me to develop with participants (27).

Interviews


The interviews that will be conducted in this project are based on the model of “open-ended interview research (28)” or “interview-guided research (29).” Specifically, I rely on the feminist methodology outlined by Blee and Taylor in “Semi-Structured Interviewing in Social Movement Research” as theoretical grounding of my interview methodology. In this article, Blee and Taylor describe the benefits of utilizing “semi-structured interview (30)” techniques in research on social movements. Blee and Taylor define a “semi-structured interview” as an interview in which “the interviewer relies on an interview guide that includes a consistent set of questions or topics, but the interviewer is allowed more flexibility to digress and to probe based on interactions during the interview (31).” By following this model, I will gain insight about topics I might not have pursued otherwise, as interviewees will guide me to the topics that are truly relevant to the feminist blogosphere(s) and that should be explored in my project. This technique will help to control for my privilege and power as a researcher. Further, it is an illustration of my attempt to alleviate miscommunications that may occur between interviewees and me, the interviewer, because of my standpoint (32).
As Blee and Taylor point out, “[s]emi-structured interviews are particularly useful for understanding social movement mobilization for the perspective of movement actors or audiences (33).” As I am investigating the formation of feminist networks online via blogging and blog carnivals, semi-structured interviewing will allow me to verify my speculations about these collectivities with members of these communities. By planning to conduct multiple interviews with a variety of bloggers and to follow-up with participants throughout the course of my research, I am implementing a feminist methodology based on a “model of collaboration (34).” The dialogic model of my interview-based research will provide participants multiple opportunities to correct and critique my work both during the interview process and throughout the development of my final report on the project.

Conclusion

As a M.A. candidate in Women’s Studies with a B.A. in English (Creative Writing), I have a strong background in the study of language and culture. Further, the social and behavioral research training that I received through the CITI program at the George Washington University has provided me with the research skills that I need to complete the interactive aspects of my research. I look forward to working with the Feminist Fantasy Foundation to complete my M.A. thesis, Carnival Collectivities: Blogging and the Formation of Online Feminist Networks, and to make scholarship in a previously unexplored area available both through my thesis and my blog.

Notes

1. Rak, “The Digital Queer,” 170-1.
2. Blood, “Introduction,” ix.
3. Rak, “The Digital Queer,” 170-1.
4. MacDougall, “Identity, Electronic Ethos, and Blogs,” 585.
5. Wikipedia.com, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog.
6. Watt, “Blogging Busts Out for Women,” 7.
7. Wilson, “Women in the Blogosphere,” 51.
8. As new terms are developed as quickly as new technologies, I recommend the following sources for glossaries that provide excellent definitions of common internet vernacular: Wikipedia.com, http://larkfarm.com/wlm/roll_your_own.htm, and We’ve Got Blog. Detailed references to these sources are listed in the “Bibliography” section.
9. Blood, “Weblogs: A History and Perspective,” 12.
10. Ibid., 13.
11. Although Wikipedia.com would not be considered an academic source in most situations, because research on blog carnivals has not yet been widely produced, this collaborative web-based encyclopedia is, in fact, an authoritative source that reflects the current state of the blogosphere. Further, consulting alternate sources of knowledge that would not be considered in most academic settings is a feminist research method that recognizes multiple ways of knowing and resists privileging certain ways of knowing over others.
12. Wikipedia.com, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog_carnival.
13. Nakamura, Cybertypes, 2002.
14. Examples of feminist scholars who have utilized these theorists’ works in their own projects are Margaret Bettham (Anderson), Julia Kristeva (Bahktin), and Judith Butler (Goffman).
15. Anderson, Imagined Communities, 6.
16. Blogger.com, http://www.blogger.com.
17. Reinharz, Feminist Methods in Social Research, 33.
18. Blee and Taylor, “Semi-Structured Interviewing in Social Movement Research,” 113.
19. Reinharz, Feminist Methods in Social Research, 39.
20. Ibid., 20.
21. Hicks, Internet Research, Introduction.
22. Frankel and Siang, “Ethical and Legal Aspects of Human Subjects Research on the Internet,” 7.
23. Hicks, Internet Research, Introduction.
24. Frankel and Siang, “Ethical and Legal Aspects of Human Subjects Research on the Internet,” 4.
25. Reinharz, Feminist Methods in Social Research, 26.
26. Renzetti, “Confessions of a Reformed Positivist,” 133-5.
27. Reinharz, Feminist Methods in Social Research, 18.
28. Ibid., 24.
29. Blee and Taylor, “Semi-Structured Interviewing in Social Movement Research,” 92.
30. Ibid.
31. Detailed discussions of feminist standpoint approaches can be found in the work of Donna Haraway or Sandra Harding.
32. Ibid.
33. Renzetti, “Confessions of a Reformed Positivist,” 134.

Bibliography

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. New York: Verso, 1983.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World. Translated by Hélène Iswolsky.

Bloomington: Indiana U.P., 1984.

Beetham, Margaret. “Periodicals and new media: Women and imagined communities.”

Women’s Studies International Forum 29 (May-June 2006): 231-40.

Bennett, Natalie, organizer. The Carnival of Feminists.

http://feministcarnival.blogspot.com (accessed December 9, 2006).

Blood, Rebecca. “Introduction.” In We’ve Got Blog: How Weblogs are Changing Our

Culture, edited by John Rodzvilla, ix-xii. Cambridge: Perseus Publishing, 2002.

———. “Weblogs: A History and a Perspective.” In We’ve Got Blog: How

Weblogs are Changing Our Culture, edited by John Rodzvilla, 7-16. Cambridge:

Perseus Publishing, 2002.

Blee, Kathleen and Verta Taylor. “Semi-Structured Interviewing in Social Movements

Research,” In Methods of Social Movement Research, edited by B. Klandermans
and S. Staggenborg, 92-117. Minneapolis: U. Minnesota P, 2002.

Blogger.com. http://www.blogger.com (accessed November 17, 2006).

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York:

Routledge, 1999.

Curtis, Elizabeth M. A Blog Without a Bicycle.

http://ablogwithoutabicycle.blogspot.com (accessed October 1, 2006).

Frankel, Mark S. and Sanyin Siang. “Ethical and Legal Aspects of Human Subjects
Research on the Internet.” American Association for the Advancement of Science.
November 1999. http://www.aas.org/spp/dspp/sfrl/projects/intres/main.htm

(accessed October 9, 2006).

Goffman, Erving. Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Garden City: Doubleday, 1959.

Gunderloy, Mike. “Roll Your Own.” Larkfarm.com.

http://larkfarm.com/wlm/roll_your_own.htm (accessed on December 10, 2006).

Hicks, Lorna. “Internet Research.” CITI Course in the Protection of Human Research

Subjects. 28 July 2006. 5 October 2006. http://www.citiprogram.org (accessed

October 5, 2006).

MacDougall, Robert. “Identity, Electronic Ethos, and Blogs: A Technologic Analysis of

Symbolic Exchange on the New News Medium.” American Behavioral Scientist

49 no. 4 (December 2005): 575-99.

Nakamura, Lisa. Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet. New York:

Routledge, 2002.

Rak, Julie. “The Digital Queer: Weblogs and Internet Identity.” Biography 28 no. 1

(Winter 2005): 166-82.

Reinharz, Shulamit. Feminist Methods in Social Research. New York: Oxford U.P.,

1992.

Renzetti, Claire. “Confessions of a Reformed Positivist: Feminist Participatory Research

as Good Social Science.” In Researching Sexual Violence Against Women. edited

by Martin Schwartz, 130-43. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1997.

Rodzvilla, John, editor. We’ve Got Blog: How Weblogs are Changing Our Culture.

Cambridge: Perseus Publishing, 2002.

Watt, Jenn. “Blogging Busts Out for Women.” Herizons (Summer 2006): 7.

Wilson, Trish. “Women in the Blogosphere.” Off Our Backs (May-June 2006): 51-5.

Wikipedia.com. http://www.wikipedia.com (accessed November 17, 2006).


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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Let's just say I got a flat tire...

It is the end of the semester. I am a grad student. Ergo...

So, I haven't written anything particularly interesting on my blog lately, but there is a lot of great reading material out there in the feminist blogosphere. For example, if you're looking for something to peruse, you should check out the 27th Carnival of Feminists at Diary of a Freak Magnet.

Also, A Blog Without a Bicycle has been linked by Awesome Goddess. Apparently, I am a "sincere American feminist grad student." Aw! It makes a girl feel pretty special to be linked.

And, of course, you could always generate a conversation by commenting on this blog. What do you want to read/write about? (You really don't even need me to keep the content fresh, do you? You can just do it yourself!)


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Monday, November 13, 2006

Fan Club!

These folks definitely deserve a fan club for being supportive fellow internet researchers...

A.J.

C.B.

You rock!

Others Deserving Appreciation

M.S.

Thanks!

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On Not Meeting My Own Self-Imposed Deadlines



Enough said.


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Origin of the Species

...of blog carnivals, that is...

So, it only makes sense that in a writing a M.A. thesis on blog carnivals that one would include information about the origin of blog carnivals. No?

Well, here's where it gets tricky: there's not exactly some academic reference or source (that I know of, of course) to consult about the evolution of blog carnivals. Sure, there's a lot of information about Bhaktin if you do a search for "carnival," but if you add in blog...well, those academic search engines just get confused and send back zero results in protest.

Okay, so I decide to pursue other venues where my search terms are not invalid. Google. Wikipedia. The usual suspects. And uh-oh! We get into that whole bit of conflicting stories on the internet. Who (and what) to believe?

Generally, the Carnival of Vanities is given credit by most folks in the blogosphere as being the original, the longest running original, or just about the original blog carnival. In fact, I couldn't find any information that would contest this attribution. But before I go asserting the primacy of the Carnival of Vanities, I want to be sure that I have my facts straight.

Genealogy is tough work. Personally, I can only trace my family back 2.5 generations. So, why would I be any more adept at mapping out the family tree of blog carnivals?

Yes, this post is indeed a cry for help.

Do you know the history of blog carnivals? Do you have something to say about the history of blog carnivals? Would you like to correct my misperceptions about the history of blog carnivals? Then please do email me at ablogwithoutabicycle(at)gmail(dot)com. I will be forever in indebted to you! And I will share the knowledge with other inquiring minds. Promise.

Thanks for all of your support, fellow bloggers. YOU ROCK! And you make my M.A. thesis possible. : )


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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Carnival of Feminists No. 26



Welcome to the 26th Carnival of Feminists!




Table of Contents

  • Welcome & Introduction

  • From the Feminist Blogosphere

  • Why I Blog

  • This is What a Feminist Blog Looks Like

  • Personal and Political

  • Hot Topics

  • The Beauty Myth

  • The Halloween Spirit

  • Title IX

  • Mommy Dearest

  • Carnivals Galore!

  • Carnival of Feminists No. 27

  • Can't wait for the next Carnival of Feminists?

  • Ready to host your own carnival?

  • The End



  • Introduction

    So. I'm going to start this carnival with a go on the tilt-o-whorl of blatant honesty. When I volunteered to host this carnival, I had no idea what I was doing in the blogosphere and I had only a vague conception of what blog carnivals were. My motivation for getting involved in the Carnival of Feminists comes from my M.A. thesis topic: the formation of online feminist networks via blogging and blog carnivals (I want to be completely transparent here about my role as a researcher/participant-observer). As a new blogger who had only mastered HTML in terms of bolding and italicizing text, I zealously (and naively) contacted Natalie Bennett and asked how I could get involved - and, well, here we are (anyone need to jump off the tilt-o-whirl?). Although I hope it is not too painfully evident to loyal readers, this hosting experience is my first. I'm hoping that my efforts can be appreciated in the same way that my mother appreciated the first scarf that I knitted; she was happy to recieve it as a present even though it looked more like a raggedy-edged place mat that moths had attacked (viciously).

    Enough self-effacement. As a graduate student in Women's Studies, I've spent a lot of time thinking (academically) about feminist methodology. In putting this blog carnival together, one of the big questions that I was considering was whose voices would be represented in the 26th Carnival of Feminists. As the editor-of-sorts, I felt a little uncomfortable with the power I would yield (I'm more collaborative than dictatorial). So, in an attempt to balance my authority, I have taken several steps to create a truly feminist carnival:

  • I tried to be as inclusive as possible by soliticing a diverse pool of bloggers and by accepting all relevant/appropriate submissions/nominations. Despite these attempts, I would critique this carnival's content as being overly western and US-centric, which reflects (for better or worse) my own politics of location.

  • When requesting submissions, I asked individuals to summarize their posts and then quoted these summaries (when provided) in discussing the articles I was directing readers to.

  • I fully recognized that the descriptions that I have created of other bloggers' posts (when summaries were not provided) is based on my interpretation of their writing. In cases where I felt that my interpretation might be questionable, I have used question marks to encourage readers to second-guess my assessment. I am responsible for my (mis)interpretations and readers should form their own opinions (and share them by commenting on the carnival!).

  • As several bloggers have assisted me in the carnival process (shout out to my HTML coaches!), I included resources about hosting blog carnivals to share the wisdom that others imparted upon me. Further, I provided links to other carnivals in a feminist (?) attempt to share information and build communities. Additionally, links are provided to both individual posts and the main pages of featured blogs with the hope of increasing the longevity of the carnival.

  • I realized that I am in a precarious position as a researcher-blogger-host in terms of the controveries that exist in the feminist blogosphere. I did not include or exclude any material from being considered because of past/present/potential controversies. My "positivist neutrality" here does not, however, relieve me of my accountability in making this decision and I am open to talking about this choice.

  • I wrote this belaboured introduction.

  • Enjoy the ride...


    From the Feminist Blogosphere

    Why I Blog

    There are probably as many reasons to blog as there are blogs on the internet. In recent posts, Jill Dolan on The Feminist Spectator and Jennifer Noveck on Nurenxintan discuss why they blog. Jill Dolan discusses "the theories and practices of feminist blogging" while Jennifer, a Fulbrighter in China, "details how she is using her blog and photoblog as an alternative online research method."


    This Is What a Feminst Blog Looks Like

    In a two-part interview (part 1, part 2) A Blog Without a Bicycle and Makeshift Dialect chat about feminism, blogging, and the accessibility of academia.

    Hugo Schwyzer discusses masculinity and aging on his blog, which is a great example of a feministy man-blog (he's obviously learned from Brawny Academy and not Miller Light, jk).


    Personal and Political

    Many bloggers engage in political activism in cyberspace. Whether writing on a personal or political (or personal-political, politically personal, etc) blog, these bloggers advocate for cultural change through social commentary. In this section, I would like to highlight nominations/submissions that focus on politics and feminism. Alecto Erinyes reflects on Sisterhood and Solidarity's attempt to "make a cyber-space for labour feminists". Uma, on India Writing, celebrates that "this week Irmana [an Indian woman who is a rape survivor] found justice" and then updates readers about how this victory was short-lived. At Two Peas, No Pod, Paul expresses frustration about abortion policies in Nicaragua. Keeping midterm elections in mind, Bullmoose, advocates for an ERA to be added to the US constitution. And because the US midterm elections will have consequences (perhaps even greater consequences) for those who will not be voting, I would recommend checking out Riverbend's reflections on the Lancet study.


    Hot Topics


    The Beauty Myth

    Online identity raises interesting questions about embodiment. Redneck Feminist considers how being "hot" tempers folks reactions to women who self-identify as feminists in the off-line world, but that no one is really "hot enough to be a feminist" safe from hostile criticism online. On Way Too Pretty Awesome Goddess conducts a similar yet satirically (?) different experiment (?) about how body type can influence interactions; on many levels, the comments on this blog are as interesting as the content.

    On a different note, at Alas, A Blog Maia uses a post by Winter on Mind the Gap to explore the intersections between feminism, femininity, and class status both on and off line.

    In considering fashion (or at least a fashion magazine), Maxine Clark examines the infamous female shoe fetish on Petrona. Discussing fashion in a different vein, Feminish powerful piece on "flesh, cloth, and rape".


    The Halloween Spirit

    Although many of us (in areas that celebrate this candy-heavy holiday) are crashing from our trick-or-treating sugar high, the October 19th article in the NYTimes about women's halloween costumes created quite a buzz in the blogosphere that is worthy of inclusion in this carnival, as it is being published on El Dia de Los Muertos. Both Twisty on I Blame the Patriachy in The Slut-O-Ween Report and Ann on Feministing in This Halloween, I'm dressing as a dicthomy provide analysis of this article. Inspired by this article, Veronica on NinePearls reminisces about Halloweens' past. The Caffeinated Geek Girl also reflects on the NYTimes article and asks if "a feminist can still have fun on Halloween." Further, interesting follow-up to the on-going "slut-o-ween" discussion can be found on Feminist Law Professors where David S. Cohen brings up a pole-dancing "toy" that is being marketed to young girls; many other bloggers, such as BoingBoing on Feministing and Christine at Our Bodies, Our Blog, also noted this problematic product in their recent posts.


    Title IX

    Girls (in sports), girls (in the classroom), girls (in the corporate world)! Bloggers are talking about girls and the policies and ideas that effect them. Books Are Pretty reviews a recent book about girls, sports, and competition. On Cruella Blog, Kate Smurthwaite looks at reports on male (not so good) versus female (great!) performance on the GCSE and asks, "why all these over-achieving girls are still on the receiving end of a massive pay gap and hold virtually none of the top jobs in this country?". Hilde Corneliussen pursues a similar theme about gendered perceptions of academic performance in math when she considers a recent study that was conducted "to test if there were any math-gene" at the University of British Columbia on Gender and Computing.


    Mommy Dearest

    Personally, I think feminist moms rock. Feminist moms who make time blog, well, they amaze me! Like Bitch Ph.D., who assesses the politics of housework. And Nina of Queercents highlights another techno-savvy (and thrifty!) mom when she interviews Dana, who runs a website for lesbian mothers, about "her perspective on money…as a parent, as a partner, as a child, and as a stay-at-home mom".

    Although not a mother herself, the Happy Feminist isn't quite laughing about Jewish mother jokes.

    From the Archives

    Blogging is certainly a form of fast media, but some hyperlinks are forever (or not). Delving into the archives, I found these posts (an ecletic mix, if you will) that I think are worth re-visiting:

  • The Male Privilege Checklist

  • Feminism and the digital divide

  • As Feminism Goes By

  • The Feminist (blog) Community and Anger

  • forgive me for having been directed here by a friend (scroll down to this comment)

  • Sweater girl

  • Online Identity Bibliography



  • Carnivals Galore!


    The Carnival of Feminists No. 27

    The next Carnival of Feminists will be published on November 15th and will hosted by Debbie and Laurie on Body Impolitic. To contribute or nominate articles, you can use the submission form. Do show your support!


    Can't wait for the next Carnival of Feminists?

    Then check out these cool carnivals:

  • African Women Bloggers

  • Radical Women of Color Carnival

  • Carnival Against Sexual Violence

  • Disability Blog Carnival

  • Carnival of Bent Attractions

  • Erase Racism

  • Carnival of SF Feminists


  • Ready to host your own carnival?

    Then check out these helpful guides created by previous carnival hosts and such:

  • Sour Duck's Carnival Host Notes

  • The History Carnival VII...plus Orac's advice to blog carnival hosts

  • How I Hosted the Tangled Bank

  • How Not to Host a Blog Carnival

  • Blog Carnival FAQ



  • The End

    Thanks for stopping by the 26th Carnival of Feminists. I'm looking forward to your comments and the dialogues that will ensue.

    Hope you enjoyed this carnival ride! Whee...



    Please read the Informed Consent Form in full before posting to this blog.

    Friday, October 27, 2006

    Interview with Makeshift Dialect (Continued)

    ...Continued

    In our interview session, Makeshift Dialect and I did not have time to finish our conversation. So! Makeshift Dialect was cool enough to continue the conversation with me via email. Below are the questions that I sent to Makeshift Dialect and her answers. Enjoy!

    The Interview, Part 2

    A Blog Without a Bicycle: How do you define a “blog”?
    Makeshift Dialect: A blog is a website controlled by one individual or a group of individuals with a common goal or purpose. For the group or individual, a blog serves as a forum about a particular topic or range of participants for anyone to view (anyone who has access to internet and know-how about how to find blogs – also, not everyone will “speak the language” of every blog, thus presenting yet another barrier for certain individuals—those with low-literacy skills, etc.). Blogs can have just pictures or just text, or a mix of both and videos or song streams as well. A number of multimedia are available to integrate with or serve as the content of a blog.

    A Blog Without a Bicycle: What qualifies as a “feminist blog”?
    Makeshift Dialect: A feminist blog is a weblog committed to the tenets of feminism. This does not necessarily mean that the blog will deal with “feminist” issues directly. Feminist methods may be employed and evident within the presentation of the blog.

    A Blog Without a Bicycle: Have you ever participated in a blog carnival? If so, tell me about that experience.
    Makeshift Dialect: NO! Sounds exciting!

    A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you belong to or consider yourself a member of any online community? How do you define these communities?
    Makeshift Dialect: No, I would not say I’m part of any online community. I say this because I am not online enough to bring myself to the online table. My internet ventures tend to be one-way, whereas an online community is two-way: interactive, engaging for many parties, where sharing is required.

    A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you think that activism can be carried out online? What are the possibilities of such activism?
    Makeshift Dialect: Certainly! Well, I think a fuddy-dud might say “no” just because blogs, like journal articles and other texts, are passive ways of “engaging” an audience about a specific issue. However, I feel there is much potential for blogs to be engaging and very interactive. For example, on many blogs, there is a clearly identified opportunity for inquiring minds to further discuss an issue: the comments section. A dutiful blogger will respond to her readers’ concerns within the comments section itself or in an entirely new post. In my blog, I hope to whet the casual reader’s appetite with my take on issues, as with the post I wrote about a sexist driver’s license policy. While I am not mandating that each reader of makeshiftdialect run out to the DMV and protest, I do hope it brings an awareness to each reader that they may not have prodded before. I hope for prodding, really. I think that’s activism, even if it’s small-scale. Remember we must change people’s hearts before we change their minds!
    What’s nice about websites in general is that people randomly stumble across them. If a blog is eye-catching and boasting strong content, the next cache tumbleweed might bring in a new viewer who’s never thought about the interaction between gender and DMV policies, for instance. I also believe that the internet is anonymous enough to allow people to explore issues or “images” that they may not seek when other people are looking, when they have to check out books from the libraries, or admit that they’re feminists. So, unlike in-your-face activism or flaccid flyers, the internet offers people the ability to check out issues they’d ordinarily be judged for. (I’m not rewriting that sentence to circumvent the end-of-sentence-preposition, missy.)

    A Blog Without a Bicylce: Do you think that feminist activism is being conducted online? If so, can you think of any examples?
    Makeshift Dialect: I’m sure it is! Elizabeth, I think your website is a glaring example. You’re directly addressing “feminist” issues, and processing this for everyone to read. I think your transparency about this project is definitely using feminist methodology.
    Other than bikeless blog … Well, I can’t really think of anything, but what I think is neat about your website also is that you have links to other feminist webpages. This feels very feminist also—this sharing of resources and knowledge. Maybe I’m a little too mushy for the feminist business, but I do think the linking from page to page creates a web of feminist discourse in a very simple and natural way. Every link on a page makes every other page more accessible to an inquiring mind.

    A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you have any questions for me based on our conversation?
    Makeshift Dialect: NO! Let me know if you have any followup questions.

    And if you have any questions for Makeshift Dialect, you can visit her blog and ask her!

    Please read the Informed Consent Form in full before posting to this blog.

    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    Interview with Makeshift Dialect

    As a part of my thesis project, I am interviewing self-identified feminist bloggers about their thoughts on the feminist blogosphere. On October 25, 2006, I spoke with Makeshift Dialect over instant messenger.

    Interview with Makeshift Dialect

    A Blog Without A Bicycle: so, as you know, i'm writing my thesis about blogging and the formation of feminist networks online

    8:20 PM EST

    Makeshift Dialect: yes
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: and i'm posting my progress on a blog without a bicycle
    Makeshift Dialect: yes, this is a nice arrangement, methinks
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: and that this interview is a part of my thesis, but that i am also using it as an assignment for my research methods course (required wstu grad class)
    Makeshift Dialect: yes i am aware of all this.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: okay, just checking, sorry to be a bore!
    Makeshift Dialect: not at all!
    Makeshift Dialect: just letting you know i'm on the same page.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: want to just jump right in?
    Makeshift Dialect: yes, let's!
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: so, do you consider yourself a feminist?
    Makeshift Dialect: well, it always depends on who's defining it. so, if i want to define feminst [sic] as someone who is concerned about gender equality (not just equal pay, etc.), then, yes, i do consider myself to be a feminist
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: (sorry if i am asking any questions that seem obvious, as we know each other in the "real" world)
    Makeshift Dialect: yes it's fine. i'm not being sarcastic.
    Makeshift Dialect: i'm just being more precise.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: i think i define feminism in a similar way...what do you consider to be feminist issues - you know, besides equal pay

    8:25 PM EST

    Makeshift Dialect: public education - this may be due to my current place of work (a high school) - but there is a lot of talk about boys "falling behind" in school. educators are alarmed by these "statistics." in reality, girls are just doing better, and i am currently reading a study saying just that: men are afraid that their daughters are exceeding their sons academically. (even though we all know who goes to ivy league institutions anyway.)
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: there has been a lot of nytimes [sic] coverage about the "plight"
    Makeshift Dialect: boys now face in education, especially on the college level
    Makeshift Dialect: aside from education, i would say that race and sexuality are two strong arms feminists (white in particular) wrestle with
    Makeshift Dialect: and yes, well, boys drop out
    Makeshift Dialect: because they can
    Makeshift Dialect: (of college, i mean)
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: i gotcha
    Makeshift Dialect: i think the subtleties of how our society reads or refuses to acknowledge gender in situations is also worthy of feminist "issuedom"
    Makeshift Dialect: i'm thinking of a post on my blog about women getting the new nj license
    Makeshift Dialect: and how they need their marriage certificate, suddenly
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: did you write about that in one of your earlier posts?
    Makeshift Dialect: yes, i think i wrote it in my first or second post, actually
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: i vaguely remember something about needed your MRS. to be able to drive in jersey
    Makeshift Dialect: haha, yes, well i can explain better
    Makeshift Dialect: for the sake of this dialogue
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: i think it's hilarious, since new jersey was the only colony that gave women the vote (until 1808!) after the united states united
    Makeshift Dialect: in 2001 (i think) nj adopted a new set of criterion to get one's license.
    Makeshift Dialect: women and men who already held licenses needed to get new ones and "vouch" for their identities. women who were married had to bring their marriage certificates -- even though their married name was on their old license.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: a social security card with an updated name wouldn't do?

    8:30 PM EST

    Makeshift Dialect: that's funny because i think the scenario i'm talking about really highlights one of my concerns: is gender an invisible part of everyday situations? we recognize race (mostly) and sexuality nowadays, but gender feels absent, in a way. it seems we take more gender-related
    Makeshift Dialect: "oppression" as just what society does. it's so subtle.
    Makeshift Dialect: i'd think so? about the sscard.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: i would posit that maybe one of the problems with gender is that it is "natural" and often confused with sex
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: gender is "the way things are"
    Makeshift Dialect: exactly
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: in the same way that race and sexuality once were
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: (and still are, to some degree)
    Makeshift Dialect: right, which is funny since it feels like there's always so much "open talk" about the women'smovement [sic], and all those feminists who wanted the right to vote, or the era.
    Makeshift Dialect: it feels like "feminism" is part of a lot of everyday fabric of our culture, whereas race and sexuality are taboo and in turn seen as more defined issues.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: well, i guess i feel like feminism has been made into enough of an f-word for some people who would otherwise oppose it to feel comfortable
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: whereas there isn't necessarily the same level of comfort with race, sexuality, class, etcf [sic]
    Makeshift Dialect: yes, i agree. it has a different "taboo" status almost.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: so many taboos...
    Makeshift Dialect: there are!
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: so, given our great conversation about gender that's going, i'm going to assume that it's fairly safe to say that feminism is pretty important to your world view?

    8:35 PM EST

    Makeshift Dialect: yes, i would say that it is.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: good, because i would have felt pretty dumb is you had said no and i had asked you such a leading question : )
    Makeshift Dialect: hahaha
    Makeshift Dialect: yeah
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: so, let's switch gears and talk a little about blogging
    Makeshift Dialect: surely!
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: we've already mentioned that you keep a blog, but before we talk about makeshift dialect, i'm just wondering if you read any blogs regularly
    Makeshift Dialect: celebrity blogs mostly (much to my chagrin). nowadays i don't have much time to do a lot of online writing or reading. i'd say i read gawker. i don't think i read any other "feminist" blogs, though.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: hey, that's cool - i mean, i've set up a bloglines account and i check it every once in a bit, but unless i'm reading for my thesis...
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: are there any celeb blogs you follow in particular?
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: (celebs write their own blogs?!)
    Makeshift Dialect: well, i read gawker. no!!! they're ABOUT celebrities, and they're trash, really.
    Makeshift Dialect: it's mind-numbing
    Makeshift Dialect: gawker.com, perezhilton.com
    A Blog Without a Bicycle: lol
    Makeshift Dialect: i also look at stuffonmycat.com
    Makeshift Dialect: none of these are feminist
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: an important distinction?

    8:40 PM EST

    Makeshift Dialect: no not really. in general, i don't like to read blogs that are about one person's point of view -- unless their writing is really stellar/creative.
    Makeshift Dialect: the celeb blogs have a lot of picture so, as i said before, it is mindless to scroll on through.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: (this does not bode well for a blog without a bicycle - jk_
    Makeshift Dialect: hahahaha no! don't say that!
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: you are too kind, too kind
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: you use a lot of visuals on your blog
    Makeshift Dialect: i do
    Makeshift Dialect: i think the internet makes is conducive for short attention spans
    Makeshift Dialect: i'm not interested in "selling" what i have to say, but i'd rather market well with creative use of images, etc. than have just plain text.
    Makeshift Dialect: it feels like you can bring in an audience based on the pictures and enrapture them with the powerful content
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: that's a really interesting way to describe your self-presentation
    Makeshift Dialect: there's so much on the internet, you know?
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: how do you select images?
    Makeshift Dialect: how do i select them? like find them? or decide to use a certain one?
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: yeah, i agree, there is soooo much on the internet...
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: either, both
    Makeshift Dialect: okay, well, if i'm talking about something, i'll think of how to describe what i'm talking about in order to get a picture that will illustrate it.
    Makeshift Dialect: so i use google images (you really shouldn't do this)
    Makeshift Dialect: and sometimes use my own photos -- i have quite a digital collection on my computer, but it's often easier to just look at google images
    Makeshift Dialect: and then something will just strike me about one particular image. one that i'm thinking of from one of my blogs is the picture of poverty with the little black boy looking confused
    Makeshift Dialect: i mean, i'm in [location omitted]
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: your images do add something to your blog that not all blogs have going on; it's a different way to engage
    Makeshift Dialect: i sort of don't take myself too seriously with the images, but i think i make a point.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: a picture is worth a thousand words

    8:45 PM EST

    A Blog Without A Bicycle: and i like that you use a lot of the images ironically
    Makeshift Dialect: indeed. and then i always try to pair the photo with a caption that ties together the image and the content.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: you add tone to your narrative voice
    Makeshift Dialect: yeah, well, thanks!
    A Blog Without a Bicycle: all right, i'm going to put my english major away for a minute
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: so, going backwards, tell me a little about makeshift dialect
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: like, why did you start blogging? what is your blog "about"? does it have a theme? etc etc
    Makeshift Dialect: i think that i started blogging because a lot of people told me i should have a blog.
    Makeshift Dialect: that sounds ridiculous
    Makeshift Dialect: but it's kind of something that i thought would be interesting to do.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle:...i think i might have been one of those peeps...
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: and it's true!
    Makeshift Dialect: i don't post that often because it's such an EXPERIENCE to post and it takes a long time to create because i'm often telling a very elaborate story about something or other.
    Makeshift Dialect: i like my blog because it feels relevant
    Makeshift Dialect: i think that i'm always striving to produce relevant material in whatever i do.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: a technological experience, a life experience, or a creative/literary experience?
    Makeshift Dialect: so, i don't just post frivolously. i wait until i really have something.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: that is a very distinct blog style
    Makeshift Dialect: it feels like a creative experience - i sort of have a physical reaction to it because i just get really into it and drawn into how to describe what has happened
    Makeshift Dialect: i am thinking of i think the most recent post that i have about the girl who was bisexual and thought i was talking about coming out day
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: because the internet moves so quickly, there's a lot of pressure to post constantly to ensure your popularity in the blogosphere
    Makeshift Dialect: that was a really funny story and took like 2 minutes to tell someone, but on my blog, i had to sort of pay attention to a lot of minutiae that added up to the story being funny to read.
    Makeshift Dialect: yes, you're right. that's something that concerns me in a way about my blog - my posting frequency and the fast-pace. but i just can't make myself, as i said.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: yeah, there is an art to creating interesting blog articles; i mean, my personal challenge is making an academic project interesting to other people who aren't obsessing 24/7 about the topic as i am
    Makeshift Dialect: it's like, i kind of know what i sound like when it ell a story and what makes people laugh. i just have to really hone in on re-creating my tone.

    8:50 PM EST

    A Blog Without A Bicycle: well, i think it's fine to not buy into the whole fast-paced media idea - if i posted every day it would become an ode to anxiety or a poem about procrastination
    Makeshift Dialect: yeah really. it's just crazy. and who has TIME for that?
    Makeshift Dialect: like, the gawker people -- that's their full time job.
    Makeshift Dialect: it's not mine (yet?!)
    Makeshift Dialect: so i don't rush it. and i think that you can definitely make something that's academic appealing in a blog form.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: it's an interesting career - filtering your consciousness into the 'net
    Makeshift Dialect: i think if you stripped my blog of my narrative voice, you'd see a lot of pieces of academia
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: there are quite a few academical blogs out there (tiara.org, bitchphd, feministspectator...and i think those are just the ones i looked at today)
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: so what does that say about academia?
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: (or your voice?)
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: (that might have been a rhetorical question)
    Makeshift Dialect: interesting about the academia blog. well, i think that there's a perception of what academia is.
    Makeshift Dialect: and that perception is held by many people who work at universities
    Makeshift Dialect: but just because you're smart, doesn't mean you can't make what you're saying accessible
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: access is a hugely hot topic
    Makeshift Dialect: i think that blogs can be a good connective device between academia and the world
    Makeshift Dialect: it comes up all the time in feminist courses - and the opinions are quite divided about what "access" is and if it is "important"
    Makeshift Dialect: well, i think that it's hard to see academia as anything [sic] less than overwritten articles about non-issues of the world
    Makeshift Dialect: well, "accessible" on the internet means that poor people can't read it
    Makeshift Dialect: and then they can't read the language i might use either
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: at the same time, there are quite a few feminists who get upset about the presentation of "feminism lite" or diluted feminism...so, do you think that's applicable to academia?
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: i agree - the digital divide is very important to consider
    Makeshift Dialect: so, class-able people, might be able to understand my blog and access it and walk away with a nugget of an academic "intellect" or something
    Makeshift Dialect: but, i think that diluted feminism is definitely something [sic] to think about
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: what are your thoughts here - a lot of folks have made the argument that the internet is inherently democratic

    8:55 PM EST

    Makeshift Dialect: i don't feel what i write on my blog is diluted f eminism [sic]. i think that i'm more direct than a lot of academics can be because they probably hav ea [sic] book on the line, and i have a mere blog post.
    Makeshift Dialect: and i don't think that it's inherently democratic -- you need to have knowledge to find anything, or to want to find anything on the internet.
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: (oh! i didn't mean to imply that it was watered down or diet)
    Makeshift Dialect: there is a certain freedom in blogging
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: but there is also the question of online versus on-campus identity - if you blog openly, will you get tenure? <--a completely academy-focused concern
    Makeshift Dialect: (i know!! i was just remarking on that - because my blog is more accessible than something that may be traditionally "academic") and like public libraries are always helpful? in [location omitted], the public library is always packed, and it seems like the same 7 people are on those computers for hours on end. who has TIME for the public library?
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: and public libraries are, well, public
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: there's not guarantee of privacy
    Makeshift Dialect: exactly
    Makeshift Dialect: and i don’t know about your question about tenure

    …[side conversation omitted]…

    Makeshift Dialect: i think what you're doing is really interesting
    Makeshift Dialect: i think it's interesting because it feels like you're in the university setting and you're getting a graduate degree in women's studies ... yet you're ABLE to openly blog about things. things like my blog, which isn't academic, for instance.
    Makeshift Dialect: and it's an experiment for you to it might be perceived as more acceptable than a professor who is "openly blogging" and seeking tenure

    9:00 PM EST

    A Blog Without A Bicycle: i agree, being a student gives me freedom here
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: i mean, conducting interviews over im? must be one of those crazy younuns [sic]...
    Makeshift Dialect: but, at the same time, the world is changing very quickly - i mean because of the internet
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: *youngins
    Makeshift Dialect: hahaha yeah exactly
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: remember when we were like 6 and the idea of a portable device that was telephone/computer/doctor/locator/transporter/book/encyclopedia/whatever all in one was science fiction?
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: when these new hand held devices come out, i feel old
    Makeshift Dialect: hahaa i know right!
    Makeshift Dialect: yeah, that's really an interesting thing to say.
    Makeshift Dialect: okay well, i think i have to go!
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: i guess i'll be telling the grandkids about the first time i logged onto the internet...
    Makeshift Dialect: sorry [name removed] is cooking dinner and she came in her ea [sic] few times already a lookin at me
    Makeshift Dialect: hahaha
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: all right - i will email you
    Makeshift Dialect: they'll be surfing the internet in their brain (science fiction of today)
    sure!
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: great!
    A Blog Without A Bicycle: thanks!!!
    Makeshift Dialect: bye!!

    To be continued!

    Note: All links were added by A Blog Without a Bicycle. Timestamps were included in this transcript to illuminate how the interview took place in “real time.”

    Please read the Informed Consent Form in full before posting to this blog.

    Interview with...A Blog Without a Bicycle

    Interviewing Myself

    Because I am interviewing other bloggers, I felt that it was only fair to answer the same questions that I am asking others to answer. So, while being afraid of engaging in gratuitous navel gazing, I will interview myself. Or at least respond to my own questions.

    Do you identify as a “feminist”? How important, if at all, is being/not being a feminist to your identity?

    Being a feminist may be my defining quality. In high school, I was (in)famously labeled a "feminazi." Embracing this identity, I attended a women's college and have pursued a graduate education in women's and gender studies. You might say that gender is the lens through which I view the world - along with shades of race, class, sexuality, and ability, of course.

    Whether or not you identify as a feminist, what does “feminism” mean to you?

    In my introductory post, I defined my personal brand of feminism. To reiterate, there are many feminisms and you should be an informed consumers about which you buy into and which you boycott.

    Do you or have you ever kept a blog or blogs? When you spend time online, do you read blogs? Are there any blogs you read regularly?

    Given that my M.A. thesis is about blogging, I have found myself gorging on blogs recently. Luckily, Bloglines.com keeps my daily consumption under control.

    Tell me about your blog(s).

    My blog is primarily a part of my research project. Participant-observation, if you will. Because of its role in my research project, my blog is probably less interesting than many other blogs out there.

    How long have you been keeping a blog?

    Since September 2006.

    What made you want to start a blog? What was your inspiration?

    The desire to write an interesting M.A. thesis. The need for learning more about what I was hoping to study.

    How would you describe your blog?

    Academic rambling at its most researchy...Or a work in progress that will progressively become more interesting.

    Does your blog have a theme or does it focus on a particular issue?

    Are you tired of hearing about my M.A. thesis? Me too some days.

    How do you define a “blog”?

    If I only knew...

    What qualifies as a “feminist blog”?

    Again...

    Have you ever participated in a blog carnival? If so, tell me about that experience.

    I am hosting the Carnival of Feminists #26. Submit!

    Why did you want to participate in a carnival?

    If I was going to write about blog carnivals, it seemed like it would only be fair to actually participate and experience what I was focusing on. Right?

    How did you find out about the blog carnival you participated in?

    Oh, google!

    Now that you have participated in a carnival, what do you think about them?

    I'll get back to you...

    ADDED LATER (to get back to you): There are more and less work than I previously thought. As a novice to the blogosphere, I wondered if "bigger" bloggers would have been more likely to submit/nominate posts if I was a more popular blogger. I also pondered if what I felt to be low participation was actually a reaction to the legal-ese style of my informed consent form and all that IRB-required business. Or if I was just being insecure.

    What do you think is the best/worst aspect of blog carnivals?

    Best - They create cool communities.
    Worst - Like many things on the internet, there are a lot of them; I wonder if good blog carnivals get lost in cyberspace (which would be sad, methinks).

    Do you belong to or consider yourself a member of any online community? How do you define these communities?

    Thus far, I have managed to avoid MySpace, but I may have fallen prey to a certain book of faces.

    I'm working on the definition party - the deadline is May. Right now, I'm thinking Benedict Anderson style. Maybe?

    Do you think that activism can be carried out online? What are the possibilities of such activism?

    Hell, yeah! Too many to name...

    Do you think that feminist activism is being conducted online? If so, can you think of any examples?

    Ditto!!!


    Please read the Informed Consent Form in full before posting to this blog.

    Snaps

    Kudos to...

    Everyone who has expressed interest in the 26th Carnival of Feminists.
    You rock!

    J.D.
    Thanks for the carnival interest and IRB support.

    N.B.
    Thanks for being my interview guinea pig...or chincilla...maybe more of a flying squirrel...really, you pick an animal.

    Please read the Informed Consent Form in full before posting to this blog.

    Sunday, October 22, 2006

    Posting Schedule

    Excuses, Excuses

    So, a few people have mentioned to me that I don't really post all that often or that the posts that I've put up are really not that "interesting" yet. Very true! As a grad student, I'm balancing lots of academic (required) writing and research with the desire to blog my heart out. Sure, sometimes I get a hankering to write about a debate on legalized abortion that I attended or a baffling episode of the Colbert Report (A Salute to the American Lady)...but then I consider the hundreds of pages of reading that I have to finish by the end of the week, or the exams I need to grade, or the fact that I can't remember the last time I cleaned my bathroom and...well. I spend a lot of time researching my thesis and sometimes that research competes with being a good blogger about my thesis (I know, the two should really work hand in hand). I hope you won't give up on A Blog Without a Bicycle - things are a little uphill right now, but they will speed up once we switch gears. (Too much with the bicycle analogy? Yes.)

    Okay, so, as I promised - whining will be kept at a minimum - end whine.

    Please read the Informed Consent Form in full before posting to this blog.

    Feminism is Dangerous

    So, what's up with the informed consent form?

    So, you may be wondering about the strange legalese-style form that I recently posted. Well, as an "ethical research" at an academic research institution, there are quite a few (bureaucratic) steps that I need to take in order to conduct research with "human subjects." In the wonderful world of academia, any research involving "human subjects" must be overseen by the Institutional Reivew Board (IRB) of the academic organization at which you work/study. One of the requirements of the IRB (among many!) is that all participants in a research project give informed consent for their participation in any study. Hence, the form.

    One of the idiosyncratic details that may bring more light to the structure of my official informed consent form is that the IRB that I am working with is housed in the medical school of my university. As you can imagine, internet research is quite different that medical research (consider the differences between a human virus and a computer virus). Therefore, there are some aspects of the standard forms required by the IRB that may not be quite so relevant to my research. I am required, however, to follow my institution's IRB procedures. Failure to comply could result in many negative consequences, including the reality that my M.A. thesis could be rejected and I could be denied graduation. Yikes! So I'm being compliant. Because I want to graduate. That and I would never want to exploit anyone in the process of doing feminist research; it would be painfully hypocritical.

    Following these requirements does not mean, however, that I cannot comment on elements of the IRB procedure that I find problematic. For example, the standard training program, the CITI program, utilized by my university does not provide much concrete guidance when it comes to internet research. Or, the Human Subjects Research Synopsis, the form for applying for IRB approval, has limited descriptors for describing the population with which one works ("healthy persons only," "both healthy persons and patients," "only asymptomatic patients with chronic conditions," "only asymptomatic patients"). The state of the health of self-identified feminist bloggers does not seem like a confound to my research. In fact, given the degree of anonymity available on the iternet, I really cannot verify the status of anyone's health (and it's really none of my business, as it is not related to my research topic). And who defines "health" anyway? What is a "healthy person"? Sounds a little normative to me...

    For me, what was the most troubling experience that I had with the IRB was the advice that I received when I was initiating my approval process. When asking what level of review I should apply for (exempt, expedited, full protocol), I was told that I should apply for expedited status because of the topic of my research: feminism. It was reported to me that feminism can be seen as a "touchy subject" and that in the study of this "touchy subject" "human subjects" could be exposed to more than a minimal risk (minimal risk is defined as the level of stress a person would confront in normal daily activities). Now, I would just like to clarify that the person who relayed this information to me should not be blamed for IRB policy; this person was genuineley trying to give me the best advice possible and to make my IRB process as painless as possible. This person, however, did represent an IRB viewpoint, however, that feminism is...well, inherently dangerous. Or at least more stressful than...the oppression and the difficulties one faces in everyday life?

    Now, I do not mean to make light of the protection of participants in research projects. As the CITI training clearly pointed out, there have been some incredibly unethical experiments conducted in the past (ie, Nazi experimentation, the Tuskegee syphillis "study"). I think here I am just advocating for more flexible/accommodating/applicable research oversight and the demystification of the IRB process. So, should you decide to participate in my research, I welcome you to critique the IRB-structure in which I am working. Do amend the informed consent form!

    Oh, and I don't think feminism is dangerous (in the way it was implied).

    My "real" informed consent form

    Principal Contact: A Blog Without a Bicycle / ablogwithoutabicycle(at)gmail(dot)com

    1) INTRODUCTION

    You're invited to be a part of my M.A. thesis project, which focuses on blogging and the creation of feminist networks online.

    First, I want you to know that:
    • You don't have to do it!
    • It would be really cool if you wanted to participate and you could participate for as long (or as short) as you want.
    • You may receive no direct benefit from taking part in this study. At least not a monetary benefit...But other good things could come out of your participation! Like lots of good karma for helping a M.A. student to graduate.

    Now let's chat about what this study is really about...I wouldn't want you to start something something without knowing exactly it is that you're getting yourself into.

    2) WHY IS THIS STUDY BEING DONE?

    I am a M.A. candidate in women's studies and to graduate I must write a thesis. I have selected blogging and online feminist networks as the topic of my thesis. Although M.A. theses can have limited real-world application, I am hoping that - at least through this blog - my thesis will do more than contribute to enlarging my university's no-one-goes-there section of the library.

    3) WHAT IS INVOLVED IN THE STUDY?

    Here's the deal. You can participate by:
  • Read my blog (thanks for bearing with me!)

  • Posting a comment on my blog to let me know if I am "getting" the feminist blogosphere

  • Participating in an interview with me over email or instant messenger to get your say so

  • Participating in follow-up interviews to keep me on the right track

    4) WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF THE STUDY?

    No foreseeable risks are anticipated for participants in this study. I mean, you might spend some time reading a blog instead of balancing your checkbook or ultimately contribute to the overthrow of the patriarchy, but...as far as I know, my blog cannot hurt you.


    5) ARE THERE BENEFITS TO TAKING PART IN THE STUDY?

    To quote my thesis advisor, the benefits are, "Solidarity, sister!" Maybe you'll spend some time thinking about your views of feminism or the blogosphere in more detail (wait - is thinking dangerous? should I amend the risk section?). Maybe you'll connect with some other blogging feminists. Maybe you'll have something entertaining to read sometimes. I can't make any promises, though. But I'm hopeful!

    6) WHAT ARE MY OTHER OPTIONS?

    Sorry to state the obvious here, but you do not have to participate. You can even just ignore me!

    7) WHAT IF I CHANGE MY MIND?

    Well, I will be pretty proud of you for being open-minded. I hope you change your mind about things often! If you do not want to participate, just stop. You don't even have to reply to my emails or ever visit my blog again. It won't hurt my feelings; I won't cry myself to sleep.

    8) WILL I RECEIVE PAYMENT FOR BEING IN THIS STUDY?

    Hahahahahahaha...I don't even get paid for doing this study. In fact, I'm paying a university for the privilege of conducting this study.


    9) WHAT ARE THE COSTS FOR PART IN THIS STUDY?

    You are more than welcome to contribute donations to the support-my-thesis fund, but it's not required. In fact, participation is F-R-E-E. Isn't free stuff grand?

    10) OTHER INFORMATION YOU NEED TO KNOW

    Confidentiality. I am not about outing bloggers, but I am about giving people credit for their ideas. So, I will refer to you in my thesis/subsequent publications (oh, delusions of grandeur and academic articles!) as you prefer to be named. I will always respect your intellectual property by attributing your ideas to you.

    Taking you off the study. Just say no. Consent is sexy! Oh...wrong context.

    Consent Document. Please keep a copy of this document in case you want to read it again. Maybe it will make a good piece of scrap paper for your grocery list. Or you could just bookmark the link, if you really think you want to re-read this crazy rant.

    Remember, if you comment on my blog, you've given your "informed consent" to be a part of my M.A. thesis project - and, frankly, I'm flattered. THANKS! : )

    Please read the Informed Consent Form in full before posting to this blog.
  • Sunday, October 15, 2006

    Kudos Continued

    Many thanks to...

    G.W.
    Thanks for being willing to be my reader.

    C.D.
    Thanks for being willing to be my PI.

    C.H.
    Thanks for the resources.

    N.B.
    Thanks for the opportunity to participate in the carnival.

    N.B.
    Thanks for being willing to be interviewed.

    Please read the Informed Consent Form in full before posting to this blog.

    Informed Consent Information

    03/29/07 Update

    All consent materials are now available as PDF documents:
    -Study Synopsis
    -Interview Consent Form
    -Weblog Consent Form
    -Interview Script



    **Please read the information below before posting to this blog!**

    Research Consent Form
    Blogging and the Creation of Online Feminist Networks
    Weblog Comments Consent Form

    GW IRB Reference number: 110601
    Principal Investigator: Cynthia Deitch, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, Sociology, and Public Polciy & Associate Director of the Women’s Studies Program
    Principal Contact: Elizabeth M. Curtis, M.A. Candidate in the Women’s Studies Program /Tel.: (202)994-6224

    1) INTRODUCTION
    We invite you to take part in a research study under the direction of Associate Professor Cindy Deitch and M.A. Candidate Elizabeth M. Curtis of the Women’s Studies Program of the George Washington University.

    First, we want you to know that:
    • Taking part in research is entirely voluntary.
    • You may choose not to take part in this study or you may withdraw from the study at any time.
    • You may receive no benefit from taking part. The research may give us knowledge that may help people in the future.

    Now we will describe this research study. Before you decide to take part, please take as much time as you need to ask any questions and to discuss this study with family or friends. Before you signify your acceptance of the conditions outlined in this form by commenting on A Blog Without a Bicycle, be sure that you understand what the study is about.

    2) WHY IS THIS STUDY BEING DONE?
    You are being asked to take part in this study because you expressed interest in blogging and feminism by posting comments on A Blog Without a Bicycle.

    The purpose of this study is to learn more about the formation of feminist networks online through blogging.
    The research will be conducted online via comments provided by readers of A Blog Without a Bicycle and email and instant messenger conversations.

    The number of individuals who will participate in this study will be determined by the number of individuals who volunteer to participate in the study. We anticipate that between 10-25 individuals will participate. Please note that you must be at least eighteen years old to participate in this study.

    3) WHAT IS INVOLVED IN THE STUDY?
    If you choose to take part in this study, this is what will happen:

    The study will take place in two parts. In the first part, you will comment on A Blog Without A Bicycle. In the second part, you will participate in an interview with a researcher via email or instant messenger. The two parts of the study are described in detail below.

    Part 1: Comment(s) – You are being asked to consent to this part of the study at this time.
    • You will begin with your participation in this study when you commented on A Blog Without a Bicycle. When you comment on the blog, the identity you post your comment under (ie, your legal name, title of your blog, online identity, etc) will be the name your comments will be attributed to in any research reports.
    • If you provide information that will allow the researchers to contact you in your comments, a researcher may follow up with you to see if you were interested in participating in a short, 10-question interview about blogging and feminist communities online. If you decide to participate, you can expect to spend approximately one-hour participating in this interview, but you can elect to spend more or less time participating in the project. (Note: After reviewing the consent form that will presented at that time, you may choose to decline to participate in this interview.)

    Part 2: Interview – You will be asked to sign an additional consent form if you decide to continue your participation into the second stage of this study.

    4) WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF THE STUDY?
    No foreseeable risks are anticipated for participants in this study.

    5) ARE THERE BENEFITS TO TAKING PART IN THE STUDY?
    You may receive no benefit from taking part. The research may give us knowledge that may help people in the future.

    6) WHAT ARE MY OTHER OPTIONS?
    You do not have to be in this study if you do not want to. To opt out of participating in this study, merely refrain from commenting on A Blog Without a Bicycle. Posting on A Blog Without a Bicycle signifies your agreement to participate in the study; if you do not want to participate in the study, do not post comments on a Blog Without a Bicycle.

    7) WHAT IF I CHANGE MY MIND?
    You may stop taking part in this study at any time.

    8) WILL I RECEIVE PAYMENT FOR BEING IN THIS STUDY?
    You will not be paid for taking part in this study.

    9) WHAT ARE THE COSTS FOR PART IN THIS STUDY?
    Taking part in this study will not lead to added costs to you.

    10) OTHER INFORMATION YOU NEED TO KNOW
    Confidentiality. When commenting on A Blog Without a Bicycle, you will have the option to post under your online identity or to post anonymously. Please note that if you post under your online identity, you are indicating your willingness to participate in the first part of this study, as described in this consent form. If you would like to remain anonymous and post your comments under this label, there will be no way for the researchers of this study to trace your identity or to contact you and a pseudonym will be assigned to you in any reports of the study. If you would like to post anonymously but also participate in the second part of this study, an interview, please email ecurtis@gwu.edu; your confidentiality will be respected at all times.

    Taking you off the study. The investigators can decide to withdraw you from the study at any time. The investigators reserve the right to decide what data (in the form of comments or information obtained from interviews) will be included in the study or in publications of the information gained in the study. Your comments and/or interview may or may not be fully or partially included in publications based on this study. Any comments or information you provide that is included will be attributed to you in the way that you specify.

    Problems or Questions. The Office of Human Research of George Washington University, at telephone number (202) 994-2715, can provide further information about your rights as a research subject. Further information regarding this study may be obtained by contacting Elizabeth M. Curtis, the M.A. student conducting this research as a part of her thesis, at telephone number (202)994-6224 or by email at ecurtis@gwu.edu.

    Consent Document. Please keep a copy of this document in case you want to read it again.

    If you agree to participate in this study, you will indicate your consent by commenting on A Blog Without a Bicycle. By commenting on A Blog Without a Bicycle, you are agreeing to the terms outlined below in the “Documentation of Consent.”

    11) DOCUMENTATION OF CONSENT
    I understand the information included in this form. I have asked the questions that I have about this study, its risks and potential benefits, and my other choices with Elizabeth M. Curtis, the primary contact. My questions so far have been answered. My comment(s) on A Blog Without a Bicycle indicate(s) my willingness to participate in this study, my understanding that I can withdraw at any time, and my assertion that I am at least eighteen years old.



    Please read the Informed Consent Form in full before posting to this blog.