Saturday, March 31, 2007

Poll About Carnival Themes

What theme/category of articles that frequently appears in feminist carnivals do you think is the most important?

In my research about feminist blog carnivals, I've noticed that certain themes frequently reoccur. While I know that categorization can be suspect (I mean, these are the themes that I perceive - you might disagree), it's useful to consider what is newsworthy in the feminist blogosphere. Using my categories, I'm wondering what topics you feel are the most important/interesting to be featured in carnivals. Yes, we can argue over the implementation of hierarchy here, but with the knowledge that all of these categories (and others not mentioned!) are important, I'm just curious about your favorite. So, please take my poll!

What theme/category of articles that frequently appears in feminist carnivals do you think is the most important?
Activism
Body Issues
Defining Feminisms
Intersectionality Issues
Miscellaneous
Politics and Current Events
Popular Culture Analysis
Reproductive Issues
Sexism
Sexuality
Violence and Sexual Assault
Women and Religion
Women and Work
Women's History
Feminist Blogosphere
  
pollcode.com free polls




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

Whatever happened to...

...The Radical Women of Color Carnival?

In my thesis, I have been using the Carnival of Feminists as my primary site of engagement, as it is has been, in many ways, the most useful carnival I have found online for my project. I would love, however, to include examples of other feminist carnivals. I was really excited to find the Radical Women of Color Carnival, but equally disappointed to find that it had been discontinued. I'd be interested to hear the story of this carnival - what motivated its formation, why it had a somewhat short tenure in the blogosphere. I'd love to hear the stories of other feminist carnivals as well.


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

Interview with Carly Hope Finseth

“You know what they say: Knowledge is power. And the Internet can help spread that knowledge – and spread the power. If more people learn about feminism – and debunk the radical myths surrounding it – then that in and of itself is a form of activism. And the Internet can help us reach such goals.” –Carly Hope Finseth

Carly Hope Finseth, editor of the 'zine Empowerment4Women and blogger at The Greatest Blog You'll (Probably) Never Read is the latest member of the feminist blogosphere to join me in another great email-based interview.

Interview

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you identify as a “feminist”? How important, if at all, is being/not being a feminist to your identity?

Carly Hope Finseth: I absolutely identify as a feminist. I wouldn’t say that it’s a conscious part of my self-identity, though. It certainly helps define who I am – but my feminist beliefs are more like a subconscious intuitiveness in that they’re automatic, a filter through which I see the world (my “feminist colored glasses”). I couldn’t turn it off even if I wanted to.

I guess I’d put it this way: for me, being a feminist is as important to my central identity as being a woman; the two, I believe, go hand in hand. But I don’t sit around and think, “Hey, I’m a woman – and hey, I’m a feminist.” I just am. And frankly, I think that most women are feminists at heart; most women want what’s best for them. That, to me, is the cornerstone of feminism – the idea that any woman has the right to make her own choices, to define her own life. And from that standpoint, I believe every woman should identify as a feminist – and most probably do, even if they don’t identify with the term itself.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Whether or not you identify as a feminist, what does “feminism” mean to you?

Carly Hope Finseth: Feminism is the belief that women have the right (and even the duty) to choose their own path, create their own destiny, to live the way they want to – without barriers, without judgment. For some women, this symbolizes equality (a term we hear a lot when referencing feminism); for others, it’s about respect and rights. For some, it’s about choice. Choice about one’s own body, the choice between career or family – or even a balance of both. Still others view it as a way to overcome oppression and inequity.

In my experience, a person will define feminism differently depending on his or her own experiences. Abuse and rape victims may look at feminism as a way to overcome patriarchal objectification and seek true gender equality. Women who have had an abortion experience may view feminism as a way for a woman to keep – or gain, in some instances – her right to choose what to do with her own body. For some it’s personal, for some it’s political. For me, feminism is about choice, respect, rights, and – especially – the self-empowerment to do what’s right for you.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: 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?

Carly Hope Finseth: Oh absolutely. I have a blog, “The Greatest Blog You’ll (Probably) Never Read” (www.empowerment4women.org/community/blogs/thegreatestblog/). And since my job (as the Managing Editor/Publisher of the online magazine Empowerment4Women, www.empowerment4women.org) is primarily Internet-based, I spend a lot of time browsing through women’s interest sites and blogs – as well as a few just for fun.

Just recently I switched over to a new e-mail client that has a built-in aggregator for news and blog feeds – so I’ve been able to keep up-to-date with some of my favorite blogs, which is fabulous! Some of my favorites are Bitch, Ph.D. (http://bitchphd.blogspot.com), Feministing (www.feministing.com), Buttercup & Bean (http://buttercupandbean.blogspot.com), Peek (www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/), The Feminist Pulse (http://www.girlistic.com/blog/blogs), and, of course, my fellow E4W blogs, like Inside the Box (www.empowerment4women.org/community/blogs/insidethebox/). I also subscribe to a few entertainment blogs, too, like Pajiba (http://www.pajiba.com) and The Futon Critic (http://www.thefutoncritic.com).

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Tell me about your blog(s).

Carly Hope Finseth: My blog just recently turned one year old, actually. Wow. I just realized that and I can’t believe it. I began it truly just for fun. No inspiration, no suggestion. I’ve always enjoyed journaling and thought, “Hey. Why not journal for the entire world to read? Because it’s not like it’s embarrassing or anything…” Actually, now that I think about it, who knows why I would air my dirty laundry for the world to read? I guess it’s just fun. In some sick sort of way…

I had a hard time coming up with a name for my blog because while it’s hosted through my feminist ‘zine, I also wasn’t planning on it being a primarily feminist blog. “The Greatest Blog You’ll (Probably) Never Read” is what I came up with – mostly because I figured I’d be writing about so much drivel that people probably wouldn’t read it. And honestly, that’s okay – because some of the stuff I probably shouldn’t be sharing anyway. ☺ And so, since you asked, I’d probably characterize my blog as a little bit of this and a little bit of that – with some feminist insights thrown in along the way for good measure. There’s no theme, per se; it’s just about me. Welcome to my brain. Sometimes it’s a scary place.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: How do you define a “blog”?

Carly Hope Finseth: Isn’t there a standard definition for this somewhere? Hmm… I guess I’d define it as a web site that gets updated very often, has an interactive component where readers can leave their comments and essentially “chat amongst themselves,” contains several entries written in a mostly conversational tone, and comes in one of two forms: personal journalistic narrative and/or informative news. I personally like the blogs that incorporate a little of the two: shows readers the “real” person, while also giving round-ups of news across the globe or offering insightful tidbits on current real life issues.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: What qualifies as a “feminist blog”?

Carly Hope Finseth: I’d say pretty much any blog written by a person who identifies as a feminist. There are a few obvious ones (like Feministing, etc.) that very clearly focus their content on feminist issues. But I also think that there are several “everyday people” blogs written by or for women that could also be considered a “feminist blog.” Whether or not the author considers his or her blog to be feminist in nature is probably the best indicator.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Have you ever participated in a blog carnival? If so, tell me about that experience.

Carly Hope Finseth: Yes, actually. I was given the honor of hosting the 33rd Carnival of Feminists just a few weeks ago. It was a fantastic experience. It put me more in touch with current women’s issues than I had been in a long time; in fact, it forced me to take a few days out of my life and focus on nothing but feminism. The best part, though, was being introduced to so many new blogs and bloggers that would have otherwise taken me a long time to discover.

A dear friend of mine told me about the feminist carnivals and I’ve been a faithful reader ever since. I became interested in participating when I ran across a blog entry from somewhere – now I can’t remember where, but it’s likely it was from a previous feminist carnival – which led me to the carnival host’s site. I discovered she was looking for future hosts and without really even thinking about it, I signed up. Later, I realized that it would be a great way for me to get people to learn more about me and my ‘zine – and make some new online friends.

Now that I’ve participated in a carnival, I think that they can be a fabulous networking tool – not to mention a way in which people with likeminded philosophies can visit each other’s blogs, read each other’s work, and become engaged in conversations that really matter. It’s really strengthened my belief in the importance of such an event, as if anything, I want to show my support for all of these fantastic, intelligent, insightful, empowered feminist bloggers.

And really, that’s the best part about carnivals: the networking and triumphant sense of support and unity that arises out of such an event. The worst part, if there is one, is that sometimes the carnival entries can be a bit repetitive; in other words, the same bloggers are featured in the same carnivals – and we aren’t able to see a lot of new faces. But that’s only if I’m looking for something to gripe about.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you belong to or consider yourself a member of any online community? How do you define these communities?

Carly Hope Finseth: Well, the primary online community I’d say I’m a part of is Empowerment4Women (www.empowerment4women.org) – but that’s kind of a no-brainer. I do participate in things like MySpace but see them as less of an online community than, say, a marketing tool. My blog – and my experience hosting the feminist carnival – has been one arena in which I’ve felt that I’ve become more a part of the overall blogging community, as well as a tiny part of the subculture of feminist blogging. Ultimately, I wouldn’t say that I am a member of any online community; that is, separate from my work at and for E4W.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you think that activism can be carried out online? What are the possibilities of such activism?

Carly Hope Finseth: Oh, wow. I love this question. I sure hope so – because I’ve built my business and my online identity on the belief that activism (in my case, feminist activism) absolutely can be carried out online. The Internet can be an incredibly powerful arena for which to gather the troops so to speak, to link people with common interests, build communities, and work together toward a common goal. In my mind, activism can take on several forms, not the least of which is the dissemination of information. You know what they say: Knowledge is power. And the Internet can help spread that knowledge – and spread the power. If more people learn about feminism – and debunk the radical myths surrounding it – then that in and of itself is a form of activism. And the Internet can help us reach such goals.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you think that feminist activism is being conducted online? If so, can you think of any examples?

Carly Hope Finseth: Well, for starters, there’s my ‘zine, Empowerment4Women (www.e4w.org)… ☺ But, seriously, I’d like to think that E4W is a place where we engage in some form of feminist activism every day – through our blogs, as well as through our bimonthly issues, which we try to use as a tool to inform and connect women to each other, as well to the concept of self-empowerment. There are countless other ‘zines – big and small – cropping up all over the Internet, as well – and of course there are the blogs, such as Feministing.com, Bitch, Ph.D., and many others which focus on feminist activism through building online communities and awareness.


Carly and I will be continuing our conversation - check back soon!

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

Friday, March 30, 2007

Interview with Nathan

To me feminism is a misnomer. Feminism to me means fighting against The Patriarchy and how women are treated by it is only one face of what's wrong with the patriarchical nature of our culture. -Nathan

Another great interviewer with a feminist blogger - this time a male feminist blogger, Nathan of Misanthrope Cyclist.

Interview

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you identify as a "feminist"? How important, if at all, is
being/not being a feminist to your identity?


Nathan: I identify as a feminist - or, at least, a pro-feminist man. Feminism as an idea has been in me since at least when I was a teenager but has only recently (since December) been a focal point in my life. It is very important to me! I refer to my discovery of feminist theory as my second epiphany, the first being my becoming a cyclist. What I found in feminist theory was an explanation for a good portion of what I saw and felt around me that was observable as not only sexism but also racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, bullying, the high divorce rate, rage and violence, xenophobia, insecurity, depression . . . When I started reading some feminist theory, things that had been bothering me for years started clicking into place.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Whether or not you identify as a feminist, what does "feminism" mean to you?

Nathan: To me feminism is a misnomer. Feminism to me means fighting against The Patriarchy and how women are treated by it is only one face of what's wrong with the patriarchical nature of our culture.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: 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? Tell me about your blog(s).

Nathan: I have a blog - been doing it for a little over two years. Shortly after I realized I needed to start cycling to work I started reading and then participating in some cycling blogs. As I started to feel part of this community of cycling bloggers I decided to stop mooching and start sharing myself. Because of this it naturally started out as a cycling blog but I address most important aspects - along with plenty of not-so-important aspects - of myself and my life (it's a personal blog) on it, including depression, marriage, raising kids, and feminism. One thing notably missing from it is politics, at least explicitly.

Aside from my blog [Misanthrope Cyclist] I try to keep up with a bunch of other, mostly
personal, blogs.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: How do you define a "blog"?

Nathan: A blog is an online journal with a theme of some sort though the theme could range anywhere from very specific to very general.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: What qualifies as a "feminist blog"?

Nathan: A feminist blog is one that addresses feminist issues with a mindset that feminism is both a positive and important thing. It might be a person's personal discovery or experiences with feminist issues, links to and discussions on news with feminist overtones, or essays on feminist theory.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Have you ever participated in a blog carnival? If so, tell me about that experience.

Nathan: I hadn't heard about a blog carnival until you participated in the Carnival of Feminists.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you belong to or consider yourself a member of any online community? How do you define these communities?

Nathan: I consider myself a current member of the following online communities:
- bloggers, utility cycling
- bloggers, cycling in MSP
- bloggers, winter cycling
- bloggers, anti-Patriarchy
- Velospace.org
- Yahoo! group, rootsradicals
- Wikipedians

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you think that activism can be carried out online? What are the possibilities of such activism? Do you think that feminist activism is being conducted online? If so, can you think of any examples?

Nathan: Activist activities can clearly be carried out online. From what I've seen in the feminist blogosphere, I know raising awareness of feminist issues and ideas and theory sharing and debate is taking place widely online; to a lesser extent calls for action on feminist issues is taking place online; and I can think of at least one example of action planning and resource organization on a particular feminist issue - UBUNTU (http://iambecauseweare.wordpress.com/).

...Nathan has promised to continue this conversation with me. More interviews with him coming soon!

I'd really love to increase the number of male bloggers who have been interviewed for my project. As of right now, the gender scheme is a bit imbalanced - and I know that there are great feminist bloggers out there of all genders. Post a comment on my blog with contact information or email ablogwithoutabicycle(at)gmail(dot)com. Looking forward to it...


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

Chapter 1 (Fourth Installment)

I welcome your Peer Review!

First Installment: Introduction

Second Installment: That Which We Call a Blog?

Third Installment: From Blogs to Blog Carnivals and Beyond

The Myth of Internet Democracy

“The great news is media has gone from an old boy’s club to an echo chamber. If you want people’s attention, you don’t need to be right, you just need to shout.” –Stephen Colbert (40)

The internet, and the blogosphere in particular, has been hailed by many as democratic space where forms of prejudice that exist in the offline world cease to exist. Citing the benefits of disembodiment, the lack of systematized corporatization (at least in the early internet years), the possibilities of free speech, and the spread of information originating form non-hegemonic sources, the internet has been described by some as a mythic utopian space and by others as the launching site for the next socially progressive revolution. The fact that web pioneer Tim Berners-Lee (41) “envisioned a system that was equal parts readable and writable” leads individuals to conceptualize the internet as an interactive space that supports democratic principles through its intended polyvocality (42). When viewed uncritically as a space where all voices, especially of those who are marginalized in the offline world, can be heard, the egalitarian potential of the internet appears to be quite promising. Unfortunately, the inequalities that exist in the “real” world translate into cyberspace and the blogosphere is not immune to the systems of oppression that operate offline.

The rhetoric used to describe the expansion of the blogosphere often references the democratic mythos applied to the world wide web. In The Weblog Handbook, Blood provides an example of this assessment of the blogosphere:
The weblog phenomenon is democratic. Weblogs are generally published by a single person or a group of people who lack access to traditional means of broadcast. For this new type of publication, all that is required is reliable access to a computer with an Internet connection; free, easy-to-use services make it possible to produce a weblog without knowing HTML or spending a penny. In the weblog universe, everyone can say his piece. Produced without gatekeepers, weblogs focus on whatever topic is of interest to its maintainer: Web design, math-rock, world events, or day-to-day events. Webloggers who link to one another recognize their ability to leverage virtual social connections into ad hoc networks, enabling each of them to amplify his individual voice (43).
According to Blood, blogs are an equal access arena for spreading one’s message, notably without hindrance no matter what that message might be, and building coalitions. Stone’s similar version of blog evolution also incorporates this mythology; Stone describes how,
All of a sudden…someone had removed the barriers to entry [with the availability of blogging software] and all we had to do was pour our thoughts into an empty text box and click a button to be a part of the action. It wasn’t going to be just a few people. This was something for the masses, and things were going to get interesting (44).
According to Stone, the “publishing side of the internet has been democratized” through such software (45). The language Stone employs in invoking “the masses” is noteworthy because of its historical connotations with revolutionary movements (46). Further, this choice of words reveals an idea of equal access as inherent to blogging; like Blood, Stone asserts that in the blogosphere “everyone can say his piece” (47). Tobias echoes Blood and Stone and extends their premises in her direct invocation of blogging as democracy enacted; Tobias writes,
However mundane, absurd, controversial, or pedantic their themes may be, blogs have in common an unregulated and libertarian essence. Blogs are a modern manifestation of our First Amendment rights, providing both voice and audience for anyone with an opinion, including self-identified feminists and those engaged in women’s issues (48).
Again, the idea of all individuals having equal ability to share information regardless of whether it is “mundane, absurd, controversial, or pedantic” (49) is avowed. The fact that Tobias’s assessment is United States centric illustrates the mythic qualities of this conception of the blogosphere, as democratic ideals like freedom of speech and equal representation are an important part of the institutionalized national consciousness of Americans. Like the originary tales of the United States that gloss over the institution of slavery, the displacement of Native Americans, and the non-citizenship of women, these foundational myths of the blogosphere obscure the ways in which inequality does exist in cyberspace. Accounts like those provided by Blood, Stone, and Tobias elide the fact that a digital divide exists and that “isms” and stereotypes are present online.

While discussing the physical conditions that are necessary for blogging, Stone does indicate an awareness of the digital divide:
Dude. It’s so easy to start a blog. You don’t even have to own a computer; you just need regular access to the web to start a blog. Of course you’ll need regular access to the web if you want to keep blogging. Let me also state for the record that I am being very casual here with the term access to the web because you can blog via e-mail, phone, Palm, or an actual computer. I primarily use my laptop to blog, but occasionally I also use my cell phone or an e-mail account. It’s not necessary to own a computer – yet another reason why blogging is democratizing the Internet (50).
Despite Stone’s implicit acknowledgment that not all individuals have access to the internet via computer connection, he does not include the lack access to other digital devices or the lack of technological familiarity that some individuals face because of unequal access to and distribution of resources. Further, his statement emphasizes that the internet is not, in fact, wholly democratic. Even if “blogging is democraticizing the internet" (51) the digital divide prevents the full participation that is required for democracy. To bridge the digital divide Stone introduces, it would not be enough for all individuals to have access to web-accessible computers; up-to-date computer technology, internet connection speed and reliability, technological literacy, and other issues of equality of access would effect whether or not the internet could reach its hypothesized democratic potential fully.

Margaret Beetham drives this point home in her article “Periodicals and the New Media: Women and Imagined Communities;” Beetham writes,
[T]here are the material and ideological constraints which still operate to exclude some groups, as they did working-class women in the 1890s [in the growth of the periodical press]. To be ‘information poor’ is in contemporary terms to be one of the excluded. Access to the imagined communities of the internet chat room or the resources of the world wide web are dependent on material and ideological structures which impinge on real users. Access to computers is unevenly distributed across the world and across societies in the rich North. Even if you can get to a computer you may not have the knowledge or confidence to know what to do. In fact there is evidence that the gap between ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ here, too, is increasing (52).
Many individuals across the globe do not have access to computer-related technologies. Of those individuals who are capable of accessing electronic devices, there are still some who have not been provided with the skill sets to utilize this equipment. To gain the benefits of internet technology, one must be able to first use the tools needed to make this technology work; having a computer with internet access will not bring an individual closer to sharing their ideas in the blogosphere if they do not have a degree of even basic internet literacy. The internet provides a powerful tool for expression for those who are able to take advantage of it and a powerful tool of silencing for those who are not. As Beetham points out, “If it is not online it is literally invisible” (53). Globally, many individuals are not able to create spaces of visibility for themselves in cyberspace.

In Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet, Lisa Nakamura also emphasizes the fact that “lack of access to the Internet – often found along raced, classed, and still, to a narrowing extent, gendered lines – continues to cut particular bodies out of various histories in the making” (54). Nakamura, however, goes on to examine the ways in which race class, gender, and other categories of identity affect the experience of cyberspace for individuals who do have access to the creation of new histories through the internet. Focusing on ethnically-determined experiences of the world wide web, Nakamura makes it clear that the “Internet is a place where race happens” (55) and has coined the term “cybertype” to describe “images of racial identity engendered by this new medium [the internet]” (56). Cybertypes operate online in much the same way that stereotypes operate in the offline world; Nakamura explains that “cybertyping is the process by which computer/human interfaces, the dynamics and economics of access, and the means by which users are able to express themselves online interacts with the ‘cultural layer’ or ideologies regarding race that they bring with them into cyberspace" (57). Cybertypes describe the “distinctive ways that the Internet propagates, disseminates, and commodifies images of race and racism” (58). The importance of Nakamura’s concept of cybertypes, which can be extended to other identity categories such as gender or class, becomes clear when considering how they operate in cyberspace, especially those internet areas imagined to be democratic like the blogosphere.

In light of Nakamura’s point that “[b]ecause the Internet is interactive and collectively authored, cybertypes are created in a peculiarly collaborative way” (59), blogs, as sites of interactivity, become spaces for both replicating and troubling cybertypes. Stone’s description of the development of the blogosphere highlights the importance of the role of blogs in the evolution of cybertypes:
[A]n accidental social network had already begun to grow strong on the web. This network was blind to height, weight, and eye color – a virtual world in which thoughts, opinions, and ideas represent the people who had them. This world was born, not built. Within it, people are drawn together by intellectual attraction; news and knowledge is prized over crushes and turnoffs. The blogging world started with the big bang of Blogger in 1999 and has been expanding ever since (60).
Notably, Stone only considers “height, weight, and eye color” (61) in his assessment, which ignores other important embodied features of identity like ability or sex. His romanticized description of the blogosphere hides the dystopian elements of cyberspace while also highlighting the power of the networks, expanding rhizomatically, created by weblog communities. Not only do blogs become a site of viral (in the technological sense) transmission of cybertypes; they are also spaces where remedies against cybertypes and other online “isms” can be distributed.

Notes
40.“Great News,” The Colbert Report, http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_colbert_report/index.jhtml.
41. Berners-Lee is attributed with the creation of the world wide web.
42. Stone, Wbo Let the Blogs Out?, 12.
43. Blood, The Weblog Handbook, 10.
44. Stone, Who Let the Blogs Out?, 4.
45. Ibid.
46. Ibid.
47. Blood, The Weblog Handbook, 10.
48. Tobias, “Blog this!,” http://www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/WomensStudies/fc/fcblogs1.htm.
49. Ibid.
50. Stone, Who Let the Blogs Out?, 122.
51. Ibid.
52. Beetham, “Periodicals and the new media.”
53. Beetham, “Periodicals and the new media.”
54. Nakamura, Cybertypes, xii.
55. Ibid., xi.
56. Ibid., xiii.
57. Ibid., 3.
58. Ibid., 3.
59. Ibid., 5.
60. Stone, Who Let the Blogs Out?, 100.
61. Ibid.



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

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Cover Art Contest

So, in beginning to put the pieces of my thesis together, I have decided that after all of this hard work, the tome really deserves a nice cover. But I am not necessarily graphically inclined. So...I thought I would have a contest! Exciting, right? YOU could design the cover art for the print version of my thesis that will be forever kept in the GWU library (plus a very special spot on my own personal bookshelf). I know you are bursting with ideas - send designs to ablogwithoutabicycle(at)gmail(dot)com. The winner will be announced on/around May 1st!


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

Interview with K.M. Aase

"[A]ctivism can be supported and furthered by online activities, but online work with out real-life action is only a prelude to activism." -K.M. Aase

I recently interviewed K.M. Aase about her blogging experiences and she shared some great insights with me. Enjoy this thoughtful and thought provoking interview!

Interview

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you identify as a "feminist"? How important, if at all, is
being/not being a feminist to your identity?


K.M. Aase: Yes, I identify as a feminist. I think quantifying how important it is is rather difficult though. For me being a feminist is as fundamental as being female. I am a woman, I am a feminist. To me it is hard to understand how anyone who is female can not identify with feminism. Because this is such an integral part of my self-understanding, though, I don't feel the need to announce myself as a feminist. If I am true to the cause, my actions and ideas should make it clear that I am a feminist without having to "Evangelize'.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Whether or not you identify as a feminist, what does "feminism" mean to you?

K.M. Aase: Feminism is about choice and respect. For women, it is about having the opportunity to create your own destiny. If you want to stay at home with a brood of children, or be a professional athlete, or cure cancer, all of those should be equally valid options with no social stigma either from men or from other women. Feminism is the idea that a woman's future is based on her own skills, dreams, and desires, not a gender role or social norm. For men, feminism is about respect. The respect for women as spiritual and mental beings, not just physical. Respecting women to make their own choices in life. Respect to treat women as equals and not feel threatened by that equality. The third aspect of feminism, I feel, is the understanding that everyone is different, each person is an individual, and no two experiences are the same, and respecting those differences.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: 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?

K.M. Aase: I currently have four blogs. I have to admit, I rarely read blogs. Every now and then, prior to my current project, I would read a personal blog here or there. I am reading more now, but it is required for a class. Two that I read most regularity are 'Jews sans Frontiers' and 'Queer Dewd'.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Tell me about your blog(s).

K.M. Aase: One is personal, one for my Senior Project, one to post my fiction work, and the last to keep in touch with my fiction audience. My personal blog is, obviously, to keep current with family and friends, my blog for my fiction work is where I post works of fiction that I have written, the sister blog to that is used to keep the people who read my work up to date on what I am working on. My Senior Project blog is a blog about feminism, though I am choosing to use a very broad definition which incorporates a lot of other social justice issues.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: How long have you been keeping a blog?

K.M. Aase: Off and on for five years; my senior project blog only about three months.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: What made you want to start a blog? What was your inspiration?

K.M. Aase: My very first blog (no longer current) I used to rant about things, using humor, generally about how stupid people can be. My senior project blog which is the most current is being used to complete my senior project in women's studies. I am a writer, so it was only logical to use writing for my women's studies project, but the stipulation for the project has always been that it has to attempt in some way to change the world (i.e.: it can't just be a paper). Using a blog I was able to do both.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: How would you describe your blog(s)?

K.M. Aase: A take on current events and western culture from a feminist point of view, using humor as well as fact to express a point

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Does your blog have a theme or does it focus on a particular issue?

K.M. Aase: Feminism and social justice issues.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: How do you define a "blog"?

K.M. Aase: A online journal presented in reverse chronological order.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: What qualifies as a "feminist blog"?

K.M. Aase: A blog that expresses feminist views, whether or not it calls itself a 'feminist blog'.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Have you ever participated in a blog carnival? If so, tell me about that experience.

K.M. Aase: No, I actually don't even know what that is.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you belong to or consider yourself a member of any online community? How do you define these communities?

K.M. Aase: No, I am not/do not. I prefer to make my contacts in person. All too often online communities have extreme infighting and crazy group dynamics that don't appeal to me. Even the most intelligent, mature, and loosely formed communities seem to have these issues.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you think that activism can be carried out online? What are the possibilities of such activism?

K.M. Aase: I think it's possible but likely less effective then carrying out activism in the real world. The internet provides a platform from which an idea can be expressed. However, simply expressing an idea isn't really 'active'. The internet can be used to provide information, which is a major component of activism, but information alone is rarely enough. Although the internet can be used to drum up support for a cause, without real-life action, it seems to me like it's just a lot of noise, a lot of people talking to each other, most of whom already agree with each other anyway. Of course there is online petitions, but it seems to me (and I admittedly have very little experience) that online petitions do not hold the same clout as actual physical paper petitions. To summarize, [I] feel that activism can be supported and furthered by online activities, but online work with out real-life action is only a prelude to activism.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you think that feminist activism is being conducted online? If so, can you think of any examples?

K.M. Aase: I think the dissemination of information for feminist causes, as well as the platform to discuss feminist ideas is being conducted on the web, both are important adjuncts to feminist activism, but require more than that. For example: The internet can be used to provide information about safe sex, activism would be providing free prophylactics or teaching a safer sex class.

Would you like to share your thoughts on the blogosphere and be featured on this blog? Post a comment with your contact information OR email ablogwithoutabicycle(at)gmail(dot)com.


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

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Second Interview with Maxine Clarke

I recently continued my interview with blogger Maxine Clarke of Petrona. Kudos again to Maxine!

Interview

A Blog Without a Bicycle: You said that you generally identify as a feminist, but you gave me the impression that this is not the primary way that you characterize yourself. How do you describe yourself? Do you feel any strong political affiliations, etc? Or do you prefer not to label yourself in this way?

Maxine Clark: I find it hard to have strong affiliations to any movement or organisation, because I am such an individualist I am never going to agree with everything the organisation stands for. I was always a bit of an outsider at school, and not much of a one for clubs and societies. I'm more of a reader and a thinker - a lonely person, bas[i]cially. I am a pragmatist and have always been self-reliant -- I find it safer that way. I was of the immediately post-"hard line" feminist generation (post Greer and Friedan), (Frieden?) -- so the ethos was very much "you can have a job, you can have children" etc. Well, I do have both but it has been tough doing both (work and parenting) as well as I'd like, without extended family and having to work for a living -- and there has been, I feel, little time over for anything else. After 15 years of it, I discovered blogging, which has been a revelation to me in this particular regard -- its combination of connection with other like-thinkers, short writing (creativity), and thinking, as well as being able to do it without physically going out after a long day at work, etc, is perfect for me.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: I think that the role of men in the feminist movement is a really rich topic for discussion. What role should men play in the feminist movement? How can different groups of men work towards gender equity and equality?

Maxine Clark: Well, I work in a so-called enlightened profession (science publishing), but it seems to be comp[l]etely accepted as a valid reason for there being relatively few top women academics/scientists that they have "more domestic duties" than men. This is so wrong. If men took an equal responsibility for family logistics (once the breast feeding is over, of course they can't do that!), then life would be much better for women. How many conferences are there at weekends? If (both sex) parents stood against this and refused to eat into family time; if "businessmen" weren't forever away at conferences or at late meetings because some "wife" was at home to look after the children; if it were not assumed that women are more responsible for childcare logistics than male parents....you get the idea? I have observed over the years that in "double income" parent families, it is usually (but not always) the female parent who gives up opportunities because of family commitments, or because if she works a long week, she would not want to leave her children with someone else looking after them at weekends "as well". (One would begin to wonder why people have children at all if their work means they can't spend any time with them.) But why should either parent make the sacrifice? Families are more important than work -- aren't 5 days a week enough for work? Men could really make a difference in this kind of thing...more time for the family and for being present at evenings and weekends for the children that they helped to create. Or, if they really have to do it at all, taking it in turns to do the trips/work late. Many men do this already, of course, but not enough of them (from what I have seen in a long working life). So many children at school with mine, or of people I work with, barely see their fathers (it is usually fathers) because they are at work until after their bedtimes and away at weekends.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Different groups of feminists have very different views on the role men should play. For example, as I understand it, in Australia a man would not consider himself a "feminist" but would instead label himself as a "friend of feminism." In the United States, however, men do describe themselves as feminists. In fact, men have been included by many groups, especially feminist women of color, from the beginning of their organization.

Maxine Clark: In the UK men do not usually refer to themselves as feminists. I think they'd regard this as a bit of a "girly" term. (ie applicable to women). "Enlightened" or "liberal" or similar word is usually used -- in my opinion, wrongly as it is a sort of "awarding a brownie point for what you should be anyway" kind of word! But of course, a great many men and women genuinely think that women should not work and that "career" women are bad, and all of that (read the Daily Mail).

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Currently, I am most interested in how men are participating in the feminist blogosphere. Which men are involved? How are these men involved?

Maxine Clark: No idea, I just meet individual men who are that way. I don't know of any particular movement. I think it is to do with the way their mothers bring them up, probably.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you have any thoughts on male bloggers who are participating in the feminist blogosphere? Do have any favorite male bloggers, etc?

Maxine Clark: I like a lot of blogs written by men as well as by women, but I don't think I follow any feminist ones either way. I follow a blog if it demonstrates individual, independent thought on a topic I'm interested in, which is basically reading, web and a dash of science and technology. And the odd film.


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

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Calling All Bloggers...

Interviews Still Available!

As you've noticed, several bloggers have agreed to participate in interviews to support my M.A. thesis project. I've had some great conversations about the feminist blogosphere with these folks - and I would love to have more. The more interviews that I do, the better my perspective of the feminist blogosphere will be. And the better my research will represent what's really going on with feminism in cyberspace. This is your chance to have your say about online activism; do take me up on the offer! I can offer you a featured link on my blog with a copy of our interview transcript (if you would like to publicize our interview).

So, post a comment on the blog with your contact information or, if you prefer more privacy, email me at ablogwithoutabicyle(at)blogspot(dot)com. I'd really love to chat with you!


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

Chapter 1 (Third Installment)

I welcome your Peer Review!

First Installment: Introduction

Second Installment: That Which We Call a Blog?

Third Installment: From Blogs to Blog Carnivals and Beyond

Some bloggers distinguish between “filter-style weblogs” (31) that closely follow the original hyperlink list format of early blogs and “blog-style weblogs” (32) that provide intimate insights into an individual’s life through diary-like postings. While such distinctions obscure the ways in which many blogs vacillate between different styles, it does provide a potential (yet partial) explanation for the development of blog carnivals. In their basic function, blog carnivals seem to serve the same purpose as blogs, specifically filter-style weblogs; they both provide current lists of links to websites of interest. Filter-style weblogs were originally created to catalogue the entire web, as they originated at a time when listing nearly every website in existence was possible. Now weblogs and blog carnivals, help to provide a filter for the world wide web, as it is too expansive to be fully indexed at this point in its development (33). While a filter-style weblog may include hyperlinks to a variety of different types of websites, such as news media websites, game websites, community websites, or video websites, blog carnivals primarily link to blog articles; blog carnivals are filters specifically for the blogosphere. Wikipedia.com (34) highlights the differences between these two forms in its definition of a blog carnival; a single edition or issue of a blog article is described as “a blog article that contains links to other articles covering a specific topic” and “[m]ost 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" (35). Like filter-style weblogs, blog carnivals provide topical reading lists of internet sources that potentially span the entirety of cyberspace; unlike filter-style weblogs, blog carnivals are geared towards providing a current cartography of only the blogosphere. Further, filter-style weblogs are ongoing websites authored by a consistent blogger or blog team whereas blog carnivals are a series of individual blog posts that are hosted on various blogs by different individuals who volunteer, apply, or are nominated to compile and edit each new edition of the blog carnival. An individual blog that culls interesting material from the internet differs from a blog carnival because of the stability of the individual blog’s location, or URL, and its author or authors. A blog carnival, on the other hand, travels, like country fair, and is executed by a series of different hosts.

Through their participatory model, blog carnivals establish communities. BlogCarnival.com, a hosting website that supports blog carnivals, illustrates the communal nature of blog carnivals in its description of them:
A Blog Carnival is a particular kind of blog community. There are many kinds of blogs, and they contain articles on many kinds of topics. Blog Carnivals typically collect together links pointing to blog articles on a particular topic. A Blog Carnival is like a magazine. It has a title, a topic, editors, contributors, and an audience. Editions of the carnival typically come out on a regular basis (e.g. every monday [sic], or on the first of the month). Each edition is a special blog article that consists of links to all the contributions that have been submitted, often with the editors opinions or remarks.
There is so much stuff in the blog-o-sphere, just finding interesting stuff is hard. If there is a carnival for a topic you are interested in, following that carnival is a great way to learn what bloggers are saying about that topic. If you are blogging on that topic, the carnival is the place to share your work with like-minded bloggers (36).

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.

According to internet lore, the first blog carnival is thought to be The Carnival of the Vanities. With a focus on blogging as the “bleeding edge of vanity publishing” the bloggers at SilflayHraka.com set out to establish a venue for bloggers to gain greater audiences and to increase linking between blogs in September 2002 (37). While playing upon the conventions of the carnival or traveling circus, a call for bloggers to “Come one, come all. See the freaks on the display for the low, low price of absolutely nothing!,” the goal of this call was articulated as:
What I'm hoping for with the Carnival is kind of an hourglass effect, where one post pulls in a large number of visitors, and sends them right back out to through the links within it. I think it'll work, but it might not, and if it doesn't then it's at least sparked a couple of other ideas on how to find the quality in the blogosphere (39).


Generally, The Carnival of Vanities was well-received. The idea of the blog carnival was indeed a spark and it quickly became popular as other bloggers began to replicate it. To date, over 300 editions of The Carnival of Vanities have appeared and BlogCarnival.com lists over 1,300 carnivals in its most recent catalogue.

Notes
31. Blood, “Weblogs: A History and Perspective,” 12.
32. Ibid., 13.
33. Stone, Who Let the Blogs Out?, 37.
34. 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.
35. Wikipedia.com, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog_carnival.
36. Blog Carnivals.com, http://blogcarnival.com/bc/faq.html.
37. Carnival of the Vanities, http://www.silflayhraka.com/archives/carnival.
38. Ibid.
39. Ibid.



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

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Interview with Veronica Nichols

"if I'm gonna change the world, I can't do it from a swivel chair." -Veronica Nichols

I recently interviewed Veronica Nichols of Nine Pearls via instant messenger about her thoughts on the feminist blogosphere and beyond. Big thanks to Veronica for taking the time to chat with me!

Interview

A Blog Without a Bicycle (04:51:48 pm): to start, i usually just check in to make sure that folks are comfortable with the informed consent form (which you returned) and then ask if 1)what name you prefer to be used to refer to you in any writing i do, and 2)if you would like me to put a transcript of the interview on my blog with a link to your blog
Veronica Nichols (04:52:13 pm): i use my real name. Veronica Nichols.
Veronica Nichols (04:52:26 pm): and sure, a transcript is fine
A Blog Without a Bicycle (04:52:29 pm): works for me! i just like to double check...
A Blog Without a Bicycle (04:53:17 pm): any preference on the transcript?
Veronica Nichols (04:53:42 pm): yes. transcript it. links are good.
Veronica Nichols (04:53:44 pm): lol
A Blog Without a Bicycle (04:54:32 pm): my general feeling as well, but i don't want to violate anyone's confidentiality, if they prefer it
Veronica Nichols (04:54:52 pm): it's always good to be polite and ask.
A Blog Without a Bicycle (04:55:03 pm): so...generally, do you identify as a "feminist"?
Veronica Nichols (04:55:17 pm): yes
A Blog Without a Bicycle (04:55:41 pm): how important is identifying as a feminist to your identity?
Veronica Nichols (04:56:35 pm): it's pretty integral. it's not usually the first thing I say. I don't introduce myself that way. but, I also wouldn't feel like me without feminism.
A Blog Without a Bicycle (04:57:43 pm): introducing oneself as a feminist can be an interesting social experiment in some contexts, as folks have a variety of ideas about what it means to be a feminist. what does feminism mean to you? how do you define your feminism?
A Blog Without a Bicycle (04:59:17 pm): (and you can feel free to ask me any questions you might have at any point)
Veronica Nichols (04:59:22 pm): I'm pretty basic with it. I think that to me, it means that women should have access to equal rights and equal protections under law, first and foremost. All that other stuff--the ins and outs of "femininity" come second.
A Blog Without a Bicycle (04:59:55 pm): i'm not sure what you mean about the ins and out of femininity - would you mind explaining?
Veronica Nichols (05:01:38 pm): I mean that I don't care about whether or not it's "feminist" to high heels or miniskirts, as long as women, regardless of what they wear, are recognized as full citizens of the world.
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:03:44 pm): so, for you, the primary thing is women should have equal access to choosing the path of their lives?
Veronica Nichols (05:04:06 pm): yup
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:04:28 pm): very cool
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:04:47 pm): moving onto blogging...tell me about your blogging life
Veronica Nichols (05:05:42 pm): um. i've been through a couple of them. I feel like I've been blogging for a long time.
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:05:54 pm): how did you start getting interested in blogs?
Veronica Nichols (05:06:41 pm): i spent a lot of time bored at work, and it seemed like a fun thing to try
Veronica Nichols (05:07:09 pm): that was before "political blogs" were a big deal
aldahlia (05:07:21 pm): it was just, lots of people blogging about their day to day stuff
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:07:24 pm): so, pre-2001?
Veronica Nichols (05:07:41 pm): yeah... according to blogger it was june 2000
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:08:07 pm): i feel like many folks find blogs through internet surfing at work
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:08:15 pm): that is a long time, in the blog world
Veronica Nichols (05:08:42 pm): yeah. it's an eon in internet time.
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:09:53 pm): what trajectory has your blogging career taken? you mentioned that you've had a few blogs...did they focus on specific themes or issues? how [did] your blogs change as your blogging skill set changed? stuff like that...
Veronica Nichols (05:10:58 pm): I started out with personal stuff. my life was pretty messy at 20-21. I'm pretty political by nature, so... that kind of thing creeped in from time to time. I've always been called "opinionated" online.
Veronica Nichols (05:11:30 pm): then, like a lot of other people, after 9-11, the writing went a LOT more political
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:12:02 pm): for you, is being labeled "opinionated" a good thing?
Veronica Nichols (05:12:18 pm): actually, I've always thought it was sort of stupid.
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:12:19 pm): war blogs did change the blogging landscape indeed
Veronica Nichols (05:12:28 pm): who isn't opinionated?
Veronica Nichols (05:12:48 pm): "opinionated" is such a non-descriptor
Veronica Nichols (05:12:58 pm): it's a polite way of saying, "they're a know it all that won't shut up"
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:13:23 pm): very true - anna quindlen spoke at my undergrad commencement and she talked about the ways she's been labeled - and pondered why she has been told to apologize for having an opinion
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:13:48 pm): sometimes i wonder if "opinionated" is used to describe bloggers in gendered ways
Veronica Nichols (05:13:59 pm): i wouldn't doubt it
Veronica Nichols (05:14:16 pm): i haven't paid much attention, but who describes a man as "opinionated?"
Veronica Nichols (05:14:23 pm): they're supposed to have opinions, right?
Veronica Nichols (05:14:25 pm): heh
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:14:27 pm): if you don't mind sharing, have you had any personal experiences of that nature?
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:14:49 pm): well, i think that's an excellent question in some ways - what is a blog supposed to have?
Veronica Nichols (05:15:36 pm): well, a blog can have whatever you want to put on it... a blog that strangers read, though...
Veronica Nichols (05:15:43 pm): that's gotta have something going on
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:15:59 pm): for you, what makes a blog successful?
Veronica Nichols (05:16:28 pm): the blogs that I like are usually smart, but aware of the limitations of the medium
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:16:43 pm): what limitations do you see in the blogosphere?
Veronica Nichols (05:16:52 pm): well... no blog is going to change the world.
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:17:08 pm): that seems realistic
Veronica Nichols (05:17:13 pm): we're all limited by audience, and by class
Veronica Nichols (05:17:23 pm): we're only talking with and to people that have computers
Veronica Nichols (05:17:25 pm): that have time
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:17:31 pm): the digital divide is really important to consider
Veronica Nichols (05:17:31 pm): and access to the interent
Veronica Nichols (05:17:37 pm): and even beyond that
Veronica Nichols (05:17:49 pm): we're usually talking mainly to other bloggers
Veronica Nichols (05:18:05 pm): it's a more of a closed community than a lot of people realize
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:18:06 pm): do you feel that the blogosphere can be incestuous?
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:18:24 pm): what do you mean by closed community exactly?
Veronica Nichols (05:18:29 pm): well, i dunno about incestuous
Veronica Nichols (05:18:31 pm): lol
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:18:39 pm): poor choice of words on my part, yes
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:19:02 pm): we've been talking about the blogosphere generally, but i'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the feminist blogosphere
Veronica Nichols (05:19:33 pm): by closed, i mean that outside of the blogosphere and maybe some politicians and pundits, most people don't really give a crap about blogs
Veronica Nichols (05:19:38 pm): sure
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:19:43 pm): like, is the feminist blogging world mostly the same, a little different than the larger blogosphere? are the limitations similar? is the community open/closed?
Veronica Nichols (05:21:00 pm): i'd say that there are a lot of the same dynamics, as there are in the larger network. there are cliques and memes spread in the [sic] same way. there are hubs in the community.
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:21:20 pm): any specific hubs you'd like to point out?
Veronica Nichols (05:21:48 pm): i think that because there's such a hurdles in just using the word "feminist" that the feminist blogosphere has a seperate set of challenges
Veronica Nichols (05:21:58 pm): and hubs? well, there's the big blogs.
Veronica Nichols (05:22:17 pm): feministing, pandagon, blogher, etc
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:22:46 pm): what challenges do you see for the feminist blogosphere?
Veronica Nichols (05:23:10 pm): it changes so often it seems like there's a new challenge every couple of months
Veronica Nichols (05:23:15 pm): heh
Veronica Nichols (05:23:20 pm): repeatedly though
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:23:28 pm): like, thematic challenges?
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:23:38 pm): or, like, just a lot of challenges?
Veronica Nichols (05:23:40 pm): it comes down to trying to define what feminism is, repeatedly
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:24:07 pm): i think recent discussion on feministing about inter-generational feminism points to that
Veronica Nichols (05:24:38 pm): the valenti-pollit thing?
Veronica Nichols (05:24:54 pm): it's funny
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:25:10 pm): yes, jessica seems to have created quite a controversial post
Veronica Nichols (05:25:30 pm): i think that "ageism" is something that comes up a lot within the "second vs. third wave" debates
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:26:05 pm): as were discussing at the beginning of the interview, feminism can be quite a challenged term to employ
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:26:33 pm): thinking about feminism and blogs, though, and maybe "hubs" - what are your experiences with blog carnivals?
Veronica Nichols (05:27:15 pm): good mostly. sometimes it feels like the same people get featured over and over.
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:27:21 pm): ageism, mother-daughter dynamics, doing one's time, recognizing/critiquing previous movements...first v. third is a huge topic
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:27:41 pm): *second v. third
Veronica Nichols (05:28:23 pm): heh... I think i've only seen first vs. third out of conservative "women's" groups
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:28:47 pm): do you think that carnivals create networks, or do you think that they do something else?
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:29:12 pm): are blog carnivals blogging communities?
Veronica Nichols (05:29:24 pm): eh. sometimes I find new people through the carnivals. but, i don't think that they are communities, no.
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:29:42 pm): do you belong to any online communities?
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:29:50 pm): (however one defines such things)
Veronica Nichols (05:31:04 pm): my initial reaction, was to think of discussion boards. I suppose I belong to the "blog community."
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:31:45 pm): yeah, community is a slippery term
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:31:58 pm): as is my next topic...online activism
Veronica Nichols (05:32:07 pm): heh.
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:32:08 pm): do you think online activism is being conducted online?
Veronica Nichols (05:32:11 pm): yes
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:32:16 pm): any examples?
Veronica Nichols (05:32:28 pm): well, the basic one is fundraising.
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:32:44 pm): what about activism of the feminist variety?
Veronica Nichols (05:33:10 pm): i think that the feminist blogosphere is pretty good at "getting the word out" about things
Veronica Nichols (05:33:19 pm): if some outrage is happening out there
Veronica Nichols (05:33:29 pm): the internet allows that news to spread quickly
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:33:45 pm): information spreads virally indeed
Veronica Nichols (05:33:53 pm): then people can act accordingly
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:34:07 pm): and i agree that the feminist blogosphere catalyzes the spread of information
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:34:23 pm): do you think that people act accordingly in the offline world?
Veronica Nichols (05:34:30 pm): i think that a lot of them are
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:34:41 pm): any specific examples?
Veronica Nichols (05:34:49 pm): and i think that a lot of people just need to talk to people, to know that they're not alone in the way they think
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:35:27 pm): i think the blogosphere is great for connecting people with similar ideas who might never otherwise meet
Veronica Nichols (05:35:46 pm): examples of activism? I know people that protest. In my house, we work with the local "family resource center." people do what they can.
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:36:34 pm): i agree, i was just wondering if you wanted to spotlight any specific efforts that started in the blogosphere
Veronica Nichols (05:36:34 pm): i think that activism tends to happen locally
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:36:50 pm): which is interesting, since the blogosphere is global
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:37:02 pm): or, at least potentially global
Veronica Nichols (05:37:15 pm): yeah, but aside from information spreading and money moving, the internet is "virtual"
Veronica Nichols (05:37:23 pm): activism often takes hands.
Veronica Nichols (05:37:28 pm): physical hands.
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:37:42 pm): that's an interesting way to look at it
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:38:14 pm): personally, i have a tendency to argue against an IRL [in real life] v. online divide - but i think it's also true that there are some things one needs to show up in person for
A Blog Without a Bicycle e (05:38:21 pm): (and i don't mean web conferences)
Veronica Nichols (05:38:22 pm): if I'm gonna change the world, I can't do it from a swivel chair.
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:38:31 pm): that's a great quote!
Veronica Nichols (05:38:43 pm): thanks
A Blog Without a Bicycle (05:39:08 pm): well, i feel like you've answered all of the questions that i had for you. are there any issues you would like to discuss?
Veronica Nichols (05:39:35 pm): nope.
Veronica Nichols (05:39:52 pm): good luck with putting all this together!

Would you like to participate in an interview as a part of my M.A. thesis project? Leave a comment on this blog with information about how to contact you or email ablogwithoutabicycle(at)gmail(dot)com. I appreciate your support!


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

Friday, March 23, 2007

Interview with Maxine Clarke

I see the online world like a Venn diagram – masses of circles with varying degrees of overlap with each other. -Maxine Clarke

I recently interviewed blogger Maxine Clarke of Petrona about her perspectives about the blogosphere via email. Kudos to Maxine for being willing to participate in my project!

Interview

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you identify as a “feminist”? How important, if at all, is being/not being a feminist to your identity?

Maxine Clarke: Yes, in the generic sense that I don’t believe in gender-based discrimination. I don’t usually think of it as being important because it is so integrated into my personality, but I feel sharply aware of it when I perceive or experience some gender-based discrimination.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Whether or not you identify as a feminist, what does “feminism” mean to you?

Maxine Clarke: Being able to make choices and do things irrespective of whether I’m male or female. To be on an equal footing in law, business and in any other sphere.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: 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?

Maxine Clarke: Yes, I have a blog and several “blog archives” (ways to store and retrieve information I want according to categories). I do read blogs and I read several regularly, via rss reader. I have recently started running two blogs at work.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Tell me about your blogs. How long have you been keeping a blog?

Maxine Clarke: My personal blogging started in December 2005. My work blogs began in January 2007.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: What made you want to start a blog? What was your inspiration?

Maxine Clarke: I was curious to try the medium. I’d been interested in setting up my own website and although I’d recently done that, I found the format constraining. I gave blogging a try over a Christmas vacation, and discovered as time went on that there are many things you can do via blogging that suit me well -- the reactions and discourse of people who share your interests, mainly.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: How would you describe your blog?

Maxine Clarke: “Thinking and linking” – I read things that interest me on the Internet, in books, magazines and newspapers, and write about that

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Does your blog have a theme or does it focus on a particular issue?

Maxine Clarke: It does have a theme of books and reading, with some film and some web-technology related material. It also features miscellaneous other topics occasionally – science, humour and the odd political comment. Essentially it reflects what interests me.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: How do you define a “blog”?

Maxine Clarke: Technically it is an online diary – a dated list of short articles. Comments to the articles are optional but personally I would not call a blog a proper blog unless it allows comments and hence debate. Another crucial feature of a blog is the easily retrievable archive, tagged according to topic as well as date. Blogrolls are useful, so that if you find a blog you like you can use the blogroll to try out other related blogs. For me, it is essential that blogging goes hand-in-hand with RSS reader.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: What qualifies as a “feminist blog”?

Maxine Clarke: I don’t know. I suppose a blog that exists to promote women-related issues in some way. Or a blog that provides a role model for women. Or some other way to empower and/or encourage women.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Have you ever participated in a blog carnival?

Maxine Clarke: No.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you belong to or consider yourself a member of any online community? How do you define these communities?

Maxine Clarke: Yes. One online community is the community around my blog – people who comment on my posts, or send me emails either about them or suggestions for topics to write about – and to whom I respond and sometimes even meet.

Other online communities exist round other blogs, some of which I am part of.
I am also part of an online community defined by my work (a science journal).

There is also a much looser online community that has nothing to do with my blog but results from mail lists and groups I join – again some overlap but the community is different to the other ones.

I see the online world like a Venn diagram – masses of circles with varying degrees of overlap with each other.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you think that activism can be carried out online? What are the possibilities of such activism?

Maxine Clarke: Yes of course – we see it a lot in politics and current affairs. It can be used to achieve a groundswell of support for a cause or person; for petitions/votes ; as a business model to drive traffic to your site or blog. It can be used for opinion polls, competitions and to arrange meetings (raves, protest meetings etc). I’m sure there are lots of others.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you think that feminist activism is being conducted online? If so, can you think of any examples?

Maxine Clarke: If it is I have not found it, but I am not particularly interested in online activism and politics. It would not surprise me to know that there are online feminist activist groups. However, I suspect that overall they would need a single issue to work. Eg in mainstream politics, the “single issue” activism of Howard Dean’s campaign worked very well. However, now this type of activism has been copied and is used by many US politicians, so it is losing its power – some other innovation (single issue) will arise, then that will become less powerful as everyone else catches up, and so on. In this sense, online activism is no different to any other medium used for activism strategy.

“Feminism” as a concept is too broad to be readily successful in this way, an impetus tends to fragment, as history has shown. Just because I am a woman does not mean I have anything in common with the person next to me because they also happen to be a woman. Whereas in a vote for the best novel ever written, I could form a “Lord of the Rings” activist group and be successful (achieve number 1 for my chosen title via online recruitment of votes or misusing the system by repeatedly voting myself). Feminism isn’t like that, it is not clean-cut, unless particular unfairnesses can be identified (eg equal pay for equal work) that are clearly unjust and so wide support can be mobilised. It is unlikely that a successful outcome could entirely be achieved by the online medium, though, this would have to be one strategy or tactic among others in a campaign.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you have any questions for me based on our conversation?

Maxine Clarke: Role of men. I think some of these feminist movements tend to exclude or put off men. But lots of men are just as keen on female equality and empowerment, just as lots of women are not a bit keen on it. Are they the elephant in the feminists’ room?

Watch out for continuing conversations with Maxine in the next few weeks!

Would you like to participate in an interview as a part of my M.A. thesis project? Leave a comment on this blog with information about how to contact you or email ablogwithoutabicycle(at)gmail(dot)com. I appreciate your support!


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

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Chapter 1 (Second Installment)

I welcome your Peer Review!

First Installment: Introduction

Second Installment: That Which We Call a Blog?

Is blogging self-expression, personal publishing, amateur journalism, the biggest disruptive technology since email, an online community, alternative media, curriculum for students, a customer relations strategy, knowledge management, navel gazing, a solution to boredom, a style of writing, e-mail to everyone, a fad, the answer to illiteracy, an online persona, social networking, rêsumê fodder, phonecam pictures, or something to hide from your mother? It’s all of these and more.
-Biz Stone (2)


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. In fact, as blogs began to emerge as a new discursive practice, there was considerable debate about which websites qualified for inclusion under this taxonomy.(3)

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 (4). As blogger Rebecca Blood writes, these early blogs could best be described as, “links with commentary, updated frequently” (5). Over time, these lists became a way of sharing the cataloger’s idiosyncratic 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 when blogging software had become widely available weblog this term had become standard vocabulary in popular discourse (6). Websites devoted to providing templates for blog creation and clearinghouse listings of blogs proliferated. With these tools, greater numbers of internet users were made aware of blogs and were able to create their own; online self-publishing flourished and some of the newer blogs began to include more detailed autobiographical content (7). In addition to sharing their personal interests, bloggers began to share more of their personalities. As some bloggers transitioned from being authors to Authors, the personal subject moved into the foreground of many blogs and reading communities began to organize around individuals. Celebrity bloggers emerged and the so-called “A-list” bloggers soon found that they were able to make considerable revenue by incorporating advertisements and other profit-generating elements into their blogs (8).

Blogs became so popular that mainstream media sources and private institutions recognized the necessity of incorporating them into their more traditional methods of reporting and advertising. The Guardian introduced a news blog in 2000 and other publications, such as The Christian Science Monitor and The New York Times, also soon followed and adopted this feature on their websites; blogs are now a standard component of the websites of media corporations (9). Non-profit organizations, such as Amnesty International or the AFL-CIO, maintain blogs to share news about their current projects and to highlight their recent accomplishments. Similarly, political organizations and individual politicians have employed blogs as campaigning tools; Howard Dean’s incorporation of a blog into his 2000 presidential campaign in the United States is one of the first and most notable examples of this technique. For-profit enterprises also utilize blogging as both advertising and organizational strategy. Corporations now use blogs to create publicity platforms for new products and as a site for establishing their brands. Other companies have taken blogs beyond a marketing tool and incorporated them into their business organization structure. Google, for example, mixes these two strategies; the internet technology company uses in-house blogs to help its employees communicate when they are working together on projects and encourages its employees to develop their own personal blogs publicly using Google-owned blogging software (10).

Despite these shifts, there is some degree of 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” (11), or “a website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in reverse chronological order” (12). Entries are published in reverse chronological order, or blog posts, and are usually short; the style of writing used by most bloggers is both conversational and concise (13).

The position of recent posts appearing before older posts and the convention of brevity reflects the fast-paced atmosphere of the internet and the way that the demand for updated material influences the form of new media. In describing the three most “significant components of blogs,” blogger Biz Stone identifies “chronology, frequency, and focus” as the elements that define the weblog in Who Let the Blogs Out?: A Hyperconnected Peek at the World of Weblogs (14). Stone emphasizes that “[t]he quintessence of a blog is its relationship to the flow of time” in terms of the way in which posts are catalogued in reverse-chronological order and in which there are expectations for frequent updates (15). The content of the blog, or its “topical voice” and narrative style, is an element of what distinguishes the medium of blogging in Stone’s formation, but the relationship with time is the feature of the blog’s form that is the most important (16). The weblog’s format points to a more general trend that has been spurred by recent rapid developments of information technologies. Technology is available that allows for the near instantaneous spread of information so that in the blogosphere immediate updates and speedy reports are not only expected but demanded. Novelty – new news – is privileged online and the blog’s form both reflects and participates in this privileging. The immediate and mediated qualities of blogs recall Benedict Anderson’s discussion of immediacy in print-capitalism. Print-capitalism “made it possible for rapidly growing numbers of people to think about themselves, and to relate to others, in profoundly new ways" (17); the simultaneous (18) and contemporaneous (19) experience of events that was enabled by print-capitalism is echoed in the mediation of events in the blogosphere.

In terms of content, most readers expect blogs to be “online journals that can be viewed by the public viewing the Internet” (20), in which bloggers share their “opinions, thoughts and interests” (21) On a blog, an individual or a team of individuals regularly publishes posts about topics that are relevant to the specific blog from a wide variety of perspectives and concerns; some blogs focus on particular issues while others are composed of more heterogeneous or eclectic content. Many individuals have attempted to create classification systems for describing the content of blogs. For example, in Who Let the Blogs Out, Stone, with a penchant for triumvirates, also identifies “three general categories” of weblogs based on the topic areas of “technology, politics, or diary” (22). Vicki Tobias, on the other hand, provides a greater number of categories when describing the “most common types of blogs that present information related to women’s issues” in her article “Blog This! An Introduction to Blogs, Blogging, and the Feminist Blogosphere;.” Tobias lists of “Personal, Topical, Collaborative, Political, Corporate, and Advice” as the defining subject areas of feminist weblogs (23). While Tobias’s focused specifically on the feminist blogosphere, these categories can also be applied to weblogs more generally. While there are blog styles that are left out of these sample taxonomies, it is generally accurate that the topical foci of most blogs fit into the groups suggested by Stone and Tobias.

Whatever their content, an element of autobiography influences the themes of blog posts, as bloggers refer to events in their online and offline lives and concentrate on subjects that are personally 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 emerging as well; 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. Moblogging, or blogging via a mobile device like a cellular telephone, is also popular (24). As new technologies emerge, additional incarnations of the blog can be expected to appear in the blogosphere. The expanded accessibility that new technologies create potentially offers opportunities for individuals who are not able to participate in the blogosphere to enter this cyberspace.

Visual-based communication that does not rely solely on literacy and alternative methods of gaining internet access open up areas for bridging the digital divide. Narrowing this gap of technological accessibility makes membership to the internet communities less exclusionary and has important consequences for connecting individuals and groups on a global order. Like Anderson’s “intelligentsias” who “found ways to bypass print in propagating the imagined community, not merely to illiterate masses, but even to literate masses reading different languages"
(25), bloggers are experimenting with new ways to communicate across digital, linguistic, geographic, and other boundaries.

Despite the corporate applications of the weblog genre, many blogs were created as alternatives to corporatized media like many other internet forms. Some bloggers, however, are hesitant to embrace the popular idea that blogs are a novel journalistic form. In The Weblog Handbook, Rebecca Blood makes this point: “Weblogs are not, as some people say, a new kind of journalism. Rather, they supplement traditional journalism by evaluating, augmenting, and above all filtering the information churned out by journalists and the rest of media machine every day” (27). Blood argues that blogs should be considered a new and independent genre distinct from journalism. Several academic assessments of blogs share this perspective. For example, in her article “The Digital Queer: Weblogs and Internet Identity,” Julie Rak does not address blogs as a form of journalism, but instead explores weblogs as a form of life writing. In this frame, Rak advocates against the “current trend in life writing studies . . . to see online writing as an extension of writing on paper, particularly in the case of online diaries or blogs” (28) and instead argues that blogs "are better understood as an internet genre with a history as long as the history of the internet itself” (29) Like Blood, Rak evaluates blogs as a medium that should not be obscured by being placed under the umbrella of an older form; instead both contend that blogs should be considered to be a unique genre that is “native to the web” (30).

Notes:
2. Stone, Who Let the Blogs Out?, 34-5.
3. Blood, The Weblog Handbook, 147-65.
4. Rak, “The Digital Queer,” 170-1.
5. Blood, “Introduction,” ix.
6. Rak, “The Digital Queer,” 170-1.
7. Blood, The Weblog Handbook, 149.
8. Stone, Who Let the Blogs Out, 130-1.
9. Blood, The Weblog Handbook, 150.
10. Stone, Who Let the Blogs Out, 159.
11. MacDougall, “Identity, Electronic Ethos, and Blogs,” 585.
12. Wikipedia.com, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog.
13. Tobias, “Blog This!,” http://www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/WomensStudies/fc/fcblogs1.htm.
14. Stone, Who Let the Blogs Out?, 39.
15. Ibid., 39-40.
16. Ibid., 41.
17. Anderson, Imagined Communities, 36.
18. Ibid, 24.
19. Ibid, 145.
20. Watt, “Blogging Busts Out for Women,” 7.
21. Wilson, “Women in the Blogosphere,” 51.
22. Stone, Who Let the Blogs Out?, 43.
23. Tobias, “Blog this!,” http://www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/WomensStudies/fc/fcblogs1.htm.
24. Stone, Who Let the Blogs Out?, 128.
25. Anderson, Imagined Communities, 140.
26. Here I am distinguishing between corporations and private institutions that use blogs for business purposes, like the aforementioned Google. and corporatized media, or the mainstream news industry that is composed of major media conglomerates.
27. Blood, The Weblog Handbook, 23.
28. Rak, “The Digital Queer,” 166.
29. Ibid., 170.
30. Blood, “Introduction,” xi.


Notes from the Author
1. My notations system is imperfect, as I am translating Chicago-style and a MS Word document into blog format. Apologies for any wonky-ness. One day I shall be able to afford a research assistant with HTML skillz...
2. This is a continuation from Installment I, so the footnotes reflect that numbering and editing that has happened in the interim. Again, the notation will be imperfect, but I am just using numbers as referents, so I am not going to fuss over a smooth installment-to-installment consistent numbering system. The final version of my thesis shall include such seamless beauty!


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

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

34th Carnival of Feminists

Check it out on A Somewhat Old, But Capacious Handbag!


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

Summer Reading List

Spring is almost here! As the weather warms up and you start itching to get to the park, I'd recommend picking up a feminist book or two to keep in your bag. Specifically, check out Gayle Wald's Shout, Sister, Shout and Deborah Siegel's Sisterhood Interrupted. I know both of these great writers and I can assure you that their books promise to be the better beach reads of the season.


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

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Bye, Bye Birth Control!

Or at least to affordable access...

I am not happy with this court ruling.

No insurance coverage for hormonal contraceptives or barrier devices for women. No insurance coverage for barrier devices or surgical interventions for men. Apparently, contraception has nothing to do with pregnancy. Perhaps this assessment was generated by the lack of information (or purposeful misinformation) created by the Bush administration's abstinence-only sex ed. plan? Okay, kids, here's how it works. When a man and a woman...

I just wish that instead of debating health care coverage or the "morality" of medical procedures that the left and the right in the United States could just work together to create an environment in which all individuals (regardless of race, class, sex, education, orientation, religion, location, etc) could have access to what they need to create sexually healthy lives. It would really be good for everyone!


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

Monday, March 19, 2007

She's Baaaaaaaaaack...

After a working spring break, I return to the blogosphere. It looks like a lot of great debates have been going on while I have been away. Time to do some catching up!

Also, I just wanted to say thanks to all the great folks who met with me for informational interviews over the break (graduation in May = job search). The feminist network can be amazing in terms of providing support and mentoring. You all give me hope for a great career working on women's issues in the non-profit and education sectors (despite my unemployment anxieties)!

Kudos to...
T.B.
S.D.
A.G.
S.G.
D.S.
K.P.
I.D.


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

Friday, March 09, 2007

Girl's Gone...

But Not Exactly Wild

From March 9-18th, I shall be taking a spring break, the last I shall be able to savor for a bit, as I am headed out to the world of employ this summer after graduation. I may be able to update my blog while I am breaking, but I may not. Intensive thesis writing and kicking the job search into high gear are on the travel itinerary. I know you are as excited by that vacation plan as I am...

See you soon!


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