Do-it-yourself broadcasting: writing weblogs in a knowledge society.

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An Annotation by Jeffery Ayer

Lankshear and Knobel elaborately outline:

  • the history of blogging,
  • the anatomy of a weblog,
  • a detailed step-by-step process of how to set up a blog, and
  • the types of blogs that existed as of 2003.

It’s also worth noting that some commentary in this article reflects its five-year-old presence in the Web 2.0 world, as some cautions are certainly important but somewhat dated.  Important information for “beginners,” no doubt.

The authors go on to focus on whether or not blogs can be a window for what they dub “powerful writing” (6).  They write,

“Blogs provide some interesting angles on such questions, particularly from the perspective of power in relation to language in the context of ‘an information society’ where, potentially, our use of ‘written language’ (broadly conceived) can reach larger audiences than could ever have been imagined even a decade ago” (6).

They go on to share and analyze a study on the power of quality writing in blogs by Clay Shirky in relation to writing pedagogy, and thereby share the 2003 perspective on blogs and online writing, which ends up being largely critical.

Another example later is regarding simply using new technologies for the sake of using new technologies:

“…our concern is that school blogs typically present themselves as earnest attempts to meld new technology use, student interest and school work in ways that risk ‘killing’ the medium by reducing its potential scope and vitality to menial school takes in which students seemingly lack any genuine purpose” (16).

No doubt, whether 2003 or 2009, this is important.

Interestingly enough, while powerful writing is not often present for a variety of reasons, Lankshear and Knobel recognize that,

“[t]o be influential means gaining purchase or edge in the market of ideas.  From this standpoint, powerful writing will be a function, in the first instance, of achieving success in some market or other.  This is why blogs are especially significant so far as offering a contemporary window on powerful writing is concerned.  Blogs are most emphatically operating under market conditions and are widely being written and thought about as such” (8).

Regarding the pedagogy of powerful writing,

“Shirky’s ideas suggest…much of the power in powerful writing lies in affiliation with some larger collective” (11).

In online writing, this affiliation and grammatical editing don’t always take place, largely because getting ideas out there overshadows grammar and mechanics.  However, the strength of blogging and online writing altogether can be found here:

“…there is little or nothing in writing pedagogy that invites students to begin from their concrete membership of affinity groups, or to go about establishing a constituency for real life (non artificial) purposes.  On the contrary, much of the authentic writing students do in school settings for real audiences is ultra vires and discounted, if not punished” (11-12).

In other words, a refreshing opportunity here exists; one example is the wonderful opportunity to teach point of view and perspective in such writing.  In another example, teachers can reveal to students ways in which they can be concise.  K. Shanmugasundaram is quoted in the article as stating,

“Readers [of weblogs] come from a variety of backgrounds.  Write to the point, be simple and short…Usually I spend a minute or two on a weblog to see if there is anything new and interesting.  You probably have 30 to 45 seconds to get a user’s attention” (14).

The authors go on to point out a number of additional advantages to using online writing over classroom writing, most importantly stating the clear evidence of purpose-driven writing online versus generic, situational writing in the classroom (journaling, etc.).  They also cite the potential “process of becoming knowledgeable about something” through “learners and teachers beginning from having authentic problems and questions to investigate” (16).

Perhaps most interesting is their citing V. Bush, who wrote an article in 1945 about the “memex”, which he defined as a

“device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility.  It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his [or her] memory” (17).

This is exactly where the Web 2.0 technologies seem to be taking everyone – and fast!

They close by focusing on the epistemic potential of blogs in that

“blogging could be made into a highly sophisticated form of learning that engages directly with systematicity in searching” and “become important indices to and evidence of personal and collective knowledge structures by both recording and unveiling an individual’s or a group’s knowledge or epistemic effort over time” (18).

They also highlight the potential for a place of great reflection for students (and staff alike).

“Understanding where one went in an online search and why one went there thus becomes a key component of a blog, in ways that are not so evident and are not necessarily available in 5-part essay writing” (18).

Poignantly they conclude,

“In these and other ways research as blogging, and blogging as research, could potentially become potent pedagogical approaches to writing.  And such writing might indeed be appropriately described as powerful” (19).

Lankshear, C. and M. Knobel.  (2003, April).  Do-it-yourself broadcasting: writing weblogs in a knowledge society.  (Retrieved from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 478-120).

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