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He blog, she blog?

I don't really have the energy to link and trackback this discussion to the degree it deserves, but there's been a discussion lately about whether or to what degree we might speak of gender differences in blogging. The best site for this is probably profgrrrrl's, who engages in a bit of impromptu surveying as a way of getting at this question, but I came into the discussion via Chuck and a pair of posts from George, the former of which has more links for your perusal. Much of this is in response to the following hypothesis from profgrrrrl:

My hunch (and I could be very very wrong about this) is that women just tend to feel freer expressing themselves about personal stuff (albeit pseudonymously) than men do. And feel the need to do so more. Which is not at all to say that men might not benefit from the activity, but that it might not come as easily to them?

My reaction to this idea parallels George's, I think, but isn't quite as visceral as his. Part of that, I suspect, comes from the fact that, for as long as I've been teaching things like argumentative theory, I've been aware of the fact that much of my personal style is "female," at least in the ways that folk like Deborah Tannen categorize it (or the old Gender Genie, for that matter). And yet, I doubt that anyone would mistake cgbvb for a more personal or intimate weblog like the ones that many of profgrrrrl's respondents cite as their preference.

I'd argue that, in addition to an incredibly small, self-conscious sample size, one of the troubles with drawing broad conclusions about gender and academic blogs is that it rips them out of their various individual contexts. This is a mecology thing for me--I didn't simply decide to keep a weblog out of the blue. That decision, for me, occurred in a professional context, and I continue to see my weblog as a space where I can do a kind of writing that is academic yet more informal and in-process than I could otherwise. The question for me was, what can I do in this space that I can't already do somewhere else or that might make more sense for me to do here. And so, I spend more time on my blog and less time on listservs, less time watching or reading news offline, and a little less time with leisure reading. That's the place that it occupies in my life--expression of more personal thoughts, for me, occurs elsewhere, as I've always been better talking those kinds of things through than I am at writing about them.

Does gender play a role in issues of technology adoption? Of course. Does the context of adoption go on to affect the way that people use a given technology? Again, I'm sure that it does. But I'm slower to move to conclusions about gendered blogging, in part because I think those conclusions are often self-fulfilling prophecies (the patterns/conclusions almost inevitably predate the actual inquiry, and tend to color it) and in part because stereotypes like these can have a chilling effect on the very people who might work against them. I was chatting with Madeline today about these ideas, and was struck by how conscious she was of the "kind of blogger" she was. My feeling was that it's hard enough to write every day without imposing all sorts of standards upon what you write. It's not as though anyone in the discussion is approaching it with the idea of "developing gendered blog guidelines," but observations about gendered behavior have a nasty habit of translating pretty quickly into norms. I may very well be the archetypal academic male blogger for all I know, but honestly, I don't really want to know that. I am indeed male, and that does affect the choices I make when I blog, but these facts surely don't exhaust the rationale behind my choices.

On a related note, Madeline informed me that the reason I can't blog pseudonymously is that I'd be completely unable to write about anything related to my scholarship. Granted, she's known me for like 6 years or so now, but according to her, even my "public," "professional," "scholarly," "academic" self is shot through and through with recognizable personality. And that's another reason why I'm hesitant to draw conclusions--it's hard not to think that any definition of personal or intimate is going to prefigure the answers to the questions grounded in that definition. Even something as seemingly bureaucratese as ending my posts with "that is all," for me, is a wink to Lori, Alyson, and Dylan--what seems pretty impersonal to one audience is a marker of intimacy to another. I realize that I'm collapsing here a difference between subject and style with reference to the "personal," but I feel pretty secure in the fact that I'm not the only one...

Yeah. That's all.

(Oh, and yes, you should see me when I do have "the energy to link and trackback." Heh.)


Gender AND age (and all the other Usual Suspects, of course) play a role in issues of technology adoption. When I wrote about herbal cures for hot flashes, it wasn't because I thought a single soul reading my blog would need that information (though I'd love to be wrong). Rather, I was having some fun with being an old broad who blogs, and the entry itself was a very deliberately feminist rhetorical move. But although that entry marks both my gender and age and although obviously no man would write it, I'm skeptical about whether its material grounding correlates with my gender (which of course is neither singular nor unitary, anyhow). So this rambling comment is to say, yes, I agree: it's just as hard to make gender generalizations about blogging as it is about print-based writing.

I sure hope who we are affects our opinions and what we think and write. It'd be pretty dull otherwise.

Yeah, once one discovers that demographic factors influence human affairs, I'm not certain how often one needs to discover that notion.

The next move is to see what new insight into human relations might come from noting a particular demographic correlate. Unfortunately, a lot of the noting difference material just does that: notes there are differences. That doesn't feel like a discovery anymore. I want to know what meaning differences might have--and if there's no case for meaning, then what's the point?

Hey, Collin. Your software has been blocking my comments when I use my aol email address. Is there a reason for that?