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Salam Pax as Diary or Blog

Page history last edited by Ty 12 years, 2 months ago

Much as been made of blogging, and much more has been made of what blogging is. What exactly constitutes a blog? How is it different from "old-media" communication models, such as diaries, books, memoirs, journals, etc.? This topic will be explored through some popular definitions of the aforementioned terms, and how one case study, Salam Pax's "Where is Raed?" blog, conforms to and differs from these definitions.  

 

What is a diary?

 

A diary is defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as

" a record of events, transactions, or observations kept daily or at frequent intervals; a daily record of personal activities, reflections, or feelings," or, as an alternate definition "a book intended or used for a diary".

Two parts of this definition are important for analysis:

  1. The diary is for personal use, or reflects personal feelings;
  2. The diary is in book form.

The first component can certainly exist in the realm of the internet; the second almost by definition cannot. A related term, journal, is also salient, containing the ideas that a journal can be both an "account of day-to-day events" and is "for private use"; however, these are in separate parts of the definition, and relate to each other only loosely.

   

Diaries and journals, as defined by the Internet

Beginning around 1995, a genre of internet-based diary, known mostly as the "online diary," began to crop up. As defined by two sources, online diaries seemed to be almost entirely personal in nature. These seemed to follow the pattern set up by the first definition of "diary" above. In the words of an early online diarist, Carolyn Burke:

"I just needed to have my own say somewhere where I wouldn't start a fight about the past. Somewhere where I had the last word. Somewhere that people, in the abstract, could listen to my side."


Blogs as internet diaries

 

From there, the word for an online record of one's thoughts and opinions evolved into "weblog", which was eventually shortened to "blog," after one "blogger" broke the word "weblog" into "we blog" on the sidebar of his page.

Turning once again to the dictionary, Merriam-Webster defines a blog as:

"a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer".

 

The main components that differentiate a blog from a diary, then, are:

  1. The very fact that it is online, rather than on paper, and
  2. The addition of hyperlinks, which are obviously impossible to replicate on paper.

 

Structure vs. content, or the blog as a medium

 

In an essay by danah boyd (decapitalization intentional), a researcher at the School of Information at UC-Berkeley, great pains are taken to differentiate blogs from diaries. She contends that blogs are a medium, not a genre, which frees them from most types of definitions, aside from the reflexive "It's a blog because bloggers are engaged with it, and everyone points at it and says, 'It's a blog!'" This definition is not very useful, because it is almost impossible to really engage with the concept of blogging without having a reasonably solid definition as to what blogging is. Structure and practices can differentiate blogs from other types of media, and these same structures and practices can be used to link blogs and other types of "old media" together.

 

Structures and practices common to most blogs and bloggers

 

In general, most, but not all, blogs are composed using sites like Livejournal, Wordpress, and Blogger, all of which have tools which allowed those illiterate in the use of HTML or other internet-based languages to create and edit a blog. Most often, blogs contain one or more of these components:

  • A standardized layout, which defines the color scheme and format of the page and entries contained therein;
  • A blogroll, which contains links to blogs which the blogger favors, or which may have interest for those interested in the blog they are currently viewing;
  • Use of hyperlinks in the inline text, which provide outside resources to those reading the blog; and
  • A common theme, whether that be the general musings of the blogger, or some specific theme that the blogger blogs about.

 

Summation of definitions

 

In short, all of these definitions apply in one way or another to different types of media generally and different types of blogs specifically. When operating under the assumption that blogs are only a medium, it makes it nigh-impossible to define what a blog is more specifically. As can be seen in the evolution from "online diaries" to "weblogs" to "blogs", blogs share many qualities with old media types such as diaries and journals. The following case study, Salam Pax's "Where is Raed?" blog, will serve to highlight these similarities and differences, and shed more light on what exactly a blog is and can be.

 

Salam Pax: Diary? Blog? Both? Or neither?


Introduction

Salam Pax (pseudonym) began writing on Blogger.com in his blog "Where is Raed?" in June of 2002.  He began the blog originally in order to stay in contact with his friend Raed, another student living in Jordan, who wasn't answering his email fast enough for Salam. On the archived blog, entries begin in December of 2002. For ease of analysis, entries will be taken from the period between the 15th of March and the 20th of March, 2003. While they stand in contrast to many of Salam's earlier entries, they provide a window into how a blog– a way of communication standing in contrast to much of old media– can reflect those traits at the same time.

 

Pre-invasion: March 15 to March 20th, 2002

 

The first entry, March 15th's, is purely in the diary format– it makes no addresses to outside sources. The next is much more laden with meaning, but still could be found in a diary; it talks about everything from UN sanctions to the way the war is being conducted, but addresses no one other than an undefined "you".

 

The first entry to make an overt reference to another being is the one on Wednesday, March 19th. Salam thanks those that have been "sending emails and letting (him) know that they care and worry about what will happen in Iraq". This clearly breaks the wall of the "diary", where it is no longer a log of purely personal events, but an open forum with which people can interact. This follows closely the abovementioned "online diary" format, where the author writes personally, but shares it with a wider, and possibly interactive, audience.

 

The remainder of the entries are an amalgam of long and short entries. Salam describes waiting in his house for the bombs to fall, and the aftermath of the bombing. No explicit addresses are made, and no overt attempts to have contact with the outside world are made again.

 

Summary of "Where is Raed?" Analysis

 

While Salam Pax styles himself earlier in the blog's run as "The Baghdad Blogger", it's clear that his blogging at certain points shares much more in common with the "online diary" format. Mostly about his personal experience and almost devoid of attempts to contact the outside world, Salam's entries seem to serve himself much more than others, at least as far as he is concerned. There is even a later entry where he is unable to access the internet, and continues "blogging" with pen and paper, leaving it to a friend to post on his blog.

 

Conclusion

 

While bloggers and academics alike attempt to define the "blogosphere" as a practice and medium that exists almost independently of old media labels, a close examination of a blog can reveal these elements of old media still exists in their structure. Blogs certainly differ in their means of transmission, and a case can be made that they are an entirely separate medium.

 

Bibliography

boyd, danah. "A Blogger's Blog: Exploring the Definition of a Medium". 2006. Reconstruction 6(4). <http://reconstruction.eserver.org/064/boyd.shtml>


Burke, Carolyn. Interview.  The Online Diary History Project 2000. 22 Jun 2008 <http://www.diaryhistoryproject.com/recollections/1995_01_03.html>

 

"diary". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary 2008. 22 Jun 2008 <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diary>

 

"journal". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary 2008. 22 Jun 2008 <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/journal>


Merholz, Peter. Peterme.com 1999. 22 Jun 2008 <http://web.archive.org/web/19991013021124/http://peterme.com/index.html>


McCarthy, Rory. "Salam's Story". The Guardian 30 May 2004. 22 Jun 2008 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/may/30/iraq.digitalmedia>

 

Pax, Salam. "Where is Raed?". 18 Aug 2004. 23 Jun 2008 <http://dear_raed.blogspot.com/>

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