Just for the heck of it, I’m sharing the outline of my thesis. I welcome comments from any masochists who read it. I’m too lazy to type in the changes I’ve written in the margins of the printed version, so this will have to do. I’m still undecided on the title, the two I have are still just provisional. If you want the abstract, I posted it before.
Who’s the fairest of them all?
In my interviews with Filipino bloggers , I would always ask them, “Who is your audience?” They’d often answer, “Oh, I really just write for myself.” I had difficulty understanding this, because if you’re writing for yourself, why bother putting your thoughts online in the first place?
Sarapen is my research blog. I set it up to communicate with the Filipino bloggers I was studying. However, it’s moved away from that ideal. There aren’t as many Filipino bloggers reading me as I expected. This is partly because I haven’t participated in the extended blogging conversations necessary to be drawn into a blogging community. I don’t have the time, and since my data collection is already done, there’s really no point, and it would just be extra work for me.
And as you may have noticed, this blog is becoming more and more self-indulgent. My titles have continued to be enigmatic, with the in-jokes largely apprehended by only myself. Or look at the subjects of my preceding posts: Zapatismo, anarchism, Japanese comics, free journals, and a short description of what I was watching on tv. Only two of the last ten posts have been on topic, and I’ve even set up Tangents as a new category to classify posts under (incidentally, I’ve just realized that as a classifier I’m a lumper and not a splitter). In other words, Sarapen is rapidly becoming about me instead of my research.
I’d like to think that the tangents I go on aren’t just intellectual “self-abuse,” as the Victorian British put it (that “it” being masturbation). Rather, my wanderings help me stay on track with my research by keeping my brain a lean, mean, analytical machine. Not only that, I get to think of something besides identity construction, which I think too much about these days. Regardless of that, though, Sarapen is no longer a tool for disseminating information on my research so much as a device for keeping my mind from getting tired.
So now I think I understand what my participants meant when they said they were writing for themselves. Frankly, I thought blogging would just be a necessary chore, but I really honestly have learned more about bloggers by jumping on the bandwagon. Instead of an intellectual appreciation of blogging, I have an embodied understanding of it. I compulsively check my blog statistics, I compose blog posts in my head when I find something sponge-worthy, I gleefully examine the map of my readers’ locations. I get it. Kind of.
Still, the idea of blogging for yourself reminded me of what Mikhail Bakhtin wrote about how dialogue works. As Bakhtin says, dialogue is only possible because the speaker not only addresses the other person specifically, but also keeps in mind that what he or she utters can be understood by a perfect audience, the superaddressee. Which is to say that misunderstandings can occur in any dialogue, but a speaker will attempt dialogue anyway so long as he or she believes that what was said can be understood perfectly by someone (whether that audience is God, history, reasonable people, or so on). So what if, in this particular kind of blog speech, the superaddressee is the self? The perfect audience who will understand perfectly what the blogger wrote is the blogger’s own self, whereas the specific audience consists of anonymous or not-so-anonymous others. Blog dialogue as semi-monologue, then?
The problem is that I only know enough about Bakhtin to be dangerous to myself. I can’t tell if what I’ve proposed really hangs together, especially since this stuff is tangential to what I’m actually working on. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I always knew being weak in linguistics would come back to bite me in the ass. People in sociocultural anthropology should really be more familiar with linguistics, especially linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics. But now I share it for posterity’s sake and in hopes that someone might tell me if I’ve embarrassed myself or not.
Happy Turkey Day, Canada.
I just realized that I haven’t mentioned this before, so let me tell you all now that I’ve finished my research and data collection. I’ve looked at the blogs, I’ve interviewed people, I’ve sat around and done analysis. All that’s left is the writing. So that’s what I’ll be doing from now on. Anyway, this is the abstract that I have so far for the thesis I’m working on:
My research focuses on Filipino bloggers and their expression of Filipino identity on blogs. Following from the data I gathered from bloggers both in the Philippines and overseas in a content analysis of Filipino-written blogs and from several interviews, my thesis begins from Stuart Hall’s conceptualization of identity as contingent and arising from difference. I explore the complexities behind the expression of Filipino identity on blogs and the numerous factors that such expression is contingent upon. I answer three basic questions in my exploration of this contingent identity: Why is Filipino identity expressed on blogs? How is it expressed? And why is there no single Filipino blogging community?
It’s clumsy here and there, but bear in mind it’s a work in progress. It gets the job done, which is telling the reader what the whole thing is about. I’ve also got an outline and some notes specifying what goes where, plus two notebooks full of analytical scribblings I’ll have to pore over, not to mention the notes I’ve taken on the books and articles I’ve read.
So what does the data I’ve gathered tell me about Filpino bloggers? I can only offer tidbits, of course, since there’s so much information to convey. Anyway, I’ve noticed that there seems to be five major categories of Filipino bloggers: Cosmopolitans, the Philippine Elite, Im/migrants, Second Generation Diasporic Filipinos, and Younger Filipinos in the Philippines. These are not absolute categories; there is overlap, and besides which, this is not the ultimate typology of Filipino bloggers which can be constructed.
Cosmopolitans are those Filipino bloggers originally from the Philippines who readily discuss such things as trips to Hong Kong and favourite restaurants in New York. They don’t speak of these experiences as extraordinary, but instead discuss them as normal and common. They live all over the world, though quite a few live in the Philippines. They tend to be neutral towards Philippine politics, at least judging by the fact that they rarely discuss such matters.
The Philippine Elite are Filipino bloggers based in the Philippines who – from the way they present themselves on their blogs – are clearly part of the ruling class. I don’t mean that they’re necessarily amazingly wealthy, but they definitely have power in the Philippines. They can be doctors, lawyers, journalists, and so on. They often discuss Philippine politics and they frequently display their nationalism in some way on their blogs. Cosmopolitans and the Philippine Elite are quite clearly connected to each other, and there is much overlap between the two.
Im/migrants also often discuss Philippine politics and make nationalist statements, but they also discuss things that the previous two groups do not. For example, Im/migrants often blog about adjustment difficulties to their new countries. They also speak of the Philippines in nostalgic rhetoric that Cosmopolitans and the Philippine Elite do not use (“I remember when I used to be a kid in the Philippines that we used to do x”). Blogs written by Im/migrants many times end up discussing those Im/migrants’ children as well. Many Im/migrants, you see, are mothers. This is because of the particular way that migration from the Philippines is gendered. The Philippines is one of the world’s leading exporters of trained female nurses, and I’ve found a few blogs written by such. I’ve also seen a couple of blogs written by what I suspect are mail order brides, which are another export commodity of the Philippines. The country is also a leading exporter of female domestic workers (maids), but I’ve yet to find one blog written by one, probably because maids tend not to have the time to blog, and seldom the resources.
The children of those Im/migrants also constitute another category of Filipino bloggers, the Second Generation Diasporic Filipinos. I’m also including under this category 1.5 generation Filipinos and those Third Generation and later, but it’s simpler to have the one title. Second Generation Diasporic Filipinos rarely link to blogs written by the preceding groups nor leave comments. More than the other groups, these Filipino bloggers discuss race and ethnicity. Im/migrants also discuss such things, but these topics seem especially relevant to the Second Generation, judging by how much they blog about race and ethnicity. I’ve noticed the same in my interviews.
Finally come Younger Filipinos in the Philippines. Generally, they don’t link to blogs written by Second Generation Diasporic Filipinos, even though they’re the same age and often have similar interests. They’re far more likely to link to blogs written by the other groups. However, Younger Filipinos and Second Generation Diasporic Filipinos do link to each when their blogs are hosted on bloghosting services that attempt to foster community. In contrast to, say, Blogger, where the focus of the service is more on the individual blogger who attracts readers to their blog, services like LiveJournal or Xanga make it possible to make a group blog or to form a blogring. A group blog is a blog written by multiple bloggers, while a blogring is a group of blogs linked to each other; both are organized around a certain theme. The theme can be something like knitting, but the blogrings and the group blogs I’m interested in are ones organized around being Filipino. Bloghosting services don’t want their users to use competing bloghosting services, and one of the ways they do this is to make it difficult for their users to link to blogs hosted on other services, while at the same time making it easier to link to blogs hosted on the same bloghost. What effectively happens is that self-contained communities form that are centred around the fact that they all use the same bloghosting service. So when someone should create a new group blog or blogring for Filipino bloggers, what ends up happening is that both diasporic Filipinos and Filipinos in the Philippines end up joining. Second Generation Diasporic Filipinos and Younger Filipinos in the Philippines thus end up in the same blogging groups, unlike their fellows who use individual-oriented bloghosts or host their blogs on their own paid servers.
I have more stuff about racialization, exclusion, nationalism, internalized norms, print capitalism, and technologies of the self and regimes of truth and power, but all that stuff is really too big for a blog post. But stay tuned and I’ll probably get around to discussing them eventually.
Flips on a plane
I really like how my last two posts have gone. They’ve really opened up a lot of exciting new avenues for me to think with. What would you say if I made my blog entirely about the French Revolution?
Okay, joking. But I think I realize now why I’ve been so fascinated with European history and nationalism lately, even though it’s only peripherally related to my research. You see, it’s rather strongly related to the research I’d like to do for my Phd. So in order to avoid working on my present project, I’m actually starting work on a future project that doesn’t even exist yet. Oh me, oh my, the things I’ll do to avoid working on what’s right in front of me.
I said I’d start discussing my findings this week, and I meant it. So what have I discovered about Filipino bloggers in my research?
For one thing, I’ve found out that it’s not very easy to speak of a single Filipino blogging community. There are instead multiple communities of Filipino bloggers, many of which apparently don’t read the blogs of other communities of Filipino bloggers.
Yes, it’s not a profound observation. But how exactly do these different blogging communities differ from each other?
The most important distinction seems to be between Filipino bloggers based in the Philippines and those based overseas. Actually, I’m still trying to decide on a proper term for the second category. Referring to “overseas” Filipino bloggers implies that those bloggers are originally from the Philippines but at present are residing overseas, when many or most overseas Filipino bloggers were actually born and raised outside the Philippines.
Anyway, in terms of linking behaviour, Filipino bloggers as a whole can roughly be divided into two groups: Philippine bloggers and overseas Filipino bloggers. Bloggers may link to other bloggers in their group, but rarely do they link to bloggers in the other group. However, the dichotomy isn’t actually quite so simple. Philippine bloggers do link to the blogs of overseas Filipinos, but only to those blogs written by overseas Filipinos who left the Philippines as adults. Likewise, these adult migrants link to Philippine bloggers, but they almost never link to overseas Filipino bloggers. The opposite is also true for overseas Filipino bloggers. They link to each other, but they hardly ever link to Philippine and adult migrant bloggers.
A similar dichotomy exists when considering the political content of Filipino blogs. Bloggers in the Philippines and adult migrant bloggers are far more likely to mention Philippine politics in their blogs, particularly the corruption scandal surrounding Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the calls for her impeachment. By contrast, I have yet to see one blog written by an overseas Filipino blogger that mentioned Philippine politics.
This situation shouldn’t really be too surprising. Different people in different countries have different political concerns. Only if you think that Filipinos are racially bound to the Philippines do you start expecting overseas Filipinos to obsess about Philippine politics the way people living in the country do. But why should overseas Filipinos pay attention to something that has little meaning and little impact in their daily lives? You might as well expect them to closely follow village politics in Inner Mongolia.
There you go, my first significant finding about Filipino bloggers. I’m working on a draft for one other post, but otherwise don’t expect me to post before September, I’m in the process of moving right now. So, hasta la proxima vez.