Self and Identity in Personal Blogs: A Cross-linguistic and Cross-cultural Perspective

Self and Identity in Personal Blogs: A Cross-linguistic and Cross-cultural Perspective

Wengao Gong (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-827-2.ch009
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Abstract

This chapter describes how American bloggers and Chinese bloggers from similar age and gender groups represent themselves and their identities linguistically in their blogs and explores whether and to what extent the differences in terms of the blogging language and culture affect these representations. The author adopts a corpus-based approach and focuses on the description and the comparison of the orthographic features and semantic domain preference as revealed in the blog entries. By conducting a cross-linguistic and cross-cultural comparison between American bloggers and Chinese bloggers, the author finds that bloggers’ linguistic practice is closely related to their developmental stage of life, their gender, and the cultural environment they are immersed in. Meanwhile, bloggers’ linguistic practice is also constrained by the internal system of the language they use for blogging.
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Introduction

Blogs are often defined as “frequently modified web pages in which dated entries are listed in reverse chronological sequence” (Herring, Scheidt, Wright, & Bonus, 2005, p. 142). Being a publishing and social communication platform simultaneously, blogging has rapidly gained great popularity among young people worldwide over the past few years. Herring and colleagues (2005) classify blogs into three types: personal journals, filters, and k-logs (i.e., knowledge logs). Among them, personal journals are the most common. In fact, many bloggers take blogging as “a form of social communication in which blogger and audience are intimately related through the writing and reading of blogs” (Nardi, Schiano, & Gumbrecht, p. 224). Blogs have distinctive technological features that set them apart from other forms of internet-based communication. According to Karlsson (2006, p. 6), blogs are “a loose baggy monster, content-wise, tool-wise, feature-wise, author-wise, reader-wise,” though their basic format is rather stable. Kendall (2007) offers a good summary of the hybrid nature of personal blogs as represented by LiveJournal, a well-known blogging website. As a diary, the blog provides a place for bloggers to record their feelings, opinions, daily events, and reflections. As a communication tool, it provides a forum for connection with others and public expression. As a performance venue, it provides a stage for self-presentation and artistic production. Theoretically speaking, anyone with internet access can publish blogs, and blogs are written about anything bloggers like and in whatever style they wish, typically with no editorial control (Argamon, Koppel, Pennebaker, & Schler, 2007). In other words, bloggers enjoy next-to-absolute autonomy in their writing. The hybrid nature and the high-level autonomy have made personal blogs a good medium for self expression and identity representation. As personal blogs are mainly textual stories and reflections about the bloggers themselves, they have also provided a special window for researchers to observe how self and identity are linguistically represented.

This chapter describes how American bloggers and Chinese bloggers from similar age and gender groups represent themselves and their identities linguistically in their blogs and explores whether and to what extent the differences in terms of the blogging language and culture affect these representations. The author adopts a corpus-based approach and focuses on the description and the comparison of the orthographic features and semantic domain preference as revealed in the blog entries. By conducting a cross-linguistic and cross-cultural comparison between American bloggers and Chinese bloggers, the author hopes to obtain some insights about the representation of self and identity in internet-based communication.

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