Sunday, 22 November 2009

Outline of term paper

I have written in Seventh tutorial that I have given up my plan to write my term paper of 3,000–5,000 words on the de Clerk–Mandela relationship because it is too big a topic. When I told Jane this after our latest tutorial she suggested that I do something which is related to the blog I started in September at the start of this course. This ties in with the dissertation I want to do at the end of the course and so I happily accepted the suggestion.

Since this term is devoted to Autobiography, the title of my paper naturally suggests itself: Can a blog be used for an autobiography?

This too is a big topic, or rather the blogosphere is so big, that at first I did not know where to begin. But, as the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles is begun with just a single step, so I have quickly drafted the following outline for the paper. This will almost certainly change significantly when I start writing but, as another of my favourite saying goes, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, which is of course not a reason to have no plan.

So, here's the plan.

What is a blog?
Like an online diary – unlike physical diary (i) read backwards (ii) designed for immediate reading by others
How to start a blog – i. choose a host (e.g. Blogger, WordPress) – ii. write something on WP (e.g. Word) – iii. select Publish, choose Draft – iv. add topic (e.g. Life Story) – v. add pic, add hyperlinks, tweak coding (optional) – publish checked and modified Draft
How reader can select what to read – i. by date – ii. by topic

What are blogs about?
Anything – general v single issue – outline of categories shown on Technorati – absence of any biog-related category

What does the literature say?
Not (seemingly) a lot – refer to Winter 2003 Journal of Biography – no (apparent) plans for anything fresh from Hawaii – Mediated Memories in the Digital Age

How to find biog-type blog needles in blogosphere haystack:
Size of blogosphere – ease of starting blog
Blog Search Engine ( yields no results for [autobiography] – in Personal category subcategories nothing likewise
Technorati search engine ( ) – Bio/Autobiography not listed as category – Living 12533 blogs – subcategories nothing likewise
Google [blogspot autobiography] – 1st 5 blogs with "Autobiography" in title not recognisable as such – explain
Google [blogs into books="blooks"(!): note defunct Blooker Prize] – e.g. Mary Beard (Cambridge don), Belle de Jour (London hooker), Julie Powell (cooking all Julia Child's recipes in a year) – also look at others

Example of process of formal publishing
Designer of VisiCalc (ur-spreadsheet) Dan Bricklin's Bricklin on Technology, from his long-running blog:
i. how to deal with changes since text first written – ii. how to deal with hyperlinks – iii. typographical process
Editing essential: how done (hard copy, files)

Process of informal publishing
Review of methods available via software for on-demand printing

(Currently-)perceived main problems
i Blogs deal with the now: how to deal with the then
ii Voice, i.e. how to refer to e.g. spouse or explain e.g. Jack
iii more

My suggested solutions to these problems
i Multitudinous Madeleine moments (but on my blog these are not involuntary but contrived)
ii Bloggis Personae (but wait for response, if any, from maryb [comment on 08/11/09])
iii more

Conclusion (answer to opening question)
Yes, but … Blog is a hunk of Carrara marble, from which you must carve your self-sculpture

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