Thursday, November 16, 2006

Blogs, narrative and multimodality

Just got back from the IGALA conference in Spain, and now I've finally got around to doing some reading about blogs. The book I've started with is Viviane Serfaty's The Mirror and the Veil. She makes an interesting point about the multimodality of online diaries, where she writes,
', drawings and sometimes even audio files are produced alongside the
written text [...] they add a new, external scene to the inner scene the writing
delineates. Thus pictures accentuate the need for yet more explanations,
interpretations, yet more writing. Pictures constitute another system of
signs that reifies the body, turns it into the Other, and requires from the
diarists a further investment in the written word if they are to make sense of
themselves' (2003:28).
Serfaty's comments seem to imply that the multimodality of online diaries (which is more or less synonymous to a personal blog in her terms) introduces an element of open-endedness and fragmentation that is in diametric opposition to the linearity of conventional narrativity.

This connects with a discussion that took place on the PALA Narrative SIG discussion list earlier this year. We debated what role the images in blogs played in constructing (or undermining) the drive towards narrativity. Of course, images and their relationship to the text in the blog can be of many different kinds, refer in different ways and so on, but the question of image and narrative, especially as they are embedded in blog genres seems to open up central questions of what multimodality implies for narrative. As an example of part of the discussion, I quote from Chantelle Warner here,

In response to Ruth's question "to which the image can tell a story in itself,
or whether it is always subordinate to a verbal element," I thought of this type
of "food" blog, where people record a sort of limited autobiography through
images of what they have eaten that day.
In most of the cases here, I think the verbal text is more subordinated to images,
although they don't necessarily tell a story on their own. (Posted to the
PALA Narrative Discussion list, (31 March 2006).

So, as I start to prepare the next phase of my work, I certainly have more questions about how the multimodality of blogs both influences our sense of the genre as narrative-like, and also how both these factors work towards constructing a sense of self.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, this is cc from I wondered how you happened across my blog in the first place. I, myself, am interested in how my blog functions as autobiography since, for the most part, I do not post about any of the nitty gritty aspects of my life. Just interested.


5:27 PM  
Blogger Ruth Page said...

I came across your blog when a fellow colleague cited it on a discussion list that I am on (the PALA Narrative Special Interest Group). I was interested in the way that you use image so prominently in the blogs, and that the nature of those images seemed often to be of the 'everyday' world - like the food you are enjoying. To that extent, although you are not overtly blogging about yourself, I still see (literally and figuratively) your blog as a chronicle of your life experiences (culinary ones, but also others!)and so a presentation of part of a 'world' so to speak.

3:07 AM  

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