Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Blogging and story genres - latest update

In the weeks since my last post I have been busy pulling together some of the analysis on the cancer blogs project I've been working on for the last few months. Finally, some trends seem to be emerging, which I'll put in summary below.

Post length: The posts by the women bloggers are twice as long as those by the men bloggers.
Comments: The women and men seem to get about the same amount of comments
Links: The women put more links in their posts, and link more often to sites about information. They also have more links to personal blogs in their side bars
Evaluation density: The women use more evaluation devices (that is, features that make their posts more vivid or tellable, to use Labov's phrase) per hundred words than the men do.
Evaluation profile: Despite the difference in overall quantity, the profile of the evaluative subtypes was very similar indeed for the women and men's entries.

I was talking about this with one of my colleagues and he said, 'So tell me something I don't already know'. Hmmm. Well, here's my attempt at this:

While all of the above confirms much of the existing research (see for example, Nowson 2006 on gender and blog post length; Herring et al. 2006 on genre and gender), what has not yet been considered is how this relates to narrative theory, and, in particular to sociolinguistic findings about storytelling styles in offline environments. So far, I have come to the tentative conclusion that the analysis suggests that genre is more important in determining narrative style than gender, and that what I am looking at in these blogs is a particular subgenre. I'm calling this a 'hyper evaluated narrative' for now, and positioning this as a new category within Martin and Plum's (1997) categories of story genres.

The next stage is to test the relationship between story topic and use of evaluation. I suspect that the hyper-evaluated narratives are being constructed because the narrators are talking about narratives of illness (as in Frank's 1994 description of this 'orphan genre', which has now given birth to online offspring of various kinds). Will the same evaluation patterns occur in blogs about other topics? And will the same gendered pattern emerge? I'm testing this out in a comparable corpus of travel blogs.

In the meantime, I have reached the stage of writing the introductory section for the first of the papers that will come from this research. It's a chapter in a book I am co-edited with Bronwen Thomas, called New Narratives: Theory and Practice, under contract with UNP. Back to that, now.



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