Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Media Research vs. Traditional Research

This semester my opened my eyes to a whole new way of doing research: research blogging. I learned that new media can be a very powerful academic tool by turning my research into a social endeavor. I discussed this idea in my very first post, where I applied Eric Raymond's "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" to scholarly research. Being able to document my research process online also made sure that none of my ideas were wasted, but instead available to anyone who has access to the internet. Blogging also made it possible for me to connect to other people with similar academic interests, evident in the response my post E-mail to the Mormon Archipelago received. All of these advantages helped fulfill course learning outcomes, especially Composition Process, Using New Communication Tools and Engaging with Literature Independently and Socially. All of these benefits also relate to the BYU Institutional Objectives, which encourage advancing truth by contributing to "the world's storehouse of knowledge" and forming relationships with people outside of the university community. Many of these objectives are much more difficult to obtain, especially for undergrads, through traditional research in the print paradigm.

However, I believe that traditional research still has its advantages. As I discussed in my post Tool or Distraction, traditional research allows time to actually think and formulate ideas. Sometimes this semester I had difficulty thinking deeply about my topic because of the constant flow of new comments, new sources, new bookmarks, new tools, etc. Along these same lines, I think it is easier to stay focused on the literary text in traditional research. Another one of the Learning Outcomes for the class is Analysis and Use of Texts. While I got lots of practice analyzing online texts, I had less time to focus on secondary and literary texts.

Obviously, both types of research, traditional and new media, have their advantages and disadvantages. I think the key to success is breaking down the barrier between these two methods, creating a hybrid process that takes advantage of the strengths of both methods.

An Evaluation of Andrew's Blog

In this post I will evaluate my classmate Andrew's blog,"literally a literature blog, figuratively speaking," according to Dr. Gideon Burton's Criteria for Evaluating Research Blogs. I'll look at a total of 6 of Dr. Burton's criteria, 3 area's where Andrew excelled and 3 where he could improve.

  • Personality: Andrew's blog definitely show's his personality. He most effectively does this by beginning many of his posts by recounting personal experiences which he then relates to his research topic. Andrew's post about Terror and Awe in the Sublime is a good example of this.
  • Media: Andrew does a great job of integrating other media into his blog. Every post has at least one picture or video. The pictures and videos are relevant to his topic and he does a good job of introducing them.
  • Analysis: All of Andrew's posts are not just commentary or personal opinion; he often analyzes sections of Emily Dickinson's poems, like in his post Sickness, Zombies, and the Sublime.
Room for Improvement
  • Focus/Cohesion: This is probably the area where Andrew could use the most improvement. Although many of his posts deal with the general topics of Emily Dickinson or the Sublime, he never actually states a clear argument, and thus his posts sometimes seem random or disjointed.
  • Community: Although Andrew made a few comments on others' blogs, the ones that I looked through only had 1, if any, comment from him the whole semester. Even Kathrine, who is also researching the Sublime, only had one comment from Andrew.
  • Links: Most of Andrew's posts include few links. The the links that are present are rarely semantically relevant, but just say "here," as in Andrew's post about Cohesion in Purpose.
Evaluating the Criteria

I think Dr. Burton's criteria are a good guide to effective research blogging and were useful for evaluating Andrew's blog. However, I think some of his criteria overlap. For example, "focus" and "cohesion" seem to be very closely related, and if somebody is doing well in one of those areas they are likely doing well in the other. The same goes for "Community" and "Interactivity." I think the criteria could be improved by combining some areas to make the list shorter and more precise.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wrap Up, or What Happened to the Bloggernacle?

This is the 3rd and final post in a series looking at Raymond Carver's short story "Cathedral" in the context of digimodernism and the new media paradigm.
What happened to the Bloggernacle?
Many of my previous posts have dealt with connections and parallels between the Bloggernacle and "Cathedral," and yet I haven't said anything about the Bloggernacle in this series. This is because I think starting a research project is like entering a maze; you don't really know where you're going to end up. Along the way you may find some interesting paths or hit dead ends, but you don't really know you're at the finish until you get there. But the nice thing about research, and especially documenting your process, is that even those dead ends are not a waste. For example, I started out exploring Eric Raymond's "Cathedral and the Bazaar." Although I ended up changing directions, exploring Raymond's ideas still helped me have a better understanding of the new media paradigm and the importance of making research a social instead of isolated effort.

A Digimodernist Reading of Raymond Carver's "Cathedral"

This is the 3rd post in a series looking at Raymond Carver's short story "Cathedral" in the context of the new media paradigm. Before reading this post, please read my previous post, where I introduce digimodernism as a theory that explains the effect of new media technology on the relationship between authors, audiences, and texts. In this post I will look at "Cathedral" through a digimodernist lens.

On the surface, "Cathedral" is the first person narrative of an isolated man who is transformed by an encounter with his wife's blind friend, Robert. While watching a television program about cathedrals, the narrator attempts to describe to the blind man what a cathedral looks like. When the narrator is unable to complete the task, Robert suggests that they draw a cathedral together. This is a transformative experience for the narrator as he learns to connect with another person. However, just as important as the transformation of the narrator is the transformation of the relationship between authors, audiences, and texts in the story. Raymond Carver is quoted as saying "Cathedral" was "totally different in conception and execution from any stories that [had] come before." In his article "Raymond Carver and Postmodern Humanism" Arthur A. Brown argues that this change was merely a shift from existentialist postmodernism (objective, godless, banal) to humanist postmodernism (more subjective, metaphysical, theological). But according to Alan Kirby, since postmodernism and digimodernism are "historically adjacent and expressed in part through the same cultural forms, digimodernism appears . . . as the logical effect of postmodernism, suggesting a modulated continuity more than a rupture." I will argue that, although "Cathedral" may be postmodernist in that it was written before the advent of digimodernism, the story's portrayal of the transforming relationship between authors, audiences and texts makes "Cathedral" a proto-digimodernist text.

What is Digimodernism?

As I explained in my previous post, I have turned to the theory of digimodernism to examine Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" in context of today's new media paradigm. Digimodernism is a theory developed by British cultural critic Alan Kirby (see picture at right) to describe new media technology's impact on culture, more specifically on texts. According to Kirby, digimodernism is the successor to postmodernism, which he says mainly ended around the beginning of the current millennium.

Kirby first presented this theory in a 2006 article entitled "The death of postmodernism and beyond." In 2009 Kirby expanded these ideas into a book, Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture. Most recently, Kirby published an article entitled "Succesor states to an empire in freefall" in the May 2010 issue of the British periodical Times Higher Education. According to these sources, here are the main ideas of digimodernism:
  • In late 90's and early 2000's new technologies permanently altered the relationship between authors, texts, and readers, succeeding postmodernism as the primary cultural milieu.
  • Because of new media, audiences now have unprecedented ability to alter the content of texts, reducing the role of the traditional single author and making texts unstable and ephemeral.
  • Digimodernists texts are characterized by "onwardness, haphazardness, evanescence, and anonymous, social and multiple authorship."
  • Prime examples of digimodernist texts include the internet as a whole, blogs, reality television shows like American Idol where viewers decide the narrative progression, news programs that rely on viewer-submitted comments, etc.
  • Replacing the uncertainty or self conscious irony of postmodernism, the typical emotional state of digimodernism is the trance, being completely absorbed in and becoming the text.
So what does this have to do with Raymond Carver's "Cathedral"? Read my next post to find out.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Third Time's a Charm: Digimodernism

Does the "third time's a charm" rule apply to literary research? I hope so. This is my third attempt at drawing valid conclusions about connections between Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" and new media technology. I'm now going to argue that Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" can be read as a digimodernist rather than postmodernist text. But wait, what is digimodernism? I'll explain that soon. First, let me explain how I got to this point:

After considering feedback from my classmates and professor, I've realized that my first and second arguments both depended on two faulty assumptions:
  1. Many believe that technology isolates people. I think this was mainly a straw man I created to have something to argue against. Although there may be cases when technology interferes with relationships, I think the general consensus is that technology connects people. As my classmate Neal pointed out in a comment on my last post, "the premise of the "internet" was to connect, hence "inter" in the word. The internet connected isolated banks of information, doing (I think) exactly what you suggest the bloggernacle is now doing." Basically, arguing that the Bloggernacle is a rare example of people connecting with technology that usually isolates people is wrong, which leads to my second false assumption:
  2. The Bloggernacle is a rare example of people connecting on the internet, or even of using religious concepts like a tabernacle to characterize their community. Today I explored other religious blogging communities and found similar patterns. For example, the Catholic Blogosphere is known as St. Blog's Parish, comparing the the online community to a real world congregation. There's also Church of Fools (source of image above), an online Christian community whose members can create avatars and enter a 3-D church to worship together. So, the Bloggernacle is not unique as a virtual religious place where people connect. If anything, it is representative of a widespread trend of online religious communities.
So now I am going in a different direction and discussing the theory of digimodernism and how it can provide a new reading of "Cathedral." Digimodnernism is basically a theory that explains the effects of new technologies and their impact on texts and the arts. My discussion will consist of the following:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wholly Communion: Reassociation in Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" and the Bloggernacle

In my last post I discussed parallels between religious metaphors in "Cathedral" and the Bloggernacle. Now, after thinking about these parallels and reading a scholarly article, "Raymond Carver and Postmodern Humanism" by Arthur A. Brown, I've formulated a new thesis. Arthur argues that Carver's later stories, especially "Cathedral," "leave behind the themes of dissociation and alienation, which postmodern writers inherited from the modernists, and show that reassociation is possible" (126). I will explain how this is especially apparent in the religious metaphors in "Cathedral," which establish the act of communication as holy. Since similar metaphors are found in the name and structure of the Bloggernacle, I assert that just as "Cathedral" presents the possibility of reassociation in the typically isolated postmodern world, the Bloggernacle presents the possibility of reassociation in the allegedly isolated technological world. What do you think?

Friday, June 11, 2010

More on Metaphor in "Cathedral" and the Bloggernacle

In my last post I introduced the idea of comparing the metaphors in the names of Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" and the Bloggernacle. The table below is a graphic organizer of my ideas, but some basic definitions are necessary to fully understand it.

  • Tablerncale: the tent-like sanctuary the Israelites built as a dwelling place for God where they could go to communicate with Him. According to Wikipedia, also known as "The Tent of Meeting." OR According to Merriam Webster, in the catholic tradition the tabernacle is "a receptacle for the consecrated elements of the Eucharist; especially : an ornamental locked box used for reserving the Communion hosts"

  • Communion: according to Merriam Webster, "an act or instance of sharing" OR "intimate fellowship or rapport : communication OR "Christian sacrament in which consecrated bread and wine are consumed as memorials of Christ's death or as symbols for the realization of a spiritual union between Christ and communicant

Click on the image to see it larger

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I'm trying to solidify/revamp my conclusions about connections I've been researching between Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" and the Bloggernacle. One of the first, most obvious connections is the similarity between a cathedral and a tabernacle as religious physical structures. A couple weeks ago, Neal commented on my post about emailing Mormon bloggers and suggested exploring "different imagery/metaphors that are used to define relationships on the 'web.'" We spoke about this again in our English class yesterday and I'm rethinking my argument along these lines. My idea right now is comparing the cathedral and tabernacle metaphors and how they help us better understand the story "Cathedral" and the Bloggernacle.

The name "Bloggernacle" was decided on a few years ago in the comments to a post on the Mormon blog Times and Seasons. A commenter, Adam Greenwood, had some good ideas about why "Bloggernacle" is a good name: "Note the founding metaphor of the blog community is spacial--the blogosphere . . . The tabernacle . . . is the sacred space that conceptually contains the world; it is at root expansive."

I don't have a solid argument yet; I'm just publishing my thinking process, so please give suggestions.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Margaret Young on The Bloggernacle

Continuing my research on Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" and the Bloggernacle, I recently emailed Margaret Young, an emeritus By Common Consent perma and my creative writing instructor from last semester. I asked the following questions:
  • What is the Bloggernacle?
  • Is it a place, a thing, a concept?
  • Does the Bloggernacle facilitate the creation of communities? How?
  • Is it people simply communicating with each other that creates these communities, or is it something more, like working together to build the bloggernalce?
  • Does the Bloggernacle facilitate the creation of communities in ways that would otherwise be impossible, or create communities that would otherwise not exist?
Here is a segment of her response:
"The bloggernacle is a collection of online "wards" which members self-select. Many go from ward to ward, even if they serve as a "bishop" (perma) in one particular blog. I blogged with Mormonfeministhousewives, Mormonmentality, Timesandseasons, Juvenileinstructor, and of course, BCC. The bloggernacle, in this age of the internet, is a virtual place--and those who actively participate are always thrilled to meet others of the community in person, unless there have been unkind words exchanged. BCC has yearly retreats for its permas, and had all sorts of get-togethers at the Mormon History Association. So that answers your next question about community. Also, the blogs have behind-the-scenes email exchanges, where permas talk about what's happening on the blog or sometimes in their lives. It's sort of like a large bishopric meeting. It also lets permas give input to content, and sometimes request that a comment or a sidebar be removed.
The blogs i've worked with have already been well established, but it's interesting to see new permas welcomed in. Many efforts to make the newbie feel welcome and valued happen behind the blogs.
Because of the self-selection process, the bloggernacle DOES facilitate the creation of communities which would not likely form without the internet. People visit FMH and discover other women who are experiencing similar things, and feel (especially because so many use pseudonyms) safe in revealing things they would never talk about in Relief Society. Such communities would and do exist outside the 'Nacle, but the infinte possibility to accommodate pretty much anyone who wants to join make the 'Nacle unique.
I decided ultimately that I was using too much time blogging, and also had some family issues which required my attention, so I quit blogging--though I can submit a blog whenever I want to, and have blogged twice (on BCC) from England. I drop in on BCC periodically. I'm not terribly interested in the others. Often, permas from other blogs will ask me to visit their current conversation if it's about race issues, and I almost always comply."

I intend to use portions of this response in the completed version of my post "The Bloggernacle: Forming Digital Communities."

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Shallows

I just read a review of The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr. Carr explores other historical paradigm shifts (the advent of literacy, the invention of the printing press) as well as neuroscience to figure out how the internet is changing our minds. His basic argument is that the internet, while allowing us to take in unprecedented amounts of information, is decreasing our ability to pay attention, think deeply, and remember. The result is a society left intellectually "splashing about in the shallows."

So what does this have to do with my research on new media relationships in the context of the Bloggernacle and Raymond Carver's "Cathedral"? It makes me wonder if the internet is having a similar effect on our relationships or communities that Carr says it is having on our ability to think. While the internet is facilitating the formation of online communities that would not otherwise exist, bringing people of different backgrounds or geographic locations together in ways never before possible, is it decreasing the depth of traditional, face to face relationships? Are traditional communities based on location, culture, etc. more meaningful than these new virtual ones like the Bloggernacle? Are traditional communities more meaningful or valuable than new virtual ones? Are we forfeiting the strength of traditional communities by forming "shallow" virtual relationships? Are we moving toward a future where will we have hundreds or thousands of "virtual friends" instead of having a smaller number of deeper face to face relationships? I'm not trying to be alarmist, and I haven't formed solid answers or opinions on any of these questions, but I think they are worth exploring.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bloggernacle Events

Here are some events past and upcoming that have to do with the Bloggernacle:
  • Bloggersnacker--A get together for members of the Bloggernacle community. What really impressed me is that everyone associated with By Common Consent, even "lurkers" (people who read but don't comment) were invited! I will keep an eye out for these in the future.
  • Mormon History Association Conference-It seems like a lot of people associated with the Bloggernacle are involved with the Mormon History Association. They just held a conference last month. I couldn't find a twitter stream associated with it, but they did open a comment stream on BCC.
  • Mormon Media Studies Symposium-This event will be held at BYU this fall. At least I found one event that hasn't already happened. Anybody interested in Mormonism and New Media should check this out; they are accepting submissions! I heard about it from a post on By Common Consent.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Bloggernacle: Forming Digital Communities

This is the third in a series of posts presenting my conclusions about the connections between Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" and the Mormon blogosphere, known as the "Bloggernacle." This series of posts will evolve and expand over the coming days and weeks as I continue to present my conclusions and alter them based on your comments and suggestions.

Questions I'll explore in this post:

What is a community?
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, community is "a unified body of individuals: . . . the people with common interests . . . in a particular area; broadly : the area itself . . . an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location . . . a body of persons of common . . . interests scattered through a larger society."
Wikipedia also adds "Since the advent of the Internet, the concept of community no longer has geographical limitations, as people can now virtually gather in an online community and share common interests regardless of physical location."

Is the Bloggernacle a community?
In a comment on my post "E-mail to the Mormon Archipelago," Steve Evans, a blogger for By Common Consent, stated "As for how the Bloggernacle creates a sense of community, I think first you need to make the case that it does, in fact, create a sense of community."

My research has led me to the conclusion that, despite certain limitations, the Bloggernacle is a community according to the broad definition of a community as a place where a variety of individuals with common interests interact. Furthermore, the Bloggernacle facilitates the creation of the more narrow definition of community, a unified body of people.

How are these communities formed?

Narrative Transformation and New Media in "Cathedral"

This is the second in a series of posts entitled "New Media Community in Raymond Carver's 'Cathedral' and the Bloggernacle" presenting my my conclusions from exploring connections between Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" and the Mormon blogosphere, known as the "Bloggernacle." This series of posts will evolve and expand over the coming days and weeks as I continue to present my conclusions and alter them based on your comments and suggestions.

Raymond Carver’s most well known work, “Cathedral,” is a first person narrative about a blind man who learns to see. The narrator’s internal dialogue shows that he resists commun
ication, leaving him ignorant and isolated until his life changes through an encounter with his wife’s blind friend, Robert. Although Robert is blind, he is better able to “see” because he communicates through a variety of mediums. The new mediums of communication Robert introduces to the narrator transform him and open his eyes to a new world. The transformative effect of new communication mediums in “Cathedral” invites comparison to the potential of new media platforms made possible by digital technology. Just as Robert helps the narrator of “Cathedral” overcome his isolation and "blindness" by introducing him to new forms of communication, new media has the power to connect and educate society.

New Media Community in Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" and the Bloggernacle

This is the first in a series of posts presenting my conclusions about the connections between Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" and the Mormon blogosphere, known as the "Bloggernacle." This series of posts will evolve and expand over the coming days and weeks as I continue to present my conclusions and alter them based on your comments and suggestions.

"Cathedral" is the story of an isolated, ignorant man transformed through an encounter with his wife's blind friend, Robert. I argue that Robert, a master of communication, is able to free the narrator from his isolation and ignorance by introducing him to a new medium of communication. The narrative structure of the story reflects this transformation as the narrator's dialogue gradually shifts from interior to exterior, the transformation culminating in the very act of narrating. Although some warn that digital media will destroy people's ability to think and meaningfully connect to others, Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" illustrates that participating in new mediums of communication actually facilitates the creation of communities. The "Bloggernacle" is an excellent example of how the new media paradigm, rather than isolating society, is facilitating the creation of communities that otherwise could not exist.

Other posts: