Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dissertating through blogging

What issues of authorial voice and time arise in the process of writing a dissertation that incorporates some of the blog posts that comprise(d) part of the dissertation process?

The time bit is still troubling me, but following Bakhtin, is there not a "plurality of independent and unmerged voices and consciousnesses, a genuine polphony of fully valid voices"?

"[T]here is no finalizing, explanatory word; the voices of the characters and that of the narrator engage in an unfinished dialogue...[T]he dialogue of the polyphonic novel is authentic only insofar as it represents an engagement in which, in various ways, the discourses of self and other interpenetrate each other...So in Bahktin's conception, Dostoevsky's novels are inhabited, not by the many independent individuals of classical liberalism, but by characters whose truth only emerges in contact with, or anticipation of, another's truth" (Dentith 1995:42-44).

It's easy to see my blog as a collection of polyphonic texts: there are many voices present (and even more absent). Both my sense of subjects (my dissertation research and my blog) and of subjectivities (what it means to me to do research, to keep a blog) have been shaped here over the past four years, and only ever in relation to other subjects/subjectivities. This is an important part of my-becoming-PhD, but how can I tell this story?

If I cull my archives chronologically and present a linear narrative of my research experience and educational journey, it quickly becomes appparent that although the posts may be ordered chronologically, the content within each post travels forwards, backwards and sideways in time. Rather than revealing some sort of sequential march towards my research conclusions or change in professional status, I most often seem to take one step forward, two steps back, and always a few to the side before going forward again from another place. I repeat myself, I contradict myself, I change my mind. I speak in first-person and third-person, as blind and as omniscient. I try out the voice of authority, get a feel for self-deprecation. I play, and it's not always fun.

My research subject isn't easily contained either. There are many different texts and images from many different contexts that have been mobilised. Many too have been abandoned, or forgotten or had their links amputated. Some appear enshrined in my dissertation; some do not. There are also many readers of these texts and images, and even though so few are known to me, I still (re) act with those present and absent. Some leave comments, some link to me, some send email, some talk to me at conferences, but most never approach me. What kind of community is this?

How can I write in the present, about these posts made in the past that also perform multiple pasts, presents and possible futures?

"Our stories are the masks through which we can be seen, and with every telling we stop the flood and swirl of thought so someone can get a glimpse of us, and maybe catch us if they can." (Grumet 1987 as cited in Alvermann)


Blogger Rob said...

Can you dialogue with the blog - after all you might have changed your position on things since an entry was written. Are their not meta-coded up by chapter or topic, or at least Atlas could do that for you.

I've tagged the documents on my hard drive using Atlas...

Blogger Anne said...

Rob - When I chose to use Blogger I never anticipated that I would stick with it for so long despite what I consider to be one of it's primary limitations: the inability to tag and sort post content by category.

So right now there are 1711 uncategorised posts, but maybe only several hundred that deal specifically with my thesis topics or with research methodology. They've been copied into separate files, but the associated comments are unsorted in a huge txt file from my previous commenting system.

But what's this about talking with the blog? Of course I've changed my mind about some things but I've tended to deal with that in new blog posts...Can you please explain more?

Blogger Trevor said...

Anne - Technorati tags would work on Blogger wouldn't they?


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