Vincent W. Hevern
Le Moyne College, Syracuse, USA

E-mail:hevern@lemoyne.edu

 

THREADED IDENTITY IN CYBERSPACE:
WEBLOGS AND POSITIONING IN THE DIALOGICAL SELF

 

Research on the construction of identity via personal web pages (Hevern, 2000) has demonstrated striking utility in the notion of the dialogical self as proposed by Hermans and others (Hermans, 2001) for understanding how web authors function within this 'human digital ecology'. This paper extends those findings by analysis of the recent and rapid emergence of personal weblogs ('blogs') within the internet - a phenomenon reflecting both specific technological innovations and a new set of online practices with broad affinities for the self as dialogical. This study employs qualitative analyses of both the structural components of and selected postings from a broad spectrum of 20 English-language weblogs created mostly by residents of the US. These blogs reflect a range of types including explicitly journalistic or ideological-political projects, voices from several alterity groups (gay men and physically disabled persons; Hevern, 2000), and works with a seemingly more personal or quotidian focus. The practice of 'blogging' permits nearly contemporaneous response to happenings in the wider social and political world. Thus, this research pays particular attention to the ways in which blog authors have incorporated the events of September 11, 2001 and its aftermath into their online expression. Preliminary analysis makes clear that the self as dialogical resonates with broad aspects of blogging practice. Weblogs display multiple and shifting positionings in the form of ongoing, personally-meaningful, and hypertextually-threaded themes. A particularly Jamesian 'stream of thought' quality characterizes sequential blog entries. Yet, the active posting of contradictory or competing personal viewpoints within blogs reflects many of the polyphonic qualities of the dialogical self suggested by Bakhtin's analysis of authorship. Further, as a publishing activity, 'blogging' expects an audience. So, authors engage in multiple strategies by which to dialogue with both explicit and implicit readers by bringing others - as alternative voices or positions - into the weblog's cyberspacial context (Weinberger, 2002). As such, blogs serve as explicit examples of Herman's (2001) recent systematic model of the multivoiced self's active encounter with social and cultural others. Indeed, the sequencing of commentaries in some weblogs illustrates processes of cultural exchange by which authors thread their way through different though overlapping positionings in processes of negotiating new or changing identities.

 

Hermans, H. J. M. (2001). The dialogical self: Toward a theory of personal and cultural positioning. Culture and Psychology, 7, 243-281.

Hevern, V. W. (2000, June). Alterity and self-presentation on the web. Paper presented at the First International Conference on the Dialogical Self, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Weinberger, D. (2002). Small pieces loosely joined: A unified theory of the web. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publications.