All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Bruce McComiskey

Advisory Committee Members

Cynthia Ryan

Kyle Grimes

Lois Christensen

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2012

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

In this thesis, I discuss the nature of digital communication at a very broad level, examine the evolution and definition of "blogs," and consider ways that blogs can be used in educational settings to improve the understanding and application of rhetorical principles. Although digital media have resulted in a dramatic shift in the way messages are created, transmitted, and consumed, digital technologies need not be viewed with skepticism and alarm. While these technologies present new challenges and opportunities for communication, the changes are more of a gradual evolution than a sudden overhaul. Within digital media, blogs are an incredibly difficult medium to define. The variety of opinions on the subject merely suggests that a definition for blogs may be elusive. Blogs enable a wide variety of communication and, as Miller and Shepherd argued, may be better described as a medium than as a genre. However, I think it is also important to see certain characteristics that are common among blog genres. These characteristics are often assumed in the nature of blogs and they inform their use and interpretation. Within the very concept of blogging, there is an assumed validity of the personal/unique message as well as a desire to divorce opinions from the corporate or the institutional and to give voice to the individual, unfiltered expression. In both of these ways, blogs are fiercely democratic. However, these aspects also make them particularly well-suited to educational purposes. Blogs can be useful tools within first-year composition courses. At the same time, their use within the classroom raises questions of whether it is appropriate and/or helpful for teachers to encourage students to write for the public. Different scholars offer competing perspectives on the degree to which they think students should be encouraged to interact with each other and with the outside world. My opinion on these competing perspectives comes decidedly in the middle. While I see significant benefits to encouraging students to evaluate each other's texts and to demonstrating the validity of opinions other than the instructor's, I am wary of forcing students into public discourse.

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