Gathering Blogs–A systematic method

By js, 23 October, 2008, 2 Comments

When I started with my topic I was lead by one question:

Where are the Chicanas in cyberspace?

I assumed there were Chicanas out there even if I had not heard about them.

I began by doing a general search of “Chicanas” using Google to see what I would find. I found what initially looked as promising sites but they were dead sites, not updated for three or more years. Of course I wonderd why this would be the case. A couple seemed like they were projects which were started by graduate studetns and then abandoned (the information compiled was still there but the site was not updated). The sites seemed to have the purpose of centralizing information. The sites provide some information which is still valuable but which is not updated. The sites seem to be sites which one person was managing and it probably became too much for them to do. I mentioned this to Rich. Why would the site still be there? Some are sites sponsored by universities so they can stay indefinitely as long as the univ. provides space for them. Others, though, are hosted somewhere which means that someone has to pay hosting fees. WHy do they pay them if they do not update the site? Why are the sites still there? Why were they abandoned. When I talked to Rich, he said “it’s been done.” That is, what has been done is research about why websites are abandoned. Most importantly, though, is where to do these people turn. Have they turned to FAcebook, Myspace, Blogger? If they do, do they move there because of the ease of use especially to connect to others.

So my question was answered in a way: they are not hosting websites, at least not the older type sites driven by pure html code.

That is when I turned to blogs, but when I did I began searching but in no formalized, systematic way. I was just someone in cyberspace looking for others like me.

I have been following several women’s blogs and one more so than others. When I first found the blogs, I remember that I did a google search for “chicana blogs” and found several. Those blogs have blogrolls which lead me to more blogs. As I searched and read through the blogs, I noticed that there were some blogs that were in blogrolls alot more than others. I also noticed that many of the blogs had been inactive for some time but they were not removed from the blogrolls. I also noticed that many of the women who are blogging have some connection to the academy, either in graduate school, out of graduate school, or finishing undergrad. So I figured that I would focus on Chicana graduate students who were blogging.

That particular method was half hazard. Since then realized that I needed to work on a system for choosing the blogs which I will be using for my study. I wondered though if trying to find a more systematic way of searching for blogs would lead me to other blogs which I had not found either via Google or the blogrolls or if I would end up with the same name which I had found before using more informal searching and following blogrolls.

This is the new system which I used:

1. I searched online to determine which search engines were most popular. I found that several sites mention both Google and Yahoo as the most widely used search engines.

2. I also searched for different tools which would help me search for blogs. I found that Technorati and Digg would be two that I could use since they both track blogs.

3. After finding these four search tools, I decided that I would search to see what those tools gave me as results for “Chicana blog”

4. I used the top 100 results for both Google and Yahoo. I labeled the Google results with g and then the #–g4 for a blog which came in as the fourth result in a google search. I did the same for the yahoo search

5. I entered the data into a database and compared the 100 results.

  • I compared them to see
    • which ones were repeated on at least two searches
    • how long they had been blogging
    • if they were currently active

I wanted to begin with blogs which appear in at least two of the search tools.

6. I found a total of 12 which appeared on more than one search.

7. One blogger had stopped blogging (stopped in 2007).

8. Two bloggers have been bloggin for less than a year (that is including me :-] ).

9. ONe has been blogging for over 4 years but her blog did not appear in two searches

10. Six have been blogging for over two years and appeared on at least two searches. In fact, they all appeared in three searches.

Ultimately, this method has lead me back to the same bloggers.

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2 Responses {+}
  • Jaime Armin Mejía

    Hello JJ,

    Hope you had a restful night of sleep. Here, it’s past noon, and it’s looking like it’ll be a beautiful afternoon. Went in to my favorite restaurant to have my breakfast tacos and coffee, and both were delicious.

    I find interesting what you’ve laid out above about how you’ve landed on the blogs you’ve settled on and colonized, in your own way, of course. The one question I have is how does a search engine like Google or Yahoo “find” anything? While key words may well be the bait laid out for such engines to use to find items, it’s interesting to me that one engine will catch one thing but another one won’t, perhaps when the same key words are used, if indeed key words are the bait used for such engines to catch what they’re fishing for.

    Now let me take a slightly different tact which you may think a tangent: Chicana and Chicano Rhetorics. It seems to me that if you’ll be analyzing Chicana blogs for the rhetorical appeals they use, then it seems to me that you’ll also have to do the same for blogs by Chicanos. How do they differ, and how are they the same?

    What value, if any, does the existence of either a Chicana or a Chicano blog have? Is the world the same without them? Do they make any kind of difference? For whom are such blogs valuable?

    I think these are fundamental questions.

    Moreover, the rhetorical appeals used by Chicanas and/or Chicanos in blogs have to be analyzed for the rhetorical situations in which they find themselves. Who are their audiences? What are these Chicana and Chicano bloggers trying to persuade their audiences of? What kinds of evidence are they using to persuade whichever kinds of audiences they’re addressing? What kind of discourse are they using to mount their arguments and in which to couch their evidence?

    One of the things I’ve been thinking of is simply this: In a specific rhetorical situation which involves a specific issue and/or problem as well as a specific audience, what kinds of rhetorical appeals do Chicanas and/or Chicanos use? Are there particular kinds of tropes which Chicanas and/or Chicanos are more inclinded to using in specific kinds of rhetorical situations?

    As I’ve been thinking about these kinds of questions over the rhetorical appeals which Chicanas and Chicanos may use in specific kinds of rhetorical situations, I’ve concluded that the specifics of the rhetorical situation is key to understanding which kinds of appeals Chicanas and/or Chicanos are more likely to use.

    Here’s an excerpt from that longer quotation which I pulled from Paula Moya’s description and perhaps her definition of what constitutes and differentiates a Chicana from other types of Latinos. She says, “What distinguishes a Chicana from a Mexican American, a Hispanic, or an American of Mexican descent is not her ancestry or her cultural upbringing. Rather it is her political awareness; her recognition of her disadvantaged position in a hierarchically organized society arranged according to categories of class, race, gender, and sexuality; and her propensity to engage in a political struggle aimed at subverting and changing those structures.”

    With this quotation in mind, it seems to me that Moya has broadly laid out an area where Chicanas (and I argue, also, Chicanos) operate rhetorically. That is, for Chicanas and Chicanos, “a” rhetorical situation has to involve “her recognition of her disadvantaged position in a hierarchically organized society arranged according to categories of class, race, gender, and sexuality; and her propensity to engage in a political struggle aimed at subverting and changing those structures.”

    A rhetorical situation for a Chicana and a Chicano situates each in a disadvantaged position within a hierarchically organized society. Within that society, people of Mexican descent are placed by the dominant group within specific kinds of disadvantaged categories: “class, race, gender, and sexuality.” Each of these categories within a hierarchically organized society has built within them the kinds of evidence and and arguments which will comprise what constitutes a rhetorical appeal which Chicanas and Chicanos can use to persuade others to level out the hierarchy which has placed Chicanas and Chicanos in a disadvantaged.

    In this type of rhetorical situation, where Chicanas and Chicanos are situated in a disadvantaged position within a hierarchy, there will be at least two types of audiences. The kind of audience will specifically determine the kinds of appeals which a Chicana or a Chicano may wish to use. The two kinds of audiences I have in mind are these: An audience primarily made up of people from the dominant group who are not situated in a disadvantaged position within a hierarchically organized society simply by virtue of their being recognized as “white.” The other kind of audience, as I’m sure you’ve already been able to surmise, is an audience primarily made up of other Chicanas and Chicanos.

    However, as I think about this now, all the other names which Moya discusses and which are used as terms of self-identification, terms like Hispanic, Mexican American, and American of Mexican descent, these terms also help us understand the kinds of rhetorical appeals which carry value for people self-identifying themselves with the use of these other terms.

    For Chicanas and Chicanos aware of their disadvantaged position within a hierarchically organized society and who know how the dominant group discriminates against them based on specific categories, the arguments and evidence which can be used rhetorically, that is, used for persuasive purposes, will be determined by how their rhetorical situation is shaped.

    More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the kinds of appeals Chicanas and Chicanos can use in specific rhetorical situations. These persuasive appeals will differ, depending on the audience and the specifics of the rhetorical situation.

    Here’s a specific situation I’ve been thinking about. It involves a friend of mine who recently has found himself in a financial crisis. He’s the father of two grown sons, the youngest of whom recently got married quite suddenly, and about a year later, his son and new daughter-in-law have a baby daughter. Everyone is happy. But then the mortgage which this son has taken out becomes unmanageable because it was based on an adjustable mortgage rate, which went up, creating an unmanageable mortgage payment. My friend decides to come to the rescue and gets the bank to give his son a straight mortgage rate that made the mortgage payment a bit more manageable. Still, there are financial proplems, and what sticks out in the mind of my friend is the fact that his daughter-in-law won’t seek out a job to work and help out with the mounting bills. So it seems that my friend will simply have to carry the bill while his daughter-in-law stays home with her mother to take care of the baby daughter. Another problem my friend has is that his older son still lives with my friend and his wife and refused to go out and get a job so he can live on his own. My friend has allowed this son to live with them, even though he’s now over thirty years old.

    For communicative purposes, what kinds of evidence and arguments can or should be used to convince his daughter-in-law to get a job and help out with the bills, while her mother stays home to take care of the baby? What kinds of evidence and arguments can my friend use to kick his older son out?

    This is a Chicano family, with the sons aware of their disadvantaged situation but who simply refuse to take responsibility for their own lives and not rely on their father, my friend, to take care of them when a financial crisis arises. This is a very real situation wherein the various members of this family have suffered from the discriminatory categorizing which routinely takes place in this nation. Still, it’s time for decisive action, and my friend has to try to persuade his sons to take care of their own responsibilities, without causing a financial crisis to extend to him.

    There are arguably only certain kinds of rhetorical appeals which will cause certain kinds of individuals to act. My friend, a Chicano, has acted to help his sons because as their father, he sees his help as obligatory, even if it brings him down into the mire of their financial crisis. Upon hearing his tale of woe the last time I was down there, I offered to help him financially, and he, as proud as he is, accepted my offer. I asked him if he could wait till the end of the month or if he needed help immediately, and he confessed he needed help immediately, so I pulled out $120 bucks from my wallet and gave it to him, with the promise that more would be forthcoming at the beginning of the next month.

    Chano is one of my oldest friends and one of my dearest, and I feel for him and the situation he now finds himself in. Previously, when similar family crises arose which related to his sons, he would immediately shut off the conversation and would not hear any criticism of his sons, even though it was obvious that his sons were acting irresponsibly.

    That he and his wife coddle their grown up sons too much is without question, but nothing will persuade him to listen to advice which would force him to judge his sons negatively. In that rhetorical situation, no rhetorical appeals worked.

    This is just one example of a rhetorical situation involving Chicano family where there’s a need for persuasion, a need for decisive action.

    More recently, this past week but also long before, I’ve found myself thinking of the ending of a novel I’ve taught many times: John Rechy’s novel, The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gómez. In this novel, like in many other literary works I introduce in my Chicana/o Literature class, the narratives feature protagonists who are created by their authors to be in comparable crises. Unusual but still common to these literary texts is the fact that these characters live in or are part of families which haven’t the support of an extended family structure. Amalia Gómez is just such a character. The author has situated her in the worst of situations, with everything that can go wrong going wrong, and with the central character under problems which the author has just piled a mile high on top of her. This character, though, has an abiding faith in the Blessed Mother, Guadalupe. And what this novel presents is that this troubled character needs a miracle to save her from her many travails. On this one day, at the end of this day, after we see Amalia confront the worst of all of her problems, all of which come crashing down on her all at the same time, she has a near-death experience where a robber at a mall takes her hostage and holds her with a gun to her head. Then the police shoot the robber, who falls into her arms and asks her to bless him before dying. She does, and as she does, she sees a vision of the Blessed Mother appear, which we are supposed to take as Amalia’s salvation, a sign that Amalia will be ok because the Virgin has appeared.

    This is how the novel ends. Knowing that the Virgin Mother is there to help her is supposed to be the sine qua non of evidence and rhetorical appeals which the author uses to persuade his audience that as long as you have this faith, all will be well, despite not having any other type of support system to rely upon. What the author seems to be offering is a lesson that says that if a character is down in her luck, she doesn’t need anything more than her self-fortitude, buttressed by her faith in the Virgin Mother, and that’s it. On her own, but with her unflinching faith in the Virgin Mother, Amalia can overcome all of her earthly problems, especially those she’d been in denial of. And througout the novel, the author presents countless problems which she’d been in denial of. So, by facing squarely up to her problems and having this faith in the Virgin Mother, Amalia’s future will be a good one, unlike her past and present, which contain countless problems which have been mounting up to high heaven.

    Rechy, then, has arguably offered up a rhetorical appeal that suggests a kind of bootstraps solution that the Puritans would’ve been proud of. From a Chicana and/or Chicano cultural perspective, which contains all kinds of organic rhetorical appeals, the prime rhetorical appeal should be one which is centered on group solidarity, with the family being at the core of this trope. But here, this rhetorical trope of a supportive extended family core is devastated by poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, racism, sexism, homophobia, gang violence, religious as well as family dogmatism. With these kinds of massive and violent disruptions entering into her life, the only thing which seems to be left is a self-fortitude based on a strong faith in the Blessed Mother. The latter, though, has also been confronted as sometimes not being enough. And with reliance on the Blessed Mother being questioned, before the very end of this novel, the only thing which seems to remain standing as a mainstay of support is self-reliance.

    This message of self-reliance has to be one which runs counter to some of the main tenets of Chicana/o ideology because it seems oblivious to the blatant discrimination which Moya’s categories herald. Having a clear-sighted self-reliance, then, seems to be the solution offered up by this gay author in this remarkable novel. Needless to say, I don’t buy it.

    I have also been thinking of other rhetorical situations which involve a need for decisive action and how in those rhetorical situations, the very situations themselves call for specific kinds of appeals to be used in order for specific kinds of actions to take place, if particular appeals can be said to work, can be said to be effective persuasively.

    What do you think?

  • js

    Jaime,

    I have thought about these questions which you pose regarding the rhetorical situation. I think that is one of the first things which I began to consider when I started looking at the blogs.

    I too have thought about how Google and Yahoo determine rankings. I have done some research on that and will have to write a post trying to explain it.

    Overall, I’m not sure that the issue of ranking will be relevant to my analysis. It will be relevant to a discussion as to how I chose these particular blogs to discuss. One criticism that I am trying to anticipate is that I “chose” these blogs because they already demonstrate what it is that I was “looking” for. That, of course, is a danger of all research. That you find only what you are already looking for.

    I will have to answer the question: Why did you choose these blogs?

    My answer is: I wanted to determine if there is a participation gap. There is not much written about what Chicanos are doing online. Does that mean Chicanos are not participating? or has their participation been marginalized in discussions about online participation and digital rhetoric?

    To answer my question, I had to determine if there were Chicanos online. So I searched using the term Chicano and, of course, I did find evidence of participation. Websites, etc.

    What is it Chicanos are doing online? Who are they doing it for? How are they doing it? How is it changing or not changing as their participation continues? What can we learn from these Chicanos who are online which can help us to lessen the participation gap?

    All these questions “get at” the rhetorical situation in one form or another. I expect that the rhetorical needs will be shifting and determined not only by the audience but also by what the individual experiences “off-line” which can change the dynamics of what is occurring in the blog.

    I’m fascinated by the question of “decisive action.” I think the blog itself is a form of decisive action which goes back to the issue of participation and which, I am convinced, can lead to further decisive action.

    I agree with your criticism of Rechy that a turn to individualism is not the answer and that specific situations call for specific appeals.

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