We're not the only ones creeping out bloggers!

Yesterday, local blogger DaniGirl of Postcards from the Mothership reported that she was freaked out and felt violated that her blog along with 7 others had become the subject of a master's thesis, “Works in Progress: An Analysis of Canadian Mommyblogs by Heather Lyn Fleming.

According to DaniGirl, Fleming made "egregious assumptions" about the bloggers and was unethical in not contacting them or getting their permission before writing or publishing.

I'm don't know what the "egregious assumptions" were. They might be mentioned somewhere in DaniGirl's original posting on the thesis, but I don't want to take the time to go through the 97 comments on the off chance they are mentioned. I think I'll just assume that I wouldn't find them to be any worse than assumptions I've made when reading other people's blogs.

In Today's followup, DaniGirl seems to be less freaked out and has backed away from her original position, but not all the way:

I can’t say that I regret my original post, because I wrote it in good faith and I think it resulted in a truly fascinating conversation. I haven’t changed my mind about thinking that Theryn crossed a line in her assumptions, and that she took my work out of context.
Of course, Fleming is also a blogger. She seems to have taken the criticism in stride:


February 22, 2010

I woke up yesterday morning to find my thesis had its own twitter hashtag.

I’m not going to launch into a defense. Readers are free to think my writing is crap, skim it, interpret it differently than I intended, etc. That’s the nature of writing. I just wanted to acknowledge that I’ve seen the reaction.

On the bright side (!), more people probably read my thesis yesterday than read most people’s theses ever ;-)

For more commentary:


Milan said...

When you write a blog, you are explicitly putting it out there for people to read and respond to.

The thesis may draw faulty conclusions, but I can't see any grounds for complaining about it having been written in the first place.

People who write for the public necessarily give up some control over how their writing is used. If you don't like that, keep a diary in your sock drawer.

Milan said...

I don't mean to be nasty or unsympathetic, but I think there are two key points here:

First, when you voluntarily and intentionally put something onto the public internet, you explicitly make it and object of public discussion. You can choose to retain copyright over it, but academic analysis of copyrighted works is permitted as a form of 'fair use.'

Second, academics aren't constrained to writing about topics where the creator has given consent. Imagine if novelists or poets could refuse to have their work compared to certain other novelists or poets, or have your work interpreted through one conceptual frame or another. If they could do this, it would impoverish the academic discourse and put an unjustified restriction on free speech.

Aggie said...

Milan, you said that so well.

XUP said...

I totally agree with Milan, too and said the same thing (only not so eruditely) on Coffee With Julie's blog who did an offshoot discussion about this. People just don't seem to get that whatever they put on the internet is up for grabs by all and sundry forever and ever.

zoom said...

I agree with Milan as well, but I also understand why the subjects of the thesis were creeped out.

DaniGirl said...

Hi there,

As I said when he posted the same comments to my blog, I do agree with Milan that when you put something on the Internet, you're giving up control of what happens to it.

What's "creepy" is having your own words repurposed, stripped of their context and quite often a healthy dose of self-deprecating humour, and taken as fact -- and then using those "facts" to make assumptions about everything from our family income level and the division of labour in our household, and in the case of another blogger, make inferences about an eating disorder.

Nobody likes to feel like they're being judged, and I think that's what upset most of the people involved in this.

Hey, if nothing else, this whole experience has been good for a little notoriety, eh?

DaniGirl said...

Oh, and PS: you *should* take the time to wade through the 100 or so comments. They're a lot more interesting than my original post on the subject and raise some really interesting points that are well worth discussing.