CONVERSATIONS IN THE BLOGOSPHERE; Weblogs in Inclusive Pedagogy of Peace and War

Article excerpt

What Is a "Weblog"? What is the "Blogosphere"?

The need to express a strong reaction to war has taken many forms through the centuries, from paintings (as in Picasso's Guernica) to the folding of paper cranes at Hiroshima on August 6 of each year. It is no surprise that the internet offers a forum for such expressions, with weblogs being among the most recent genres. Although the political initiatives of citizens can have a substantial impact around the world, citizens themselves are often physically distant from the wartime conflicts that affect them or in which their countries are involved. Weblogs can help to remove the psychological and informational distance between citizens and wartime situations, one that can make wartime atrocities somehow seem palatable.

Information about peace and war can often be heavily massaged by those in power to produce certain results (Hedges 20). Journalists and news services have conveyed the horrors of war through newspapers and television broadcasts for many years, in some cases increasing awareness of, and opposition to, aggression. The record -- albeit flawed -- that these news services establish is a part of the "collective memory" of wartime. Today, the internet disseminates first-hand accounts of war from observers and participants as well as quickly-generated reflections on wartime narratives from social critics. This essay explores how the emerging internet genres of warblogs and peaceblogs (varieties of weblogs or "blogs") can be used to enrich the discussion of peace issues in classroom and community contexts. It calls for more research on these matters, since the sensitive dimensions of peace and war add considerable complexity to the pedagogical issues involved.

Internet genres are evolving at rapid rates, with many forms of innovation largely driven by individuals rather than corporations or governments (Oravec "Virtual Individuals," 213). These genres have fostered new modes of human interaction. Weblogs are text-oriented and fairly simple in construction, making them suitable for inclusive pedagogical efforts in which technical know-how might be at a premium. "Blogging Brits," a website that provides free blogging tools and space to citizens of the United Kingdom, offers the following definition of a "weblog":

A blog is basically a journal that is available on the web. The activity of updating a blog is "blogging" and someone who keeps a blog is a "blogger"...Postings on a blog are almost always arranged in chronological order with the most recent additions featured most prominent, http://www.bloggingbrits.co.uk.

A number of weblogs are currently being written by individuals, soldiers along with civilians, who are directly involved in various conflicts across the globe. However, the vast majority are produced by individuals who read and synthesize the narratives of others and endeavor to make sense of complex social and political circumstances. For example, in 2003, during the war in Iraq, many citizens worldwide produced weblogs that questioned the roles of the nations and institutions involved. They were also utilized to exchange insights and organize specific activist efforts (Cherry 48). The 2004 presidential election campaign in the United States has also brought blogging to the attention of many citizens (Gilmor 96), particularly when the Howard Dean candidacy raised large sums of money using the Dean weblog as a focus (Trippi 30). Blogging is generally not a solitary effort: bloggers often respond to each other's blogs, either linking to particular posts or interacting in attached discussion forums. "Blogrolls" that are integrated into many weblogs provide links to blogs that are considered useful or interesting by the bloggers.

A Digest of Weblog, Warblog, and Peaceblog History

Information and communication technologies play expansive roles in everyday community and interpersonal interactions. Each technological genre provides advantages along with hindrances to communication. …