The Digital Queer: Weblogs and Internet Identity

By Rak, Julie | Biography, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

The Digital Queer: Weblogs and Internet Identity


Rak, Julie, Biography


It is clear that there is a developing body of scholarship devoted to a reading of a new and increasingly popular Internet phenomenon: weblogs--or blogs, as they are most commonly known. (1) Thus far, most scholars who work in the area of life writing have chosen to see blogs as a development of the handwritten paper diary. (2) This has created some problems, since even researchers themselves have found that weblogs seem to exceed the terms of diary writing as they use aspects of diary rhetoric. I suggest that there are parallels between the way that blogs are beginning to be "understood" as diary writing in scholarly discourse, and the relationship between the confession of deviant sexuality as part of one's identity and the growth of modern psychology. Like that confession of sexuality on which the developing area of psychology once depended, blogging relies on the conceit (however transparent) that the blogger is who s/he says s/he is, and that the events described actually happened to her/him personally. The performance of blogging is based on the assumption that experience congeals around a subject, and makes a subject who can be written and read, even when the discourse that seems to support this subject threatens to undermine it. This is also true of sexuality when it is talked about as identity. Therefore, the activity of blogging could be a potential site for thinking about queer identity, electronic identity, and liberal discourses of identity based on individual agency, unity, and the primacy of individual experiences important to many in the western world. What might "queer blogging" be, and how do bloggers who make queerness the focus of their blogs appeal to the "experience" of being queer as they construct queerness in discourse? How can this help us to understand what currency experience has in online environments?

PAPER DIARIES, ONLINE COMPARISON

The current trend in life writing studies is to see online writing as an extension of writing on paper, particularly in the case of online diaries or blogs. However, difficulties with this approach have become apparent. In an interview that now appears on his website Autopacte, Philippe Lejeune describes a moment during his research for the book Cher Ecran [Dear Screen] when in 1997, his colleague Catherine Bogaert asked him about the possibility of creative online diary writing. At first, Lejeune did not think that diary writing was possible online, but by 1999, he had changed his mind. Lejeune refers to some of the young writers whose online journals that he quotes in Cher Ecran as "cyberdiaristes," and he says that the types of rhetoric that exist in paper diaries are to be found in online equivalents as well:

    L'intime n'existe pas en soi, il est toujours interiorisation. Ce
    retour vers autrui que fait le cyberdiariste en indiquant son
    adresse electronique, ce n'est pas une trahison des secrets du moi,
    mais l'accomplissement de son souhait le plus profond, l'acces a un
    alter ego, une synthese du journal et de la correspondance. Et
    Internet est specialement bien adapte au journal intime: textes
    brefs, lecture quotidienne, images et photos.
    [Intimacy does not exist in solitude; it is always interiorized. The
    cyberdiarist indicates this [desire for] replies by including an
    electronic address, not as a betrayal of the secrets of the self,
    but as a way to accomplish his/her deepest wish, which is to have
    access to an alter ego, a synthesis between the diary and the
    letter. The internet is particularly well suited to the personal
    diary: brief texts, daily entries, pictures and photos]. (3)

Lejeune decides to call these online writers "cyberdiarists," a term that connects their writing to traditional diary writing. He also accounts for the desire of online writers to communicate with others as part of diary discourse as something that is not a "betrayal" [trahison] of one of the hallmarks of diary writing--its secrecy--but is part of the search of the diarist for an alter ego. …

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