In which the Internet finally freaks her out once and for all

by DaniGirl on February 21, 2010 · 110 comments

in It IS all about me, Meta-blogging

For those of you not on Twitter at 10:00 pm on a Saturday night (what, you have a life?) you might have missed the latest gossip. Turns out some woman at SFU wrote a masters thesis about called “Works in Progress: An Analysis of Canadian Mommyblogs.” In it, she examines in minute detail the writings of eight Canadian bloggers, and uses that fodder to make egregious assumptions and inferences about their income, their marriages, and their children, among other things.

Mine was one of them.

In fact, it was me who stumbled on the thesis yesterday afternoon. I was googling my own name of all things, for an upcoming post that I’ll get around to finishing once all this settles down. I was bemused at first: “Oh look, someone referenced my blog in an academic paper.” But the more I read, the more it creeped me out. This woman spent what must have been days poking around in my archives, copying and eventually analyzing several months’ worth of writing. Analyzing several month of my life. And then she starts making assumptions, and that’s where I’m no longer impressed. She makes inferences and assumptions about my marriage, the division of labour in our house, my income, my job aspirations — about my life.

By the time I’d finished reading, I felt — violated. It’s a strong word, used intentionally. I felt that someone had taken what I put out into the Internet and used it for a purpose I neither intended nor approved. It’s not even the real me, it’s an unauthorized repackaging of the avatar of me that I slip into whenever I sit down at the keyboard.

Now, I have never been shy about sharing the most intimate details of my life online. Back in 2007, Chatelaine magazine (who has a much larger readership than this thesis ever will) wrote a feature piece about Beloved and me that looked at our reproductive history — infertility, miscarriages and all — in intimate detail. We’ve been on CBC TV discussing infertility twice. Neither one of those bothered me in the least, because there’s two key differences here. The first is that the MSM took the time to contact me and ask my permission first. The second is that the MSM seem to understand the fact that what’s on the screen is only part of the story, and doesn’t assume otherwise. They ask questions to get to the real truth, not the one that gets packaged for Internet consumption.

For the first time ever, I felt embarrassed and ashamed of myself and the blog when I finished reading this woman’s thesis. I thought, “Is that what I’m putting out there? Is that how people really see me?” And then I realized that that’s exactly my problem with what she did — she stripped my words and thoughts and ideas of their context and used them for her own purposes. (For example, she seems fixated on posts where I comment about potty training and take out, cross-referencing them extensively.) She treats my writing as a factual rendering of my daily life and completely ignores the fact that I am writing to entertain, so of course I am exaggerating some details and omitting others.

As I mentioned, there was a good little twitterstorm going last night, and most people seemed to agree that not contacting the bloggers in question was a significant ethical violation. (You can scan the conversation by clicking on the #creepythesis hash tag.) If she had, I think she would have had a much more interesting and well-rounded thesis. And she would have had my permission to quote me, something that she didn’t bother to acquire. By the way, the other blogs in question are Cheaty Monkey (Haley-O and I discussed this issue at length yesterday), The Writing Mother, Cheaper than Therapy, Adventures in Motherhood, Hypergraffiti, Chaos Theory, and Momcast. There’s also quotes from a lot of the other players in the Canadian momosphere, from Mad Hatter and Veronica Mitchell to Her Bad Mother. Go ahead, use the search feature and see if she quoted you without permission, too!

Now, I haven’t totally lost my perspective on this. I do realize that there are inherent risks in putting so much of my personal life out onto the Interwebs, and I realize that the “wrong” that has been done here is relatively minor. But I am offended by this, and I do intend to follow up with both the writer and SFU. In fact, my first impulse was to include her name along with a long list of accusations of ethical wrong-doings, because while I may soon forget how violated I felt in this moment, Google never will. (Figures. Now is a hell of a time to develop a sense of discretion!)

So, bloggy peeps, I’m willing to bet you have thoughts on this. Am I being overly sensitive, feeling as I do like a bug on a microscope slide? Or should I be flattered that anyone paid that much attention to my writing? Would you be creeped out? Would you act on it?

Me, I gotta go to church. *sigh*


{ 99 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Angela ( jhscrapmom) February 21, 2010 at 8:06 am

I am speaking off the top of my head.
This is exactly the kind of paper expected in my cultural studies program (yes the one i had to drop out of as i got pregnant;)…go chart that fact). It almost made me miss school.
I am almost all the way through it, and what strikes me is the fact that she did not contact you guys. Why wouldn’t she???? It could have only added to her insight and the value ( whatever that may be ) of her work. But she didn’t. She is writing a paper about communication, and yet she chose not to communicate with the very people she is focusing on, knowing that you would have been so very easy to engage. was she worried about rejection? About being challenged? Was she worried that interaction with the 8 writers she profiled would not support her thoughts and suppositions?

In any case, i am going to finish reading this when i have a bit more time. I would not give it much thought. I would contact her for shits and giggles, ask her what her mark was and was she satisfied with her paper…and then chalk it up to living out loud.

And the weirdest thing Dani? I remember that infertility article from Chatelaine. It hit home hard for me at the time and isn’t it funny that it was you:).

2 Scary Mommy February 21, 2010 at 8:14 am

I would be freaked out, too. I don’t think the word violated is too strong at all.

3 Shannon February 21, 2010 at 8:34 am

I saw a bit of this chat on Twitter last night and have mixed feelings about it. I’m pretty laid back and don’t get worked up about much. I do get that whatever you put out on the internet is fair game (not saying I think people SHOULD do what they want with the content) but I do think I’d be more shocked than anything about the fact that she took so much time and effort to research you (and others) and write about it. Creepy is the correct word. I really am quite shocked though that she didn’t contact you! Really?? She’s a fool! Imagine how much more juicy info she could have gotten from you all to twist and infer. πŸ˜‰ I’m curious what her Ethics Committee would think and I can’t wait to hear what she says (if she replies to you!). πŸ™‚

4 liz February 21, 2010 at 8:36 am

I would be totally freaked out. I actually did write a paper using someone else’s blog post as a source, and I asked permission first, because it’s not like it’s hard to get a hold of a blogger to ask permission!

5 Lana February 21, 2010 at 8:43 am

To make inferences based solely on the topics that a blogger feels comfortable to share online is so misguided. I think most bloggers are much more “complete” people offline and to draw conclusions in a thesis about a living person based on a scattered trail of blog posts is just lazy academics.

Maybe she was afraid that talking to the ‘moms’ would poke holes in her theories? After all, we couldn’t possibly talk about children AND have a life outside the potty.

6 Susan February 21, 2010 at 8:50 am

While I understand how you feel and think the thesis in question is rubbish, the hysteria surrounding this paper is absurd.

1) This was all public material and you do not need the author’s permission to write about and analyze what is public. It would be very dangerous to free speech if you did. Think about being told you couldn’t write about a book or movie or magazine, or offer your analysis of it without permission.

2) Perhaps it was the thesis author’s goal not to talk to the thesis subjects in order to have only the perspective of a reader and not that of a journalist. In this way, she demonstrated what someone without special access might take away from blogs.

3) If you put your life out there, people are going to interpret it in different ways than you yourself do. You don’t control the narrative. (Actually, you don’t control it even if you don’t put your life out there, but there are fewer people chiming in with their opinions)

4) Blogger mob hysteria is once again not a pretty sight. This woman wrote a thesis offering her analysis for whatever it’s worth and now people are going crazy on her like the worst schoolyard bullies.

7 Chris (Mombie) February 21, 2010 at 8:53 am

I would feel horrible about this too, Dani. Her writing about Trudy (Hypergraffiti) is quite respectful as if the author approves of Trudy’s life but she is rather dismissive about you and your life. (I only know you and Trudy from the list, so that’s all I read.)

Aside from the ethical consideration of not having contacted you, she doesn’t seem to understand that blogs are a different kind of writing than books or magazine articles or interviews. You could use someone’s book as a reference without contacting them, but that book was written with that understanding in mind. A personal blog is not written to be reference material or as a definitive statement about someone’s life, and should not be treated as such.

8 Phantom Scribbler February 21, 2010 at 8:54 am

Whether it’s creepy or not, I think it’s bad scholarship that she didn’t bother to contact her sources. When someone wanted to use the community that had coalesced in my comment section as material for an academic paper, they contacted me first. It’s missing the entire point of blogs as textual object — they’re *interactive*, there’s a conversation between the author and the readers ongoing as part of the text. Comment and criticism on blogs is done in dialogue, not as an operation performed by one privileged critic on a dead text. I think you’re absolutely within your rights to insist that the woman become a part of the conversation, whether that’s by publicly naming her or in some other way.

9 Laura February 21, 2010 at 9:01 am

I too have mixed feelings on this one.
On one side I think that whatever you decide to publish on the internet is then fair game to be scrutinized & evaluated.
Direct quotes are allowed as long as they are sourced in the academic world.
On the other side, as mentioned by Lana, the blog is a selection of topics that you felt would entertain your readers & by no means an in-depth representation of your daily life. Is this fact mentioned in her research paper; that her results will only be valid in reference to the topics you chose to write & share about? It is bad research to not get the rest of your story by contacting you personally & asking you more in-depth questions. It is not sound research methods if her conclusions are meant to relate to you & your life as a whole.
A more interesting research question to study would have been to analyze the relationship between a person’s daily life & what they choose to portray in a blog.

10 Kristina February 21, 2010 at 9:06 am

This is a bit of a tricky one. I can see how you would feel creeped out by this woman going through your archives, but that’s a real possibility when you have a blog, whether someone’s doing so for a paper or just his/her own curiosity, so I don’t think there’s anything wrong there. Ultimately, though, I agree that writing about a blog is different than writing about a book/music/movie (etc), and I feel very strongly that she should have contacted the writers of each blog she intended to reference.
I’m interested to hear what the response of this woman is when you contact her, as well as that of the university…if you’re so inclined to share, of course. πŸ™‚

11 Gliding through motherhood February 21, 2010 at 9:10 am

I just don’t understand why she wouldn’t have asked permission to have gotten a more well-rounded analysis of the situation. I agree that she didn’t HAVE to ask for permission to use the information posted on public websites and she does include references.
I would, however, be irritated and it upset me. I only read your sections but the way she summarizes what you write about doesn’t “sound” like you at all to me – it’s certainly not the way I think of you.
I think I would let both her and SFU know about how you feel about it and I would be very interested to hear what they have to say back. I would think the author would be horrified to know she’d upset everyone and probably never realized the paper would go online (or at least didn’t really think it would be found)?

12 Susan February 21, 2010 at 9:10 am

The thesis writer has no ethical obligation whatsoever to contact you.

She is allowed to make all the assumptions she wants as readers do all the time.

Blogs are not some special sacrosanct form of media.

All these yelling, screaming bullies need to grow up.

13 Kerry February 21, 2010 at 9:13 am

Hey Dani – while I know this is upsetting and would have been easier to take if the author had contacted you to let you know she was doing her paper on you (in part), there’s a few key points in her thesis that actually explain the approach she took.

The first is that she clearly states that there is a dearth of academic literature of blogging. Therefore, she went to first hand source material. In this woman’s case, she reviewed the existing source materials, which were your guys’ blogs. Because this woman is not a very good academic (as evidenced by much of her sloppy writing, wherein she tried to blend a very academic style with comments like “the point I’m trying to make is this”, which only indicates that her writing style is not strong enough to convey her point without drawing a verbal arrow towards it), she did not go to the next step, which is first person interviews. That was a choice, and it was clearly backed up by the academic review committee that both supervised her research and approved her thesis.

My belief as to why they approved that approach is tagged to a single reference early on in the paper to the tv show The Hills. In this reference, she alludes to the inferences people made about the “characters” on that show. In essence, the author is treating your blogs as episodes of The Hills – she’s making inferences (analysis) of who you are based on what you put out there – the edited version of your life that you portray on the computer screen, instead of the television screen.

In essence, she’s turned you into an episode of reality TV, where she’s the editor. You know how people on Survivor always complain that they were edited to appear a certain way? That’s what she’s done. She imposed her value structure (and indeed, her definition of what a feminist is, which kind of pissed me off because there’s a LOT of debate about that) on to your posts. She reconstructed them for her audience in a way that met her hypotheses.

Yes, it’s tough to take. Yes, it’s a violation. No, it’s not how you see yourself (but maybe it is how some of your readers see you, as she is a reader and evidently saw you using this lens). You put selective elements of your life on the Internet, and she doesn’t need to ask your permission to use it, reframe it, analyse it, quote it, link to it, etc.

Your blog is your blog. You own it. You write it for you, because you get something out of the experience. You get community, a place to vent, a memory in bytes that you can look back on and show your kids when they get interested. And you write for us, the people who visit your blog on a regulary (obsessive) basis, who love your writing and the anecdotes about your life that you choose to share. What someone else writes about your blog is irrelevant as long as you still get joy from writing it.

14 Susan February 21, 2010 at 9:28 am

P.S. The yelling, screaming bullies are on Twitter as opposed to this thread.

However, I would say that for a group of people (generalization coming…) who are always going on about not judging others, a lot of people have been surprisingly quick to rip this woman’s thesis to threads, insult her, tell her what to do, etc.

And what exactly did she do besides write a thesis? Now I’ve said I thought it was rubbish, but then I have never believed all this “don’t judge” BS.

I’m happy to judge the hysterical overreaction to this and the piling on.

No doubt as I check back to see the responses to my comment, I will also appear very creepy, but honestly I want to know if others are appalled at the hammering of this thesis writer, who did nothing more than offer her analysis of public material.

15 Chris (Mombie) February 21, 2010 at 9:29 am

I’m not sure about the ethical considerations here, I haven’t been an academic for a long, long time but I do think it would have made a better paper had she rounded out her discussion with interviews.

When I wrote my MA thesis in archaeology (so the people under discussion were long dead), I contacted the authors of various papers I was using, other people who were doing research in a similar area, and got their perspective on the material so I could be sure I was getting the full information not just what an editor had seen fit to include in published work. I think the thesis in question, creepy or not, could have benefitted from similar interviews. It would have made for better research and would have been in keeping with blog etiquette.

Of course she is allowed to make assumptions, and I don’t think that anyone is saying blogs are sacrosanct, just that they are different than some other forms of media and may need to be handled differently when used in academic works.

And, since this thesis is now public, it is okay for people to comment on it, to like it or dislike it and to question the ethics of the researcher. To do these things means people are thinking about it, not that they are bullies. No one has threatened the woman, nor have they published her home address, or done anything that constituted bully behaviour.

People are allowed to be irritated, angry and offended by the way they are portrayed, no matter what the intention of the writer. People don’t choose their feelings, but they can choose their actions, and it sounds like Dani is just processing her feelings and may or may not take action. I don’t think that’s unreasonable at all.

16 Andrea February 21, 2010 at 9:32 am

Susan is harsh, but correct. The academic clearly situated her thesis within a tradition of literary criticism. The sources in literary criticism are the works themselves, not the bloggers or authors–you don’t interview Margaret Atwood when you analyze The Handmaid’s Tale, the assumption being that everything you need to analyze it is or should be in the novel itself. In fact I’d see this thesis as a tremendous compliment to blogging as a whole. The genre is being treated with teh same academic respect as novels–that’s amazing!

And if you think that, as blogging becomes more accepted as potential art, this will happen *less,* you’re mistaken: you can expect that literary academics will continue to analyze the works without references to the blogger’s intentions, just as they do with stories, poems, novels and plays. And so they should.

The MSM is totally different. That’s *journalism.* She does not have to contact you. Her job here isn’t to play nice or be sure that she analyzed your intentions correctly AT ALL. Her job is to see what an analysis of the text would lead to, and if it was incorrect, then that may say something about her analytical skills or the tradition of literary analysis itself (see: every time someone analyzes Shakespeare and determines the characters are gay) but it says nothing about the ethics of the situation.

I also recall a conference we were both part of where a substantial part of my presentation consisted of an analysis I’d done of a hundred blogs or so … without contacting the bloggers. Because the point was what I could determine about the bloggers and their families through their words. Contacting them would have been beside the point.

Look, this has happened to me. There was that essay I published in Literary Mama that was pretty seriously criticized, and I was pretty seriously criticized (as a “silly white girl” as my boyfriend likes to say), by a blogger (with a readership of about three dozen, more’s the pity). At first it hurt my feelings, but you know what? That blogger owes me nothing, and I figure she gave me a pretty big compliment. My writing reached a large enough audience and stirred enough emotional chords to really piss someone off. It’s pretty well part of the game if you’re going to write publicly in any sphere–at least, if you’re doing your job.

So when I trumpeted it on FB it was to brag.

So what about a bit of reframing here:

Someone took your blog seriously enough as a piece of literature to subject it to the same kind of analysis as Timothy Findley, Margaret Atwood, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and other major authors routinely get in the same academic programs. Not all of them are going to like the blog or like you (I imagine you’d have some pretty cutting things to say about novels you don’t like and what you infer about the people who write them), but the simple fact that your blog is significant enough to generate that kind of treatment? That’s a compliment.

17 Chris (Mombie) February 21, 2010 at 9:34 am

Susan – glad you clarified about the bullies thing. I was baffled as to how Dani could be seen as bullying here. Now that I’ve read the twitter thread I can see how some ganging up is happening.

Sometimes I think it was much better when the first reaction to things like this took place in telephone calls or coffee meetings with friends, the initial storm of emotion was less public and less permanent and only the solution level could be seen by the outside world.

18 Angela ( jhscrapmom) February 21, 2010 at 9:46 am

coming back and reading the responses, i like what susan and andrea have to say.

and i think that if i had been the author of the thesis ( and with the understanding that she does not owe anyone anything or need to ask permission to use the bogs as references or topics)…and i was interested enough in the subject to commit it to thesis work, i would have wanted to contact the blog authors just as a matter of course and to share that their work was relevant enough to this new form of discourse to be discussed. not to ask permission, but to continue the discussion.

i wonder how this whole conversation would have played out differently if that had happened?

but that is me:)

and i agree – to be included is a compliment.

19 DaniGirl February 21, 2010 at 9:56 am

Whoa — why does this stuff always happen when I’m away from the computer. 20 comments on a Sunday morning? Yowza.

Susan, I’m not sure where I’m a bully here — my life was packaged up and represented as something it is not, that’s my problem and I think it was pretty good of me not to name this person in the post itself.

I’ve only skimmed the comments and haven’t even been on twitter yet — laundry first, then twitter! — but please, can we talk about this rationally without the drama? I really do hate the drama.

20 bea February 21, 2010 at 10:00 am

The author actually does discuss, in some detail, her decision not to contact the blog authors. To do so would potentially alter the very behaviour she is attempting to analyze, both on the part of the bloggers and, potentially, on the part of commenters. I think that’s fair game. I have never had to contact an author for permission to quote from their book in any of my academic writing, and I don’t see a blog as something completely different from other forms of published writing.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with academic analysis of blogs or with the ordinary and inevitable use that goes along with that: quoting, summarizing, etc. What struck me most about that thesis was the total absence of academic analysis in the long middle section where she includes her “case study” on the eight bloggers. The first 50 pages of the thesis I found quite compelling; I really like the analogies she draws to soap operas, talk shows, and girl bands. Her subject matter here is the blog genre itself, as it is is constructed in the momosphere, and there would have been quite a lot of value, I think, to extending that generic analysis into the case study portion of the thesis (with or without permission from the “cases”). Instead, she offers page after page of summary. What is the point of that? I would never let an undergraduate get away with that kind of approach in a first-year essay – if you summarize endlessly, reserving your analysis for the intro and conclusion, you get a 60%. There was no organization to that part of the thesis at all, no attempt to bring together the various threads she was interested in (i.e. privacy, subject matter, self-construction, etc.) – it was all just random observations, and the issues of genre and dialogism that she had raised in the intro got dropped entirely. In the place of academic analysis, she ended up offering nothing more than a few snarky conjectures about the bloggers themselves (their income level, their marriages, etc.). Again, that’s the kind of thing that gets you a C- in a first-year course. It seemed absolutely bizarre to me that she would take bloggers to task for not talking enough about the division of labour within the home – as if bloggers ought to realize that their job is to provide exactly the kind of “material” she needs for her thesis. She made no attempt to explain how or why that particular topic would add political value to the genre when all the other things we do discuss (breastfeeding, day-care, etc.) get barely a nod of recognition.

I can absolutely understand why you feel offended by this thesis, but I think it’s a mistake to generalize from that some kind of ethical rule that no one is allowed to discuss blogs without express permission. I found the thesis myself several months ago after doing a random Google search and while I found it boring, I didn’t think of it as offensive – and most of all I found it odd that I was never quoted even though virtually everyone I “know” in this community is (Bon, you, GingaJoy, HBM, Mad Hatter, Veronica Mitchell, etc. etc. etc.) and I have had plenty to say on the subject of blogging as a genre. I read the thesis through the whole way this time and eventually found a reference to myself – ironically, as the missing link, the one commenter that links most of these blogs together (there is lots of overlap between your audience and Haley/Ali’s, I think, but not that many common links between Trudy and the rest of you).

21 bea February 21, 2010 at 10:09 am

Just had a chance to read Andrea’s comment, and I agree entirely – except that I would add that the thesis would have been more successful, from an academic point of view, if she had kept even farther away from the personal inferences about the blog-writers. The problem here is not that she didn’t interview you guys to find out who you really were and what you really thought; instead, it’s that she got too distracted by issues of who you guys really are and that prevented her from developing the most interesting ideas in the thesis about the dialogism of the blogging genre.

22 Chris (Mombie) February 21, 2010 at 10:09 am

bea, you’ve made a lot of good points here. I especially like the information on how you would have graded the paper.

I found the tone of the descriptions to be pretty annoying. Trudy seems to have earned the writer’s approval, but Dani’s references to take-out seem to earn scorn. It seems misplaced in an academic work.

23 coffeewithjulie February 21, 2010 at 10:16 am

Hi Dani, I was really looking forward to your post on this. But I wanted to hear exactly how this thesis was ethically over the line?

I understand that anything in the public space is fair game. I mentioned on this on Twitter last night (since I too have no life!) that my thesis analyzed memoirs, but I never contacted an author for their permission nor to interview them to comment on their work. Until I can get a better explanation on what is wrong here, I think I’m with Susan on this.

p.s. I’ve also wrote a post and linked to your blog on it.

24 DaniGirl February 21, 2010 at 10:16 am

Oh Bea, as usual I love your comments. It’s exactly that, the fact that she allowed her personal judgment to enter into the thesis that is at the root of my defensive reaction. Had it been simply an unbiased, distanced examination, I might not have felt that sense of violation and of being “repurposed” to match someone’s thesis statement.

I’m glad, Chris, that you read the dismissive tone, too — I didn’t mention it because I figured it was a factor of reading how someone else was perceiving me.

Someone (Andrea?) wrote above about not contacting Margaret Atwood if you’re writing a paper on The Handmaid’s Tale. I completely agree — but if you were writing a biography, wouldn’t you be remiss if you relied solely on her written works? Now, the thesis is somewhere in between — not a biography, but not a “book review” of my blog either. Again, another source of my discontent.

Fascinating discussion, though! Please, continue!

25 bea February 21, 2010 at 10:16 am

Oops, one more thing. A lot of us have had the experience of making a remark about somebody (an author, celebrity, or fellow blogger) on our blogs and then being startled (embarrassed, flattered, dismayed) to discover that the person in question has found our blog and read what we wrote. (That happened to Mad Hatter on her very first post, actually, and proved to be an instructive, if not traumatic, experience for her.) There is a learning curve in blogger where many of us don’t realize initially that when we name-drop or link back to something, we can be found out: people Google their names, they see the sites linking to them on SiteMeter, and so a newbie blogger may initially feel safely anonymous until she realizes that on the Internet, you can always be overheard.

One thing about writing an M.A. thesis is that you have to do so knowing that probably the only people who will read it are your committee and your family (maybe, if you’re lucky). I’m not sure how this particular thesis came to be available online in PDF format; it may not even be the thesis writer who did so. Essentially, this thesis probably represented a private conversation to her between her and maybe five or six other people, at most. It’s not like she’s displayed your lives on Oprah; probably the only people who even find this thesis are those who, like you and me, are Googling their own names and come across it that way.

The same thing applies to this conversation – I just eviscerated that poor girl’s thesis in my comment, and I did so without really considering how likely she is to read this post and the comments. We’re a bit more experienced in the ways of the Internet, so we are carefully avoiding using her name. Maybe that means she won’t land here, but maybe it will, and I expect my unsolicited grading of her thesis would feel just as uncomfortable to her as her unsolicited analysis of your blog feels to you.

26 coffeewithjulie February 21, 2010 at 10:17 am

And I clearly need more caffeine since my comment is full of grammatical errors! πŸ™‚

27 Rebecca February 21, 2010 at 10:20 am

I would feel very upset if it happened to me. Not that I think blogs are private etc (because, I fully agree, they are out their for public viewing, and blogs constantly link to other blogs and quotes from other blogs etc) but because it would be shocking and surprising to read the analysis and assumptions. Also, I was upset to hear this happened to you. But, in full honesty, I probably wouldn’t have been as upset if I didn’t know you on a more personal level (I guess akin to ‘this happened to MY friend vs stranger, you know?) So yes, my reaction was biased based on you being you πŸ˜‰

Having said that, I do think the following: I think she would have had a more telling paper had she contacted the bloggers. Why? Because instead of making her own inferences, she would have answered questions like ‘why do you select x to remain private, but speak openly of y’ etc. Why they started blogging – or even compared that first post she commented on to later posts and asked why approaches may have changed.

In an attempt to find out who the ‘real mommybloggers’ are, she didn’t speak to the real mommybloggers.

What seems to make most people upset is the assumptions about your personal life. If she had analyzed my blog what would she have found? I make no mention of my University degree, so how would she be able to relate my eduction? Would she assume I was affluent because I stay at home? That my marriage is good? typical? And really, what do assumptions tell us?

Perhaps really what her analysis is on is the public perception – she acted as a reader and developed her own opinions, perceptions about everyone. But that does not answer who the ‘real’ bloggers are, why they blog etc. That to me would have been more compelling.

Also, as an aside, she does bring up an interesting point about SAHM and WAHM and how this balances into capitalism, feminism etc. and how blogging is possibly changing opportunities moms in those roles. Unfortunately, that wasn’t expanded on.

I do think finding your full name and assumptions about you and your life in an academic paper is shocking and worth a reaction.

28 Chris (Mombie) February 21, 2010 at 10:21 am

bea, when I finished my MA thesis (1999) I had to sign permission for it to be included in some sort of national library of academic theses, and it showed up online a few years ago so I assumed the same thing happened here.

Funny (to me) sidenote – the people scanning my thesis sent me a note at one point stating that the final copy of my thesis was missing two pages and asking if I could send them to them. My entire committee read the version with the missing pages and never noticed. Encouraging, hey?

29 Mary Lynn February 21, 2010 at 10:22 am

On the one hand, yes it would probably freak me out. On the other hand, I’m not so sure that the woman has done anything wrong in not contacting you. I think some of her assumptions were off-base, but I’m not sure there is anything intrinsically wrong with not contacting you, as long as she provided proper attribution.

And just because I’m in a rush to get my daughter off to a playdate, I’ll point to Andrea (Zoopolis), Bea, and also Susan’s first comment in that they put forth a lot of the same thoughts I had.

30 coffeewithjulie February 21, 2010 at 10:24 am

Really enjoyed just reading the comments by Andrea and bea. Well-considered, thoughtful and interesting.

31 bea February 21, 2010 at 10:27 am

This discussion is so much fun. I keep hitting refresh and there’s always something new.

I wanted to add that it seemed fairly clear from the intro that the thesis writer is actually a fan of mommy-blogs and her choice of that subject matter for her thesis reflected a genuine appreciation for the genre. It’s too bad that the tone of the middle section obscured that – it became easier, I think, to snark a little bit at this or that detail rather than to construct a really compelling argument out of the huge amount of material she had taken on.

32 Rebecca February 21, 2010 at 10:36 am

I had the screen open for a while when I commented so it hadn’t refreshed for a while but do want to say that Bea, I really liked your thoughts on this (and many others). As I mentioned, I bring biasness to my comment so it’s very interesting to hear many sides.

Also, I will completely agree – this is a huge amount of material to undertake, in an area that is really quite fascinating. But the approach (re: middle of paper, personal viewpoints) didn’t lend itself to that unfortunately.

33 Chris (Mombie) February 21, 2010 at 10:37 am

Yes, I really like how the discussion here – respectfully submitted from various angles – is paring away the initial emotional reaction and getting to the core of the problem. Sometimes it really takes a lot of people considering an issue to get to the heart of things. I’m so glad this hasn’t descended into a foolish fight.

Dani hosts some of the best discussions.

34 Guillermo February 21, 2010 at 10:43 am

Hi DaniGirl,

I’m very sorry to read this. I’m sure it was a really bad time to find out all this.

We, as bloggers, are public characters. We like it or not, with 10 readers or 1000 readers a day we are out there and are subject to public scrutiny… and we must cope with that. We must also realize that not everyone will ask for permission. There is a dangerous sense of “all for free” around the internet that makes many people think that everything they see in a web page is for immediate, unquestioned consumption… and that’s where everything starts to go downhill. After all, writing a thesis does not make you an educated person.

So, there’s still justice out there and if justice does not work, there’s always Google, SEO and keywords to make our point stronger.

Have a good day and take it easy…. there are idiots everywhere.

35 DaniGirl February 21, 2010 at 10:52 am

Okay, these are the comments that resonate with exactly where I was coming from (I love it when you say it better than I could!)

Lana said: “To make inferences based solely on the topics that a blogger feels comfortable to share online is so misguided.” Exactly! The online me is such a small part of the whole me, and one that I intentionally manipulate for effect.

Susan, I do acknowledge your point about the schoolyard bully phenomenon, which is an unfortunate byproduct of everyone feeling judged by this woman. If she’d kept her biases out of her paper, though, I think that would have tempered everyone’s responses. Did I mention I really am not a fan of the drama? Especially not when it’s swirling around me.

Kerry, you’re right on both counts, that it does feel a bit like I’ve been turned into a two-dimensional caricature of myself, and that it in no real way diminishes what I do here or my relationship with all of you. But, I have to be honest, in all the years I’ve been blogging, I’ve never felt ashamed of how I was represented, by myself or by someone else. That’s a pretty visceral reaction!

Andrea, your comment made me realize how much I miss your voice around here! I’m not convinced, though, that she should be celebrated for what is in essence sloppy work. I would have liked to be included in the kind of work you mention, as contributing to the greater narrative. Ha, maybe that’s my problem, not that I was included but that I was included in a work that I can’t particularly respect!

(Really, captcha = “wannabes would”!)

36 Leanne - Momcast February 21, 2010 at 10:55 am

My thoughts, all random like:

Andrea: there is a major flaw in Fleming’s choosing the literary criticism method: one does not nor cannot make an analysis of Margaret Atwood by reading The Handmaid’s Tale. One could say that the core issues raised in Atwood’s work points out a particular brand of feminism and then show the sub thesis with supporting text and analysis, but that’s not what Fleming does in her master’s thesis. She analyses in the spirit of literary criticism but structures the thesis like a research project.

A research project would have benefitted from one of two things: further commentary by the original authors or a completely textual analysis of the blogs instead of a sampling of 4/5 month archives scattered over the life of the blog.

I personally am not offended by the analysis of my blog but if she wanted to draw conclusions about me the author, she should have read my entire archive. In fact, I directly address the “mommyblog” issue a number of times throughout my archive.

I didn’t like that she equates feminism with external/paid work. Fleming shows a huge hole in her education by assuming feminism has a single definition that varies only slightly from one generation to the next. She specifically points out that my “the revolution will begin in the kitchen” comment negates my overt claims to feminism without understanding the context of the comment: that I was blogging from my kitchen, where my computer once physically sat, and that this act and technology reinvented my role as a woman in her kitchen. And, she also fails to recognize a new kind of feminism that has arisen in the last decade that embraces “traditional” female activities such as homemaking, knitting, crafting, diarying, and elevates them to an importance denied by “second wave” and radical feminists as merely feminine.

It was very strange to see myself referred to by my name, to see my elder son mentioned and my husband. She claims that our marital status was not explicit but failed to read through the archive thoroughly enough to see the posts about our wedding and our background. She also claims his job was never discussed, but I’m pretty certain I talk a fair bit about his job in the music industry. Again, a thorough reading would have offered this info as well as a far more complete picture of the extent of his parenting – which though not equal in actual time is equal in effort.

Anyway. I realise that Fleming didn’t need my permission to quote or analyse me. I can see big deficiencies in her writing (which I feel able to comment on due to the fact that her writing skills are relevant to her project, but my many spelling mistakes and good or bad skill is irrelevant in my chosen free form medium, haha!) skills and in her execution of her thesis. I wonder at the standards of Simon Fraser’s Comms department but then not all theses are good, I suppose. There have to be some that establish the curve.

Interesting, though. Amusing.

37 Andrea February 21, 2010 at 11:10 am

It’s not a biography. She explcitly says it’s literary criticism.

As Bea pointed out, she did it badly, but that doesn’t mean she owes you an interview before she writes her thesis. Or permission to quote–have you ever contacted someone to get their permission to quote their story, article, song lyrics, whatever, here? As long as it fits within the fair use provisions of copyright all she owes you is an attribution (and from my understanding the fair-use provisions for academic works are different than those for commercial works).

Trying to figure out what an author is like from reading their works is standard. It may not be good literary scholarship, but it happens all the time, within academia and in the press. I have read book reviews of Margaret Atwood’s works in the Globe that were so critical of her as a person they made my eyes blister. That was in a national newspaper. Do you remember her response?

Me neither.

38 Natalie @YMCbuzz February 21, 2010 at 11:15 am

The fact that the thesis author picked bits of your blog and re-purposed the bits to support her own mis-guided and ill-thought-out conclusions are what really get me angry. What we put out there, is out there, and it can be dissected and analyzed and critiqued. But when someone re-constructs what you’ve said and credits it to you still, that crosses the Honesty line, as far as I’m concerned.

Natalie

39 Andrea February 21, 2010 at 11:18 am

And having now scrolled through all the comments that amassed whiel I was typing thsi one–

I’ve missed you too, Dani. It’s been too long. I don’t get to Ottawa on business as often now as I did pre-single-motherhood, sadly. Well, or ever.

40 Amber February 21, 2010 at 11:28 am

I had a different opinion right after I read your post than I do after reading the comment thread. Here is what I think now:

– The thesis author was within her rights, and did nothing technically wrong.
– When we put our words out there, they may haunt us, and we need to take responsibility for that action on our part.
– Even considering our own responsibility, the thesis author was highly inconsiderate. She could have taken some steps to prevent the discovery in this fashion without compromising her work.
– Seeing my own words analyzed in this way would hurt, disturb and offend me.
– We ARE our blogs, even though we don’t reveal everything, and so a criticism or analysis of my blog feels like it’s directed at me personally.
– The thesis touches on very personal issues, it is not merely a literary criticism, at least not from your standpoint.
– If someone is going to take part in a psychological study you need their permission first. It will affect the results, but to do otherwise is unethical. I don’t think the thesis author crossed that threshold, but she ventured close.
– I think that, under the circumstances, contacting the thesis advisors / academic department at SFU and letting them know how this affected you is reasonable. Given our increasing interconnectedness, they might want to consider having policies to deal with issues like this. Or they might not, but the only way to know is to ask.

I think I would feel violated, too. It’s OK to feel it, even if it wasn’t the intention of the author. And even if the author did nothing technically wrong. YOU are not required to play the dispassionate academic, here.

41 sky February 21, 2010 at 11:32 am

So, it appears that they’ve taken the thesis offline so I can’t read it.

Damn. I want to read what all the fuss is about.

42 melissa February 21, 2010 at 11:36 am

Two points up front: I don’t know much about how academia works, and I haven’t read the whole thing.

I posted a couple of tweets about this on Twitter last night, and I feel that I should expand my thoughts a little bit. My intent was not to be a screaming bully and I hope it wasn’t taken that way. I stopped reading because the tone of the writing made me angry. I wasn’t sure if the tone came from a need to be academically detached, or if it was veering into judgmental and assumptive territory. It struck me as the latter, which made me not want to continue reading. (I suppose that’s me being judgmental and assumptive now, and I should probably take a second look later.)

After reading these comments, I understand why the bloggers weren’t contacted, but I still understand why they would be shocked or angry at how they were portrayed. I’m sure I would probably react the same way.

Two questions I have now.
1) Does the writer of this thesis still read these blogs?
2) If the paper was better written, would we all have the same reactions?

Either way, this situation has certainly given me some things to think about. Thanks to everyone for sharing their knowledge along with their opinions – I learned some things here today.

43 DaniGirl February 21, 2010 at 11:38 am

It’s there, Sky — I was just reading the bits I skimmed over earlier.

Amber, you make me aware of a certain duplicitousness in my reaction. I’m offended on a personal level, because after all, she is making assumptions about *me*. And yet, I try to argue that I am not the persona I portray on line. (“I’m not a blogger, I just play one on the Internet!”)

See, I don’t even need outsiders to point out my own inconsistencies.

44 Aimee Greeblemonkey February 21, 2010 at 11:47 am

This is a really interesting and stressful issue for me (I came over from Haley). I am a mom blogger but my company does health education research studies for the (American) government. In the beginning, those two worlds were completely separate, my blog was just a creative outlet for me. But as my blog grew, and also recently as web sites we build for health communication have clearly needed a social media aspect to it, my worlds have been colliding. I have 5 PhDs on staff who pursue their research interests at my company (where I am a co-owner, an my side of the co build the web sites to support their research) and the culture gap between us sometimes is staggering. I have had immense pressure to take my blogging efforts and turn it into scientific research, to make it, in their words, “valid” and to show the value to the company. (for the point I am speaking more about my expertise in social media than my creative outlet as a mom blogger). The point being, it’s defintely two different worlds. Having said that, knowing what I know about our research methods and rules, I keep going back and forth in my head about whether or not she should have contacted you. I am going to ask my colleagues at work about that. What bothers me maybe even more is the asumptions she is making. That is bothersome, because it has no place in research.

Either way, I am very sorry you felt violated. I don’t think it is too strong of a word.

And I am typing on an iPhone so I bet I spelled a million things wrong. πŸ˜‰

45 Leanne - Momcast February 21, 2010 at 11:48 am

I have the pdf saved if anyone can’t access. It may be hard to access from moment to moment depending on server load due to the crap storm that is sort of happening around it at the moment.

46 Susan February 21, 2010 at 11:51 am

I’m back stalking the comments again.

As I said above, the bullying I’m referring to is largely taking place at #creepythesis on Twitter not here. I find this discussion rather civil.

Whether we are talking about a fictional character or a blog persona, I can understand why someone might be shocked/hurt/ feel violated when another’s interpretation of their creation differs significantly from the original intent. However, this comes with the territory of putting your work/ yourself out there.

You simply can’t demand that people get your authorization/ permission before interpreting your work. ” Frankly, I don’t see that by highlighting certain things, she was twisting/distortrng them. She was just focusing on what she believes was important. And she is not required to focus on what the authors believe is more important. In the end, I think you have to ask yourself, “Is hers a legitimate interpretation even if it is not the one I intended?”

Who has not, at one point, been astounded in a literature class that a character that you find sympathetic is seen by others as a horrible person? Is the Sopranos a glorification of violence or a condemnation or a synthesis of both? You can offer up all these opinions without contacting the creator to ask his perspective. In fact, many writers/creators prefer to let their works speak for themselves and accept that there will be multiple interpretations.

And what is so creepy about a woman spending time researching your blog for a thesis? Frankly, I find it way more creepy that a guy called Backpacking Dad puts it up on Twitter to curry favour with a hysterical Mommy Bloggers and generate the twitter drama of the week.

Take a look at @aureliacotta on Twitter. She is calling for the woman to be reported to SFU for ethical violations. In the past, she has called for people with whom she disagrees to be reported for hate speech, sued etc. And yet this is a woman who constantly violates the privacy of her husband, children, nanny, in-laws by writing about them without permission as do so many of the others now bearing torches and pitchforks.

Really, I don’t see that this thesis writer did anything wrong at all.

47 Natasha D'Souza February 21, 2010 at 11:53 am

Such excitement for a Sunday morning. I have read all of this and the discussion is great. The reality is that when we put content online, especially outside a walled garden, then it’s out there. So it can be indexed by Google and the millions of bots, sites etc. It also means that people can link to this content and offer their thoughts on it.

Your feelings of violation are based on your values and there is nothing wrong with that.

The big question is, what if the observations made in this thesis were positive based on these values then would the blog post have said “hey my blogging is now part of an academic thesis, “?

The reality is that it’s very easy for us to express an opinion of others however if it’s the other way around and not positive then it’s a bigger pill to swallow. Yes this applies to me too.

The reality of user generated content (UGC) is that you don’t have to be a professionally trained writer to create this content online. Neither do you have to be a professionally trained writer to write an academic thesis.

I think it would be fair to contact SFU and ask for their perspective on academic thesis in general and UGC. Also will all academic papers be made available online?

If the answer to the second question is yes then our sunday mornings will get a lot more interesting.

Dani, thanks for starting this discussion and I look forward to the followup. Social media is the wild west at the moment and it’s through discussions like this that the rules and boundaries get defined.

48 Leanne - Momcast February 21, 2010 at 11:57 am

I found the tone regarding our writing on certain mothering issues that Fleming points out are usually not discussed publicly, (miscarriage, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, pumping, potty training…) to be funny. Sometimes they are noted as extraneous or tmi. And this really just points out Fleming’s lack of life experience and her strong personal perspective as childless comes shining through.

It’s kind of an interesting exercise looking through the thesis with a critical eye and leaving the emotional out.

Andrea, you’re absolutely right. I remember at University feeling so frustrated that I couldn’t add the perspective of the author’s life into an analysis of the text. Sometimes it felt so right and that it would illuminate so much. And, vice versa. Unfortunately, a much closer reading of the source is required to do a creditable job at literary anthropology.

Captcha: “opining is”

49 DaniGirl February 21, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Susan, I only have a sec here, but you’re treading on the edge of what I’d consider polite discourse, and while I find your perspective interesting and valid, I am not keen on allowing you to criticize others here for the sake of stirring up the conversation. If you want to engage them on twitter about their opinions, go ahead.

Gotta run, sausages are a-fryin’ for a Sunday feast!

50 Susan February 21, 2010 at 12:04 pm

And before going out to do some yard work, I will also add that the thesis writer did not attack anyone. Some of her critics, on the other hand, have been vicious.

51 Leanne - Momcast February 21, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Natasha, academia is a process of professional training in writing. It’s a comms program, for goodness sake, and a master’s thesis to boot! I think excellent writing would be a minimum standard. Goodness, all first years at my University were required to purchase a minimum of three different style books that outlined various writing style standards and types of essays. I still have them πŸ™‚ As Bea pointed out, this essay would have got barely a passing grade in an undergrad class and I agree, but I also agree the initial part of the thesis is much better than the blog analysis sections.

52 Haley-O (Cheaty) February 21, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Now that I’ve let all my initial reactions out on twitter. I feel better! I don’t think I’ll ever look at the thesis again, even when I write my blog post about it later tonight. Because it gives me that creepy feeling — since another person’s often-misread perception of “Haley-O” is written all over it.

As I’ve said on twitter I’m more disappointed in the students’ professors than the student herself. And I know others disagree with me. Others think she needs to take responsibility. But, I was a student once before and know what it’s like to write a Master’s Thesis. Not an easy feat.

I was very upset by the misreadings of me and my blog. I was very upset that I was never contacted, even simply after the fact.

When I opened the thesis, I was looking forward to reading a paper resembling the fascinating abstract. A little Bakhtin and ME! COOL! But, there wasn’t any analysis of the genre, really. At least not when individual bloggers were assessed. There was, instead, analysis of lives. Whether we do or do not send our kids to preschool, for example, or how “affluent” we are (breathe in breathe out).

The part that bothered me the most is where she said that I may have lied about something. I’ll get into it on my blog. But her conclusion contradicted even the quotes — as few as there were — that she used to introduce her conclusion.

Also, does my blog look like a business to you? πŸ˜‰ Whole paragraphs on these assumptions…. It’s just hard to stomach, whether or not it’s ethical or not, whether or not we’re dead or alive authors. It’s just hard to stomach.

Re the bullying. The last thing I’d want to be is a bully. I can only say my tweets were a product of my effort to STOMACH. Twitter was very helpful. The nature of blogs is that they are, indeed, dialogical. A Master’s thesis is is not dialogical — all you can do is publish an article or thesis in retort (or hopefully, a blog post). The nature of twitter is that it’s easily reactive…the ultimate in dialogical. We’re dealing with different genres, different boundaries, etc., etc., the ethics of which will always be blurry…..

I will say that this was a published piece of work that was being “attacked,” not a person. All of us left her name out — intentionally. We wanted to figure out how we felt about this phenomenon (and, in AureliaCotta’s case, what the facts are on the ethics), and not to hurt the author.

AND OMG my Captcha words below are WRONGED IN. I sh*t you not! (i.e., this is not contrived. Must take screenshot!)

53 Scattered Mom February 21, 2010 at 12:28 pm

I will admit firstly that I did not read the entire thesis (100 pages?) but I did go and look for the parts where she references you. Nor have I read all these comments.

Dani, I can understand that it would be creepy and weird to have someone pick apart blog posts and to take things out of context, make assumptions about your family, kids, and income. That would bother me too. It also shows that the thesis writer doesn’t quite understand blogs or our passion for them. They don’t understand the whole “taking on a persona” thing that you mentioned. We edit our lives-what we are willing to share, what would be entertaining, etc for the masses. For anyone to think that we are the sum of our blog posts is incredibly naive. The blog is a snapshot-a painting, of sorts, of the parts of us and our lives that we’re willing to share. There is still lots burbling underneath that might be beautiful, but is OURS.

Now that being said, again-what we put on line is, in essence, there for the masses to do with what they will, whether we like it or not. I guess it goes with the territory. Look at Julie and Julia-Julia Child didn’t like AT ALL that Julie Powell wrote about her. Some of it was purely based on Julia Child, but wasn’t REAL. I agree that it might have been nice if the writer had contacted you. But she really didn’t have to-your blog (and mine) are both out there for the masses to read, dissect, enjoy, hate, whatever.

What I find disturbing is how “viscous” (good word, Susan!) some people have been in return. Ouch. Now THAT might be a good study.

Interesting conversation.
(lol…captcha is “boundaries potomac”

54 sherry February 21, 2010 at 12:36 pm

I don’t want to argue what is legally right, what’s ethically right, etc. Because I’m sure that she is indeed allowed to do it.

What bothers me about being so heavily featured in this thesis are these two points:

1. She took so many things out of context. I realize that could happen any time someone happens upon my blog for the first time but the difference is that this person is then packaging me in an out-of-context way. Many bloggers use humor/sarcasm/hyperbole but she stripped that away. At one point she references that I felt like I was a failure as a mother because my oldest learned of Rapunzel from a TV show instead of through me, reading her the story. The problem there is that she removed all the humor that was involved – I did say that, but it was in jest, a fact that no one missed in the original post. I have often felt like I’m flying by the seat of my pants without a manual, but I’ve never felt like an actual failure. However, based on her thesis, she packages me as someone who does.

2. She did lazy research. If she had *actually* invested time to read through my blog properly she would have a better presentation of the portion of me and my life that I put online. For instance, she mentions that my father-in-law took me to several pre-natal appointments and said that indicates that either I don’t drive or we don’t have a vehicle. Meanwhile, any proper reading of my blog makes it clear that yes, we do have a vehicle, but no I don’t drive, and my FIL was taking me to the doctor because it was really far away and my husband was working. Proper research would make her better able to address my first point – she’d be able to better put things into context.

Initially I was very creeped out and nearly pulled my blog down last night when I read what she wrote about me, but I don’t want to take away something that I truly enjoy because of someone who clearly doesn’t really understand how blogging works. In the meantime, I kind of hope her professor(s) see her lack of research too.

55 TrudyJ February 21, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I’m late to the party as Chris/Mombie just alerted me to the existence of this thesis (can’t imagine how I missed it as there can’t be a more relentless self-googler than I). It doesn’t creep me out as much, but that may be because a) as Chris pointed out, she’s pretty non-judgmental of me, and b) I was forewarned that this was out there and there was much debate about it, so it wasn’t quite the same shock as finding it by accident.

While it’s sort of a weird feeling, I don’t really see any grounds for outrage. Putting something up on the web is publishing. If I’d written and published a memoir about my family life, an academic writer wouldn’t need my permission to quote it. Even though we know that what we put on the web is public and we’ve probably all agonized about issues of privacy with our blogs, I don’t think we are used to thinking of it as published work the same way a book or article it is. But within the academic world it’s perfectly acceptable to treat it that way.

I wish there had been more context given, and more discussion of the degree to which the blogging persona is a construct of the writer. What I reveal about myself and my family on my blog is exactly what I choose to reveal, and I create the portrait of myself I want out there — just as the writer of a memoir does. Without some discussion of this element, the thesis seemed a little thin to me.

Bubandpie, I went through it looking for a part where she talked about why she didn’t contact the bloggers — I expected it would be in her methodology section — but didn’t find it, so I’ll have to reread to look for that. I think it might have been a courtesy, though by no means required, but I also think that we bloggers have to toughen up about the reality that we are, in fact, publishing our lives, and what’s published is fair game for quoting, analysis, and even misunderstanding and abuse.

56 TrudyJ February 21, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Oh, and I totally agree with Sherry’s point about the research being lazy. She picked random posts and described what we were writing about in those, rather than trying to get a “big picture” sense of how a writer followed through with a particular issue or theme in her life (which wouldn’t have been so hard to do).

57 bea February 21, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Part of the problem with the methodology of the thesis was that I don’t think the writer ever figured out whether she was doing a sociology of bloggers or a literary analysis of their texts. To the extent that it was the latter, I’m on fairly sure ground when I say that it isn’t standard ethical practice for literary critics to warn/contact/interview authors. I don’t know as much about ethics in the social sciences, but my impression is that sociologists and psychologists are allowed to do purely observational studies without attaining the permission of their “subjects” – i.e. if people are out there doing something in public, you’re allowed to observe them and analyse those observations, and for those studies to have validity, you have to interact as little as possible with those you’re observing. If, on the other hand, you ask people to do something as part of a study, you have to inform your participants that they are in a study and there are various ethical guidelines for what has to be disclosed. Either way, it doesn’t seem at all likely that this thesis violated ethical guidelines on scholarly research.

58 Susan February 21, 2010 at 1:05 pm

I see a PhD thesis in the blog reaction to the MA.

And Dani, I am sorry if I breached your blog rules. I refrained from twittering and came here for the civil discourse so the last thing I want to do is turn it into a scream fest.

My point was that this is especially ironic given that so many of the participants blog about their children without their permission.

If you abide by the standards they’re proposing, they should take it offline until the children reach the age of majority and grant permission and offer their perspectives on everything.

Anyway, fascinating thread.

59 Chuck February 21, 2010 at 1:16 pm

I’m new to blogging and am a daddy, not a mommy. However i am the one who alerted Andrea to the uncomplimentary post about her article. Just in case there were any crinkled noses out there about my comment to Andrea…..it was a reference to something that was said about her in the critical blog. She is not dating a misogynist….LOL

I won’t go into the underlying issues as I couldn’t possibly add anything more intelligent than the various things that have already been said. I just wanted to say that this is a great discussion (heated though it may be at times) and i’ve really enjoyed it.

60 bea February 21, 2010 at 1:17 pm

The discussion of her decision not to contact the bloggers is on p. 27-28 of the thesis, and she cites V. Serfati as back-up for the claim that bloggers are not participants but rather authors. Nothing she says here would prevent her from contacting you guys after the project was complete, but that may have been a matter of not thinking anyone would ever read it or care.

61 coffeewithjulie February 21, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Know what I love best about “mommybloggers”? Stuff like this … there are so many brilliant bloggers and readers and everyone adding in their two cents is creating such a more complex and interesting discussion!

And Dani, you made me laugh when you said, “See, I don’t even need outsiders to point out my own inconsistencies.” – That’s why we keep coming back — your honesty and humour.

62 Emily February 21, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I’m finding this whole discussion really interesting. My first reaction was “how dare she” but that is really just my own emotional bias.

Its hard not to have an emotional reaction when you see your words and thoughts analyzed and/or judged. But does that mean it doesn’t happen everyday? Your readers regularly make judgments about you – they don’t always write about it but they’re constantly doing it. Have you ever stopped reading a blog because you didn’t like something about that blog or the writer? We deal in the written word and because of that it can be easy for things to be misconstrued. I remember once commenting on someone’s blog that I was sorry that a trip they were taking was so horrible and she hated being in (the particular) country so much, only to be emailed back by the writer asking what I was talking about – although she was struggling with a few things she was loving her travels. I took her words and tone very differently. If the thesis autor had lauded you as an amazing mother would you feel differently?

She doesn’t have to contact you because she’s not writing about you as a person – she’s writing about the “you” character on your blog – the character you write. She has interpreted you from your own words, just because you disagree with her interpretation doesn’t mean that isn’t how she (and possibly others) saw it.

That said from a personal point of view I get it. I’ve had my words publicly misconstrued and it hurts. It also made me think hard about what I’m putting out there. I don’t have an answer yet but this just further illustrates some of the good and bad things about blogging.

63 Sara in MontrΓ©al February 21, 2010 at 1:52 pm

(I haven’t read all 61 comments – so I am sorry if what say is redundant).

As personnal as a blog can be, it is never the whole picture. there’s two things bugging me here, but then maybe it’s just one :

She didn’t mention to the authors that she was going to do so – although if it was only an exercise on writing genre, it would be OK – and then she determines who the bloggers ‘are’, not taking in consideration the personna that comes with public wirting – the it happens to me but may be not quite like this. Plus it would be pretty boring if this was really a daily journal on everything that happened today. Hence, showing the whole world how she does not understand what are the filters in public commmunication. A major flaw that seems to have go through her evaluation by all those advisors.The analysis of genre and the extention onto personnal lifes are two seperate things. She should have stick to the first part.

If she really wanted to make personnal conclusions on the bloggers, she should have done interview with them. A sometime long and fastidious exercise, but who said writing a master was a piece of cake?

64 DaniGirl February 21, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Okay, seriously, can y’all stop being so interesting? Cuz I cannot get anything done over here for refreshing and reading your comments.

If you’re still as engaged in this as I am, don’t miss Julie’s post with the spectacular title of “Dani is Feeling Indignant.” http://www.julieharrison.ca/living/dani-is-feeling-indignant/

65 Molly February 21, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Guess what a blog used to be? A diary. And people kept their diaries to themselves. If you’re putting it all out there, you cannot control how people intrepret the info, what they do with it, or the security of your family. You are also choosing to surrender your privacy in many respects.

While I have not (and have no plans to) read the thesis, and while I thoroughly enjoy and rely on your blog (and many others) as a source of entertainment, I would never, ever in my life be able to expose my family in the way that you do. Some things are sacred.

I have also wondered (often) where you find the hours upon hours to create and maintain all of these projects? If I am wasting 20-30 minutes every couple of days to skim these blogs, how much time are your taking away from your children, your work, and your physical health to do all of this?

Did you ever realize that, by blogging about the thesis, you have just drawn a ridiculous amount of attention to it? Or maybe that’s the point. The blog is all about you, all the time. But, unlike the old-fashion diary, you are sharing it with the world and are quite addicted to the “feedback” and interest of others.

Just my two cents. I have been reading you for about two years, check your blog 3-4 times a week, and find it incredibly entertaining. I think I am also just fascinated by how willing you are to open your life up to complete strangers. I guess I am part of the “problem” because I keep tuning in…this really deserves a broader social discussion, don’t ya think?

66 DaniGirl February 21, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Hi Molly who doesn’t leave any contact info. For what it’s worth, a blog never “used to be” a diary. My diary never talked back, never corrected my misconceptions and expanded my horizons, never made me feel a part of a larger community, and NEVER made me feel awkward and embarrassed about something that’s usually a lot of fun for me.

What do you care what choices I make about how I prioritize things in my life? I’m gracious enough to put everything out there, the least you can do is be nice about it. I wouldn’t say you’re a part of the “problem” because for one, there is no “problem” and for another, until today I’d never heard of you so I’m certainly not doing this for you.

Can we please get back to the respectfulness that we were all so proud of a few minutes ago?

/snarky defensive response

67 Susan (a different Susan) February 21, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I may be in a bit of minority position here, as I”m reading about this issue here (and on twitter) both as a blogger and an academic who sometimes supervises MA theses. I’ve not read the thesis yet, but it sounds like there are places where the student’s analysis is weak–not enough contextualization, not careful enough reading, errors in presentation–and that the student has reached conclusions that seem to the bloggers involved to be wrong.

Despite Phantom’s praise of an academic who contacted her to see if it was OK to use the comments there as part of a study, I don’t think that the student had any obligation to contact any of the bloggers in advance. (Sure, she could have, and she could have framed a project that asked for the writers’ comments as another data source–that sort of method would have needed review by an ethics board. But the use of text that’s already published and openly available doesn’t require any ethics review by a board.) I supervised a thesis a couple of years ago where a student analyzed 4 blogs by college-age gay male writers, looking at how they represented their queer identities in their blogs. It never occurred to me to suggest that my student contact the authors. And frankly, as a thesis supervisor I didn’t read all the blog posts, either. I read some, but not all, of my student’s background source material; I did look at each of the blogs and often asked questions as my student drafted that pointed him back into the blogs and secondary literature to explore his analysis more. I hope my own commetns pushed his analysis in right and smart directions (and I can say that his analysis all stuck closer to the text of the blogs–I don’t think there were big leaps into generalizations about the writer’s lives outside the blog!) As I read this discussion, I’m wondering whether those bloggers would consider themselves fairly represented (which is a whole ‘nother area of writing ethics–and one that is not really regulated by universities, although one that should be addressed by writers).

I’m curious, Dani, what you want SFSU to take responsibility for. My take on it, from what I’ve read so far, is that this thesis might not have been very good. And I’ve supervised some student work that’s not always very good; there are lots of reasons for that, and sometimes, it’s hard to guide particular students to develop particular projects better.

Let me be clear: I completely understand why you, Dani, and the other bloggers would feel wrongly portrayed, misunderstood, and trivialized; I don’t mean to trivialize your reactions, and were I in Ottawa I’d be offering to bring over a big pot of coffee or jug of wine and talk about all the problems here. Sounds like this student could have realized her project with much, much better quality. But strictly speaking, I don’t see that she did anything she shouldn’t have been permitted to do.

68 Molly February 21, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Just because you’re not doing this for me or because you haven’t heard from me before is irrelevant. I’ve been here for years. If that doesn’t freak you out (particularly as a parent), I feel sorry for you.

I will remove you from my favourites and will not bother you again. I was just being 100% honest, but it would appear (once again) that you are not open to negative comments. If it’s not praise or some sort of freebie, you’re just not into it.

69 Nat February 21, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Not much to add here. I guess, I keep coming back to the right thing to do, (and perhaps more rigourous academically) would have been to contact the bloggers in questions and see how right she was.

I’m not sure about the ethics of the thing. But I think it is different to look at a literary work, or a research paper and study the findings, than to look at a blog and draw (erroneous) conclusions. It seems to me that this is really lazy. She’s missing one of the key elements of blogging. The feedback and interaction.

Maybe contat SFU and ask them about it. See what they say… more out of curiosity’s sake. πŸ™‚

70 DaniGirl February 21, 2010 at 3:41 pm

It’s a big Internet, Molly. There are lots of great bloggers out there and I’m sure you’ll find something more to your tastes elsewhere.

(Ha: captcha = director treaties. Guess this reply won’t get me that diplomatic posting I’ve been coveting.)

Susan, you know what, I’m really not sure what I would have expected from SFU. As this conversation has evolved, and through the perspective of my friends in the academic community, I can’t really see where any ethical wrong has been done worthy of complaint to the University. I might find it distasteful and unfortunate, but I don’t now think that it was inherently wrong.

And heck, it has given me a great conversation here!

71 Natalie @YMCbuzz February 21, 2010 at 3:46 pm

A must-read. What do YOU think? Let Dani know. RT @DaniGirl: Fascinated by the comments on my #creepythesis post http://tinyurl.com/ye8zmac

72 Chris (Mombie) February 21, 2010 at 4:12 pm

I was just reading Trudy’s post about this at http://www.hypergraffiti.com and asked her if she thought that perhaps her perspective was different because she is a published author. Her blog might be (to her) a part of her larger body of work, and hence she would be expecting review and analysis where bloggers like you, Dani, would not.

I think that is part of what keeps twigging me about this subject. When you review or analyze literature you are examining a work that was created as a whole, with the author editing and shaping her arguments/stories to suit a theme, argument or idea. When the work is done the author expects people to examine it. A blogger (at least one who is not an author otherwise) is creating the narrative entry by entry and is not expecting their work to be examined in that way. I think part of the ‘creepy’ feeling that result is from having an informal (although published) work, treated as a formal work, as though it had been crafted with a specific purpose (other than recording a life) in mind.

Sure, some blogs are created with specific stories in mind, but they aren’t put together in the same way as an autobiography and it was suprising when they were judged on those criteria.

73 bea February 21, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Ironically, the criticisms in Molly’s post are exactly those from which the thesis attempts to defend bloggers. The writer talks extensively about the double standard applied to bloggers on privacy issues: even Kathie Lee Gifford, who talked about her children ad nauseum every morning on television for decades, seem to feel that bloggers were exposing their children to a problematic level of public scrutiny. The best parts of the thesis are those that scrutinize the public discourse about blogging and point out that writers have always mined their lives for material and no one seems to raise these concerns about writers who include their children in memoirs published in book form.

As for the time issue, again, having read the thesis this morning, the obvious answer is fresh in my mind: those who criticize mom bloggers for taking time away from their work and/or children seem to believe that moms should devote all their temporal and emotional resources to others, taking nothing for themselves. Most moms – even those who don’t blog – have time to spend on hobbies like gardening, scrapbooking, etc. And that’s the way it should be.

74 Finola February 21, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Dani, I’m so sorry that you are upset by this. I would be upset too if my writing were taken out of context, and if lazy assumptions were made about me or my family life. I have to admit, though, that I don’t fully understand your position. I have written a thesis before and I used information that was in the public domain, and I never would have thought to contact the authors. I’m afraid I’m just a bit confused…
Best to you.

75 DaniGirl February 21, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Bea, amen. Thanks for that!

Finola, I’m not upset. It’s not the fact that she used my blog entries, but the way she inferred things about me as a person and my life and my family based on those entries, and then wrapped up all that in a thin but detectable judgmentalism. That’s what bugs me, exactly what you said – things were taken out of context, stripped of nuance or humour or sarcasm, and used to make what I think are vaguely unpleasant assumptions about my life. But I’m not wailing and gnashing my teeth over it — I’m just a little creeped out by it.

(But I’m thrilled for the blog fodder! Seems a reasonable exchange to me!)

76 Haley Overland February 21, 2010 at 5:01 pm

RT @DaniGirl: Fascinated by the comments on my #creepythesis post (I do so love the bloggy peeps!) http://tinyurl.com/ye8zmac

77 slouchy February 21, 2010 at 5:13 pm

whoa. i have to go think about this some more before i can come up with something intelligent to say.

(i do think it’s contingent on how a blog is defined. if it’s considered as a literary text, then what the student did was fair game, if rather uninteresting and uninspired.)

78 Jen Maier, urbanmoms February 21, 2010 at 5:14 pm

What do u think of #creepythesis? UrbanMoms is in it thru fab bloggers @cheaty & @alimartell. @DaniGirl's post on it: http://bit.ly/9bmVub

79 Aurelia Cotta February 21, 2010 at 5:18 pm

So, although I only used one tweeted hashtag to ask journalists a question about what their policy is….now I’m a bully? Interesting. Any of my other tweets on this subject were in reply to friends of mine who were in obvious distress and I sent them links to resources. Since they were my friends I wanted to help them, and to defend them. They did not know where to turn. Journalism for example, has different standards than literature review and that has different standards than sociological studies and no it wasn’t clear what this was, nor what others are perceiving it to be.

For example, journalists who emailed and DMed me after I asked said that they always ask for a response to an article, and would not be allowed that much excerpting, ever. The general rule is 27 words in a row, though it isn’t hard and fast. As much as she had? Nope.

Intellectual property exists, and it must be respected. A scraper site cannot simply lift the entire text of my posts, and neither can anyone else. Small quotes are not vast stretches of text or paraphrasing entire sections that suit the lifter.

I asked a prof friend last night and another one this am and they had mixed responses, though both agreed it was poorly written and lazy. My friend last night is a history prof, in the current era, and he said that any thesis in which the living person was not contacted and interviewed, especially in biographical writing was an automatic fail in his class. Blogs, books, public figures, anything, you try to get a comment or an interview if not with them, then with people near them. Context is everything. The prof this morning disagreed and said that it would depend on whether or not the writer was reviewing a work of literature or analyzing the group phenomenon in a sociological manner. As a literature review, she would not mind if the person had not contacted the writer, but the context had to be clear, since she is one prof who checks sources. As a sociological study? We both agreed that the thesis writer had violated the norms of the group. Ethical? Depends on how SFU defines the communications department and the course advisors. She thought it was rude, but not against university policy.

And as an e-patient, yes this is all relevant because there is a very large debate going on about everything from electronic health records to how doctors and patients and medical personnel interact online. I know friends who have posted to message boards for support during an illness and been found by nurses lurking there and denied health care. The nurses said they were studying the issues, except they weren’t. They were spying, and snooping on their own patients. Professional colleges are now seeing complaints like this and so are medical schools and EHR providers.

Public areas exist, but there are always degrees. Observing someone from a physical distance in a public park is very different than walking up to a small group sitting together in a park and sticking your head in the middle of everyone and listening. Public for Britney Spears is not the same as public for me. There are degrees and Dani isn’t Dooce, and I’m not Dani.

This is a legitimate public debate whether the thesis author wants it to be or not. Academic institutions are having it, but apparently not in this department of this university. And they should. At what point is it violating the social norms of a group? At what point are they harming their subjects by engaging in this analysis without any discussion.

http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/323/7321/1103

I linked to this last night quickly, but there are many many more scholarly articles discussing the issue. This isn’t new. A critical point in this? That sometimes by merely observing without delurking, if the participants find out later, the community is destroyed.

If destroying the subject of your research when you engage in the act of research isn’t worthy of academic ethical scrutiny, I’m really not sure what else is. I cannot imagine a more important debate for a university to have.

And yes, I want universities to do that, SFU included.

As for the personal attacks on me, Susan? My husband laughed when I read it aloud. He doesn’t care, what business is it of yours. Interesting that you mention my in-laws though. The only place I’ve written about them recently was to a journalist who would not say this, and on a political blog, Red Tory.

Susan, I do also associate with large numbers of political bloggers and tweeters that cross communities and yes, there are lots of instances of hate speech and lawsuits and things that fly back and forth with that crowd. I debate with them. I enjoy it, and they enjoy it. And yes when the disabled are attacked, as recently happened, I have said, gee, “that TV program should be prosecuted for hate speech if they are holding up a person with a stutter to ridicule.” Then I asked “if they were being attacked or just discussed?” I’ll stand by defending disabled people til the day I die.

If people don’t want to see political debate, they can unfollow me. Their choice.

I act very differently towards mombloggers and infertility bloggers and other personal bloggers. I defend them, I help them, I get help and support and love from them, they are my people, and if they need help, I will do whatever I can to help them.

The thesis writer may not want to be criticized or have her research questioned. In which case I suggest she stay off the internet. Because I hear that happens. In fact, I’m told I should expect it.

80 Mary Lynn February 21, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Been reading through all the interesting discussions that have gone on since I last posted. Love that there have been so many thoughtful responses and that (barring a few odd comments here and there) the tone has been wonderfully civil. This is what I love about blogs as opposed to Twitter, where it’s hard to explain the complexities of how you really feel in a mere 140 characters.

81 sherry February 21, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Wow. What I love about people like Molly is all of this:

1. She’s one of those people who believes that bloggers LITERALLY put everything in our lives online, therefore “exposing” ourselves and our families. People like this will never understand that most blogs are only a sliver of the full picture.

2. I always love the people who gasp about how we’re taking so much time away from our kids by blogging. A blog post takes me 20 minutes at the most. If my children can’t survive for 20 minutes without my undivided attention, I don’t know what to say. Besides, I tend to do my posts on my blog in the evenings more often than not, which is when my children are asleep. How is that taking away time from my children? (Unless I’m perhaps expected to watch my kids sleep all night too.)

3. Continuing on with that train of thought it also plays along with that ridiculous idea that mothers should not have any interests outside of their family members. God forbid we have hobbies or passions that don’t start and end with our kids. My parents continued to hone their own interests after I was born and I’m glad they did; it helped me to learn that they were people, not robots who took care of me every second of the day.

Then again, if Molly doesn’t blog herself, perhaps she’s just delusional and thinks that it takes 3 hours to put together a blog post.

(BTW, the highlight of this thesis is that in reading it I discovered this blog. Why I didn’t know about it before I could not say, but I’m glad to have found it and will read from here on out!)

82 Julie Harrison February 21, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Me too! RT @Cheaty: RT @DaniGirl: Fascinated by the comments on my #creepythesis post http://tinyurl.com/ye8zmac

83 EverythingMom.com February 21, 2010 at 6:52 pm

RT @DaniGirl: Fascinated by the comments on my #creepythesis post (I do so love the bloggy peeps!) http://tinyurl.com/ye8zmac

84 Mary Gazze February 21, 2010 at 6:55 pm

RT @DaniGirl: Fascinated by the comments on my #creepythesis post (I do so love the bloggy peeps!) http://tinyurl.com/ye8zmac

85 Leanne Palmerston February 21, 2010 at 7:39 pm
86 Susan February 21, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Actually, the more I think about this controversy — and I’ve been thinking about it a lot today, along with “creepily” and obsessively refreshing this comment thread — the more I think my initial reaction was too weak.

I’ve noticed that often people who claim to be quoted out of context really aren’t, they just want a story told exactly as they would tell it. We’ve seen precious few concrete examples of what the thesis writer actually got wrong. Rather, there’s been a lot of generalization about how she missed nuance, humour etc. Uncharitably, that could be interpreted as “she didn’t find me as witty as I really am.”

Ultimately, a lot of this has been calls to shut down someone with a perspective not one’s own, calling her names (which she, I might add, did not do to her subjects) and attempting to bully and intimidate with questionable appeals to authority and a creepy hashtag.

And in response to Aurelia Cotta who writes, “The thesis writer may not want to be criticized or have her research questioned. In which case I suggest she stay off the internet. Because I hear that happens. In fact, I’m told I should expect it,” you’re 100% right. The thesis writer will be judged on her thesis while the twitter mob will be judged on their #creepythesis hashtag and their bullying behaviour.

Since tomorrow is another day and a working one at that, I will not comment on this any further other than to say there is NOTHING, ZERO, NADA in any fair use/ fair dealing law or ruling that in any way disallows what the thesis writer did. And that’s a good thing that as a citizen of a democracy I’m very happy about.

Goodnight and thanks for the space to have my say.

87 Finola February 21, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Yes, I hear what you’re saying for sure. And you are right about starting a great debate too – look at you, 80 or so comments πŸ™‚

88 Carly February 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Out of curiosity, I sought out and read the thesis.

The one thing that stood out to me is precisely what Trudy has already spoken of so eloquently on her blog. (http://trudymorgancole.wordpress.com/2010/02/21/creepy-thesis/)

I’d be hard pressed to go back over my own blog posts to find one that didn’t have at least a bit of exaggeration, hyperbole or even an outright lie in it. Although I use my blog mainly as a type of scrapbook – as stated in my “profile” – I also write to entertain (myself and anyone who happens to read it). I found it a bit odd that the author of the thesis appeared to assume that everything she read on a blog was the God’s honest unvarnished truth.

Knowing that I write the way I do, I’m really the opposite. I pretty much assume that anything I read online, whether in a blog or elsewhere, is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

89 Annika February 21, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Well, well, well…I go offline for the weekend, and look what happens! Goodness…I do not have time to read said “thesis” (or most of the 80 comments posted here) tonight, but I did take a quick scan. Dani…how are you holding up? I agree that you should feel violated. Whether the author had a requirement to contact you or not (and I guess she didn’t), no one can tell you how to feel about this whole situation. It was very kind of you to host the debate that followed, even the dissenters. Very kind indeed. Thinking of you.

90 jodifur February 21, 2010 at 9:38 pm

I read the thesis and what upset me the most was how poorly written it was.

But I also said on Haley-O’s blog that I think the author missed the point. Our blogs our not “us,” the are one part of us. And I think she totally missed that.

91 Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] February 21, 2010 at 9:50 pm

I would be flattered, then completely freaked out. You all should have been notified (after publishing) as she used your real names and not aliases.

92 Scattered Mom February 21, 2010 at 11:46 pm

I find it interesting how people like Molly seem to think that we moms do nothing but raise kids. At one time, I cross stitched in front of the TV. Then I tried crochet. I scrap booked for awhile, and sometimes went out for dinner with friends.

Now I blog. It does take time…but then the kids might be in bed, or they could be at a friend’s house. I don’t watch TV.

Are our blogs about us, all the time? No. Many bloggers use our writing to bring attention to important issues (like Nestle!), raise awareness (March of Dimes, Friends of Maddie, Redneck Mommy on adoption and disabled kids, Her Bad Mother re: her nephew Tanner, YOU re: infertility, ME re: dyspraxia, and so many more!), support each other (Anissa Mayhew, Stephanie Neilson, Heather and Mike Spohr). It’s unfair to lump bloggers into a box and assume we’re neglecting our kids to get attention and monetary gain online. Maybe some do, but I don’t know any.

Blogging is about community. Our blogs are our creative space. We talk about ourselves and our families like we would over coffee; revealing some, but never all. Some is ramped up for entertainment sake, some is never said.

I ALWAYS have my 14 yo’s and my husband’s permission. If I didn’t blog, I’d write the old fashioned way, and I’m sure you would too. Don’t let someone who doesn’t understand the art (yes, it’s an ART) take that away from you, Dani. Molly just doesn’t get it; and I kinda feel sorry for her.

(captcha: the sunbeam) *grin*

93 Sonja McL. Dowbiggin February 22, 2010 at 3:02 am

I followed waiting for my teen son last night. RT @DaniGirl: Fascinated by the comments on my #creepythesis post http://tinyurl.com/ye8zmac

94 Lana February 22, 2010 at 6:14 am

The more I thought about her thesis and reread the methodology – I thought, ok, the literary criticism angle is fair game. However; I think the conclusions that she drew say more about the author than the bloggers themselves.

Now, perhaps Dani, you “main narrative” back in 2007? (I haven’t gone back through your archives) – maybe potty training did factor in heavily to your online “character”. Is there anything wrong with that? No. However, you narrative, (like many others) changes as your kids grow up, you return to work, and make other life choices. So, I feel like she’s drawn conclusions based on an unfinished work. Of course, here I am judging her based on only reading snippets of her work!

Now, isn’t that really what blogs are all about? We all draw our own conclusions about an author based on one post, one week etc. and what keeps us all coming back is to keep getting more clues as to who the “real” blogger is. I do think she missed some key elements of how people “read” blogs.

And I admit, I only read her analysis of your blog and I do feel that it came off rather “I’m in my ivory tower and you are ‘in the home’ working on #1 and #2”. When in reality, what is so unfeminist-y about teaching someone a life skill to empower them towards greater independence. Being a mom is about empowering a new little person and that narrative shouldn’t be so rudely dismissed.

Just sayin’

95 Lana February 22, 2010 at 8:17 am

Oops, I should grammar check before posting comments at 6am. Mom fail.

96 Emma February 22, 2010 at 8:49 am

I was sitting right beside Haley when she got the email from you about this. And she was visibly upset before she even knew what was written in it.

In the end, I think it would be good to let SFU’s research ethics people know that if you are going to write about the lives of bloggers, to do analysis without letting them know, they’re going to potentially get upset.

I think if I was a member of an ethics commitee, I’d like to know that. Something to consider for the future.

PS – I really do disagree with the characterization of the discussion on twitter (esp. #creepythesis) as bullying. It was an emotional but also tongue-in-cheek and fun discussion. I guess people find it hard to see the humour in our writing, huh?

97 Loukia February 22, 2010 at 10:38 am

The thesis creeped me out, too. I imagine if I was one of the bloggers she was referring to at length, it would bother me – especially because no permission was granted first to use your blog as an example. I’m sure, if she had the decency to email you – not hard to do, as your email address is on your blog – you might have agreed to her using your blog in her thesis. I think your work – your blog – is your published work, and permissions should be granted before using at length your ‘life’ in her paper. Ick. And i don’t like her conclusions, either, or how she made ‘mommybloggers’ sounds. We are all SO different, and we all write for different reasons. I didn’t like her thesis at all. And I do hope she reads this post and the comments.

98 Mary @ Parenthood February 22, 2010 at 11:44 am

I guess I’m a bit late to the party but I found the thesis kind of interesting reading that deteriorated quickly into a collection of almost randomly tied together quotes. I don’t think she crossed any ethical lines, but at first she’s walking a very fine line between fair-use quoting and plagarism. But then I got to the controversial chapter 4. It seems out of place to me and it’s definitely the part of the thesis where the author’s biases show most clearly. Part of it is vocabulary issue – characterizing things as “smug”, “probably related to her eating disorder” and “just a day job” isn’t the sort of comment that smacks of rigorous academic thought to me. I don’t follow most of the blogs “reviewed” but I wouldn’t personally assume that a blogger who has season’s passes to an amusement park has above average income. Said passes could have been obtained as a perk for blogging, could have been a gift or simply a reflection of putting money towards something that is highly valued and considered a priority for that family. If you read the small snippets of life I post on my blog you’d probably conclude we were rich, but our lifestyle is more a reflection of deliberate financial choices and sacrifices in other areas. (Eg Our annual household clothes budget is less than what some people will spend on a single sweater.)

There are also odd random thoughts that pop up: she’d like people to discuss “why the mother always takes the full parental leave”. If she’s really interested in that question, I bet Stats Can has actual statistics (and it’s not mothers 100%, fathers 0%). Certainly mothers take the parental leave more often in part because employers are better about allowing it, in part for cultural reasons and in part because of the breastfeeding thing at the beginning.

Finally: “Why do mommybloggers blog?” Apparently to “subvert dominant ideologies concerning motherhood”. Oookay then. Here I thought I was doing it primarily because my family and friends refuse to all live in the same city and it’s a more modern version of the newsletters we used to pass around when I was a kid and living overseas (away from most of my family).

99 DaniGirl February 22, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Thanks again for everyone who has contributed to this conversation! Reading your reactions has been very insightful for me, and my perspective has been evolving with each new comment.

I’m still on the fence as to whether any ethical breaches have been made, in no small part because mine is a lowly undergraduate degree so I’ve been relying on my friends in higher ed for context. πŸ™‚ However, and getting back to my realm of expertise, I think this is another great example of the fact that the pace of social media adoption has far outstripped our ability to quantify and qualify our “rules” around it. Wonder how this would have played out if someone did the same sort of content analysis on someone’s FB status updates?

One other point I meant to mention in my original post is that I love the irony of the fact that she stated one of her thesis points was to discern who the “real” mommybloggers are — and in fact this whole conversation proves that the blogs themselves are a woefully inadequate tool for answering that particular question.

Ya got to give her credit, though — any topic that inspires in excess of 100 comments and tweets across a handful of blogs is definitely worth discussing!

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