In a recent post on her blog, Louann Reid posed the question, "Why not blog?" You can visit Louann's blog by clicking on the Multiliteracies button at the bottom of my blogroll to the left (sorry, can't make links today because I'm posting from Safari).
As I commented there, blogging makes a lot of sense to me from a professional standpoint, but I've also been intrigued about why so many people choose to blog *apart* from a sense of professional duty. Probably there are some closet columnists out there like me, but I stumbled on a whole new discourse community by accident this weekend. As a result, I spent an embarrassing amount of time lurking this weekend. In fact, my daughter claims I'm officially obsessed, but I prefer to think of it as fascination.
It's all her fault anyway. She's a senior, so I'm making her a scrapbook for graduation. I know next to nothing about how to do this. As always when I have a little question, I turn to research. I flipped through a scrapbooking magazine at the grocery store and discovered they have a website. And let me tell you, not only is the blogiverse full of scrapbookers, but out-of-school literacies are alive and well out there. I mean, these people are SERIOUS. They host conventions. They scrapbook digitally (wow, do these women know their way around in Photoshop). Some call themselves "Life Artists" or "scrapartists," and they have created their own language complete with abbreviations sure to confuse the uninitiated. Here are a few examples:
scraplift=copying a LO design from another Life Artist
journal=to write often lengthy captions near pictures on your LO
rubon=a decal of lettering or design that you "rub on" to a LO<--It took me several hours to figure that last one out.
They pose creative challenges, suggest pre-writing procedures to help with journaling, and host contests like MM Idol (Memory Makers Idol). They scan and post their work and comment on one another's. There are rules and tools. They emboss and chalk and sandpaper. They buy expensive Nikons and talk about what makes the best light. They blog and journal and participate in online forums with a vengeance. And all of them appear to be female.
I was so impressed that in the supposed service of collecting ideas for my daughter's project, I just couldn't stop myself, Gee's voice whispering in my ear all the while: "What do you make of this? Is scrapbooking a literacy practice? And if so, what makes it so compelling that entire discourse community has formed around it? Why do only women get to be members? Why the abundance of apparently affluent SOHs (another common abbreviation for "stay-at-home-mom"), and why do so many of them live in Provo (a.k.a. the "scrapbooking capitol of the world")? What are scrapbookers' norms and values?"
At the very least, I find scrapbooking to be a peculiar (as in "noteworthy") instance of a feminized discourse community that has, in the service of preserving family heritage and creating art that deliberately reflects the artist's individuality,
* appropriated many practices often associated with a masculinized domain, such as tool use--online technologies, drills, heat guns, etc. (many scrapbookers recommend buying supplies at Home Depot and Lowe's; I followed one thread that described how a salesman looked at a scrapbooker as if she had a "third eye" when she asked for a screw post)
* combined them with many practices typically associated with a domestic domain, such as sewing, scrapbooking itself, and community formation (many scrapbookers host local LO parties that sound reminiscent of quilting bees).
What surprised me most, though, was how central literacy is to all of this. My visits to websites and blogs like those I've listed below dissuaded me of my notion of scrapbooking as a quaint little domestic art. It's anything but quaint, and its practitioners are highly motivated to use literacy in robust and authentic ways I'm pretty sure they didn't pick up in school. Or maybe they did. Heather Burch, the owner of Poppy Ink (it's the last scrapbooking website I've listed below), posts a pretty surprising bio.:
"I graduated with a double-major in English lit. and print journalism. The written word is serious business. Some of the best prose ever written is: A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolfe. THAT is what this hobby has given me—metaphorically. It’s given me a part of my life that is mine. In between vacuuming, diaper-changing, peek-a-boo, tantrums, bills— I have a place I can escape to create. And at the same time, I preserve my family’s story. A big job. A job I’m grateful for."
Now I'm wondering what we as English teachers/educators can learn from scrapbooking and its practitioners? I encourage you to think about that and check out this vast online community for yourself. Here are a few of the most interesting sites I found this weekend:
http://twopeasinabucket.kaboose.com/cg.asp (website where scrapbookers can post their work, shop, connect, etc.)
http://abiteast.typepad.com/abiteast/ (blog of a scrapartist living in Beijing)
http://aliedwards.typepad.com/ (blog of the woman who coined the term "Life Artist" and is using scrapbooking as a way to promote autism awareness)
http://www.poppyink.com/ (website for a scrapbooking company deliberately influenced by pop art)