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Since the late-2000s blog analysis has developed from a novel to increasingly adopted research method. Blogs are a user-generated form of web content, where Internet users both produce and consume content at the same time as communicating and interacting with each other. Evan Williams, co-creator of popular blogging program Blogger, argues that the defining features of blogs are ‘frequency, brevity and personality’ (Turnbull, 2002). Like other Web 2.0 applications, blogs reflect a wider shift in late-modern ‘confessional society’ where people curate and reflect upon their personal lives in the public realm (Beer, 2008). For Bauman, the confessional society is defined as one which is ‘notorious for effacing the boundary which once separated the private from the public’ (Bauman, 2007: 2). Personal blogs are the quintessential early twenty-first century new media, generating data with this confessional quality that is simultaneously private and public.
Drawing on our own research on gap years (Snee) and everyday moralities (Hookway), we argue that blogs offer rich first-person textual accounts of everyday life. Blogs offer spontaneous narratives produced in the course of everyday life unprovoked by a researcher. Although blogs are spontaneous – not produced in interaction with a researcher – they are, like other public texts, shaped and tailored to an imagined audience. Accordingly, we treat blogs as representations of experience rather than objective or ‘truthful’ accounts. We consider the practical, methodological and ethical issues involved in doing blog research, including sampling, collecting and analysing blog data; issues of representation and authenticity; whether blogs should be considered private or public, and if the people who create them are subjects or authors. We also critically reflect on the methodological and ethical implications of the different decisions we made in our own research projects. We conclude that embracing new confessional technologies like blogs can provide a powerful way to capture everyday life and can make a modest contribution to developing new empirical repertories in sociology (Savage and Burrows, 2007: 895).
Publication titleThe SAGE Handbook of Online Research Methods
EditorsNG Fielding, RM Lee and G Blank
Department/SchoolSchool of Social Sciences
Place of publicationUnited Kindom
Rights statementCopyright 2017 Nicholas Hookway and Helene Snee