A constant theme in contemporary writing about blogs is that they offer new ways to narrate and to understand the self. Blogs create “a new form of subjectivity, a new understanding of the self” (Fitzpatrick, 2007, p. 174); they provide an especially rich site for “reflexive identity construction” (Brockmeier, 2000, p. 54); they present a “new forum for the ‘presentation of self’” that also instigates “new ways in which this ‘self’ can be presented” (Van Doorn, Van Zooen & Wyatt, 2007, p. 144).
This recurrent idea suggests that one established branch of theory might be useful in critical attempts to analyze and understand the nature of personal blogging: criticism and theory concerned with autobiography. Several of the foundational issues raised in Georges Gusdorf’s (1980) seminal Conditions and Limits of Autobiography arise within blogs as well. Like autobiography, the personal blog is “a second reading of experience,” and it “adds to experience itself consciousness of it” (p. 38). The blog “realizes itself as a work in the present; it effects a true creation of self by the self” (p. 44). Most importantly, like the richest autobiographies, the personal blog can be driven by conscious aesthetic awareness, so that its “artistic function is . . . of greater importance than the historic and objective function” (p. 43).
If, as Fitzpatrick (2007) asserted, the self is always a “multiply constructed subjectivity” (p. 167), blogs offer a set of interactive elements—text, visual design, an immediately reactive audience, a range of technological affordances provided by the online environment—that advance and transform our sense of what autobiography can be. In a sense, the personal blog can be seen as a kind of “distributed autobiography,” one in which the composing self becomes part of “a collective and intersubjective authorship” (Fitzpatrick, 2007, p. 177). Even as one expresses a “self” grounded in one’s individual awareness and understanding, that self can be altered and changed by its interaction with the community responding to the blog, and it is not uncommon for the blogger to acknowledge publicly the role that audience can play in one’s self-development (Dennen, 2009, p. 28; Fitzpatrick, 2007, pp. 180-181).
The visual and technological possibilities available through the blog’s being situated in the online environment create a form of autobiography that both conflicts with and advances critical thinking. For example, Gusdorf (1980) would certainly see the fragmentary nature of blogging as a bar to its being considered meaningful as autobiography, but contemporary treatments see the blog as a distinctive embodiment of postmodern ideas of the self as “discontinuous, shifting, and polycentric” (Brockmeier, 2009, p. 69; Fitzpatrick, 2008, pp. 168, 183). The necessary “incompleteness” and “seriality” of the blog (Fitzpatrick, 2007, p. 170) would also trouble traditional autobiographical criticism, while contemporary writers see the blog as enacting a new kind of completeness, born out of the immediate interaction of the blogger and her audience (Fitzpatrick, 2007, p. 169). The blog also makes available to all writers, in their self-presentation, what was previously available only to the autobiographer who was a visual artist: rich visual means of expressing and individuating the self.
In the end, the blog—in its immediacy and its range of resources—allows one to enact what Gusdorf (1980), quoting the philosopher Lequier, suggests as the motto for all autobiography, “to created and in creating to be created” (p. 44).