The Coming-to-Be of a Dissertation on African-American Mom Bloggers: Part Three [Methods]

Methods

My dissertation uses a mixed-method approach to examine African-American mom bloggers' online identity creation--individually and socially, and how these identities and the use of blogs enable interaction with readers and development of a community among African-American bloggers and their readers. This approach is three-fold: interviews with African-American mom bloggers, a content analysis of African-American mom blogs, and a survey of African-American mom blog readers.

Five research questions guide this dissertation research:

 

  • What assumptions regarding race, gender, and motherhood do African-American mom bloggers bring to the blogosphere?
  • How do gender and race play a role in blog and blogger identity construction for African-American mom bloggers?
  • How do the blogs created by African-American mothers illustrate how they present their "African-American mother" identity according to the following categories: design, content, and interaction?
  • How does the blog reader's interaction with the blog--through commentary, contributed content, and sharing of blog content--influence not only the further development of African-American mom blogger's identity, but also the development of community?
  • What are blog readers' perceptions of the African-American mom blogger's identity and its contribution to fostering community?

 

Interviews with African-American Mom Bloggers

In any rhetorical situation, the writer plays an intricate role in shaping discourse. In this research, to understand the writer/blogger, the initiator of blogging activities, in-depth interviews will be conducted with ten randomly chosen African-American mom bloggers. Seidman's notion of in-depth interviewing is used during the interview process in order to get a wide and deep understanding of the blogger and how and why she chooses to come to the blog space, and why she chooses to stay. It also provides a strong foundation to move toward the second stage in the research: the blog analysis.

The interview process will consist of three interviews per blogger. Interview one asks participants about their life experiences with race, gender, and motherhood up to the moment of becoming mom bloggers. Interview two includes questions regarding participant's decision to become a mom blogger, how gender and race play a role in her blog and blogger identity (blog design, visual markers, content, effect of blog reader, transparency), etc. Interview three asks participants to reflect on being African-American mom bloggers, how becoming a blogger has (if it has) shaped their real-life identity, and thoughts on future work as an African-American mom blogger.

 

Content Analysis of African-American Mom Blogs

Ten African-American mom blogs were analyzed in three categories: design, content, and interaction.

Design elements provide the first impression of the blog for the reader in regards to the blog's subject matter and to the blogger's identity. Design elements coded were color(s), blog title, header, "About Me" page, sidebar, tag/category clouds, and footer.

Content elements illustrate, in Goffman terms, the appearance and manner of the blog. These elements illustrate who the blogger presents herself to be and how the reader is to perceive her. Content elements coded were blog posts [text, image, audio, video, and links], advertisements, badges, "About Me" page, and other uses of images, audio, video, and links on the home page of the blog.

Interaction elements provide insight to the importance of interaction to the blogger and ability to analyze the existence of comments and replies on blog posts. Interaction elements coded were comments, social sharing tools, e-mail, and other contact information.

 

Survey of African-American Mom Blog Readers

The interviews and content analysis provide examination of the writer, context, and content/text of a rhetorical situation; the survey allows us to explore the thoughts of the final component of the rhetorical situation: the audience. The web-based survey consisted of 22 questions and focused on the participants" mom blog reading habits, their thoughts on if (and how) African-American mom bloggers illustrate race through their blogs, and their thoughts on the blog-reader interaction and importance of that relationship.

The selection of these methods and the focus on bloggers, blogs, and readers provide the opportunity to survey the rhetorical blogging landscape of African-American mom bloggers. In doing so, we can explore not only how and why African-American mom bloggers decide to come to the blogosphere, but also how they develop their blogger and blog identities in context with their blogging purpose and how readers connect with these bloggers and develop community within the group.

 

If you are a reader of African-American mom blogs, consider taking my survey located on SurveyMonkey. It is a 22-item survey, and should take no longer than 20-25 minutes to complete. Your participation will lend an added voice to my research. The survey will close at the end of August, beginning of September.

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