The monetisation of personal blogging: assembling the self and markets in Malaysia

2017-02-06T05:53:30Z (GMT) by Hopkins, Julian
Although they represent the majority of bloggers, personal bloggers who follow the diaristic genre are underrepresented in academic studies of blogging. Arguing against the dichotomies of ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ spaces, gift vs. the market economy, and authenticity vs. inauthenticity, this research explores how these are illuminated by an analysis of the effects of monetisation on the affordances and related practices of personal blogging. Based on participant observation over three years, this thesis uses data derived from maintaining two blogs, participating in on- and offline blogging collective practices, in-depth interviews, and a survey, to investigate the effects of monetisation on personal blogging in Malaysia. Most of the participant observation was attending events organised by a blog advertising network (known here as BlogAdNet) that coincidentally started about the same time the research started. BlogAdNet proved to be successful in mobilising bloggers and advertisers in order to create a market for advertising on personal blogs, and therefore also provides a good case study for investigating the interaction between a previously mostly non-monetised blogging assemblage, and the market economy – in particular the advertising industry. The methodological approach is informed by actor-network theory, emphasising tracing empirical connections and allowing for non-human agency within networks of sociotechnical devices. The theoretical frameworks that have proved helpful in explaining the collective blogging and market related practices are derived from Deleuze & Guattari’s concepts of rhizomatic assemblages, and also Manuel DeLanda’s further development of the social assemblage. These are used to allow for individual agency, whilst not overlooking nonhuman agency and emergent properties of dynamic systems. Within this framework, the blog is conceived as a sociotechnical dialogical medium that enables interpersonal interaction, and emergent collective practices. These are understood to be enabled by base and emergent affordances that offer the potential of causal relations between relevant actors and actants and thus stabilise a contingent ‘blogging assemblage’. To situate and analyse the effects of monetisation, and the influence of advertising, Michel Callon’s notions of the ‘economy of qualities’ and related ‘overflows’ are drawn upon, and further extensions of those concepts by Don Slater and Mark Foster to understand the interaction and entanglement of socioeconomic components. This thesis proposes that bloggers can be understood as engaging in polycasting, and the blog is described as a dialogical medium that enables extended parasocial relations. It concludes by drawing upon arguments based on the relational self that run counter to the assumption of the unitary self inherent in the modern authentic self. In addition, an emergent genre of blogging, the lifestyle blog, is seen as a result of the monetisation of personal blogging. Its emergence results from the sociotechnical processes that have taken place in order to entangle the bloggers and their audience with marketing and advertising strategies aimed at developing social assemblages that include their goods and brands.