I have finished the paper on milblogging for the Association of Internet Researchers conference in October.  I guess that means that, in the open-source spirit or “release early and release often,” it is time to release the paper for public consumption and comment.

The focus of the paper has changed substantially since the original proposal and call for milblogger participation.  I had initially envisioned the study as more of a basic ethnographic or sociological study into milblogger motivations and understandings of the value of milblogging and new media.  While those issues are still covered to a great degree, the theoretical and methodological focus of the paper has changed to one that is more focused on communications and rhetoric.  This decision was made, in part, for “selfish reasons”–i.e. a communications/rhetoric focus will be more useful for my dissertation project, which is not focused on milblogging.  And with less than a year to go on the dissertation, everything has to in some way contribute or it is hard to justify.  Lucky for me, the switch in focus may even make it possible to include a chapter, or a part of a chapter, on milblogging in the dissertation, something for which I had initially planned.

Next, the initial focus was too broad for a short conference paper.  Searching roughly 2,000 milblogs over a period of seven years would take time and tools that I do not have.  Luckily, the announcement of updated Army OPSEC regulations in April, followed by the response from the military blogosphere, provided a great opportunity to limit the study to that particular case, which is what I did.  I think I was still able to give a decent account of the value that milbloggers attach to their activities and to new media.

Finally, a word about theory and style.  Well, what can I say, it’s an academic paper meant for an academic audience.  Thus, it’s academic in its style and has a pronounced theoretical component.  I do not typically do theory for the sake of theory because I often find that it obscures more than it illuminates.  However, I found the concept of “rhetorical situation” to be particularly relevant in this case.  I hope after wading through the theoretical section of the paper and coming to understand the terms that readers will feel the same way.

Here is the introduction to the paper:

On 5 May 2007, in a videotaped message, the President of the United States addressed a group of active and retired U.S. military men and women, along with a number of family members, spouses, and friends of military men and women, thanking them for their unique contributions in the war on terrorism. The men and women that he addressed were the attendees of the second annual Milblog Conference, held in Arlington, Virginia, just minutes from the nation’s capitol. Their unique contribution to the war on terrorism stemmed from their activities in cyberspace, namely, their activities as military bloggers, or “milbloggers,” as they have come to be known. President Bush was not alone in his praise of milbloggers. One conference participant read an email sent to him by General David Petraeus, commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq, praising the activity of milbloggers. Several Senators, including Democratic Senator and outspoken war critic Ted Kennedy also sent letters of support. To many, their words appeared to be the latest salvo in an ongoing struggle between the Army and milbloggers over the publication in April of revised Army OPSEC (Operations Security) regulations which, in part, seemed to more strictly limit the ability of soldiers to blog, send emails, or post to public forums on the Internet.

This paper will draw from the literature on the notion of “rhetorical situation” to examine milblogger justifications of their online activities in the face of the new Army regulations in particular, as well as recent DoD attempts to limit access to online social networking sites more generally. In so doing, it will place milblogging within a broader historical and intellectual context by examining the ways that milblogger articulations of the value of milblogging have reflected larger patterns of thought within the U.S. defense establishment regarding the meaning of the Information Age and new media technologies for military affairs. It will demonstrate that as the two “sides” in the controversy have worked through this uncharted territory, milbloggers have responded by deploying a rhetoric of information warfare that is well-known within the military. Such rhetoric, viewed through the lens of rhetorical situation, yields valuable insights into milblogger motivations. It also provides an on-the-ground view of the uneven and often contested manner in which the U.S. military has understood the meaning of the Information Age and new media technologies for military affairs. Finally, an examination of this particular controversy demonstrates the continuing usefulness of the notion of rhetorical situation, providing justification for attempts at a postmodern re-construction/re-interpretation of the concept

The rest of the paper can be found HERE.

Of course, comments and (constructive) criticisms are welcomed and greatly appreciated.

UPDATE: If you don’t want to download the file, you can view it right here by using the SlideShare viewer.

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