Thesis defence. Adolfo Estalella: Assemblages of hope

Assemblages of hope. An anthropological analysis of passionate blogging.
Adolfo Estalella

In 2006 takes place the first Evento Blog in Seville, Spain, to debate about the practice of blogging and its impacts in society, especially in changing the world by now having a voice of one’s own, independent from parties and media.

This research aims at providing an answer to questions like what expectations do authors put on their blogs, what are the relationships between their expectations and their hopes, or what are those hopes? And all this in a context of post-modernism, pessimist about a future with no hope.

But some authors do point at the fact that most people have hopes about their lives, about the future, about their endeavours. And hope and expectations are powerful drivers of change or, at least, of action.

In the dynamics between facts and expectations, bloggers link the later to the former, and base their expectations on making facts happen.

They see hope as an assemblage (in the sense of Deleuze). Hope is a self-orientation towards the future.

And the framework is the actor-network theory.

The target of the analysis are 18 passionate bloggers that usually post daily, performing a reflexive practice on their daily lives and blogging itself. They attend events as a commitment in building a ‘blogosphere’.

Most bloggers have a twofold close relationship with their blogs. On the one hand, a technology-biased one, with a passion (love?) for the tool they are using to speak out; on the other hand, a future-biased one, that makes them reflect about the responsibility of blogging, of reaching out, of being paving a path towards change, social change. Bloggers are convinced that they can change society by blogging, they can change the future. But it is not a remote future, designed by others, but a real one, designed in the closest environment.

This relationship is deeply determined by the sense of timeliness of blogs, where the more recent, the fresher news and content are on top, are the most visible.

This sense of always up-to-date is reinforced by the feedback that website analytics provide. The author is fully aware, in real-time, of the impact of their posts, whether they are read and how much, whether they are commented, how many time do readers spend on the site, etc.

Bloggers are, thus, informed people, that deeply know their environment, their social context, and build their discourses and hopes around it. If they have hope is not becauses they are uninformed utopians, but just the contrary: they know where they live, they are savvy about the potential of technology and they put their hopes on it. And it’s constantly depicting the society they live in that positively feedbacks their knowledge about it.

What is not true is that the blogosphere is an open, horizontal, flat space. Bloggers differ amongst themselves and the A-list has a clear profile: highly educated, male, on their thirties, with liberal jobs. Only those who have the appropriate possibilities can actually reflect thoroughly when they post periodically. The A-list of bloggers is indeed an A-list of people too.

Discussion

Some questions from the committee:

  • Francesc Núñez Mosteo: isn’t it blogging a sort of self-fulfilled expectations?
  • Francesc Núñez Mosteo: is it possible to describe the blogggers’ practices without a critique to their intentions?
  • Anna Trias: why is not there a deeper reflection on the anthropology of emotions? Why not exploring other sociological imaginations?
  • Anna Trias: what do bloggers do to overcome hoplessness?
  • Francisco J. Tirado: why not analyzing more thoroughly the blogger-related events?
  • Francisco J. Tirado: why not analyzing in more detail the extreme self-referencing of blogging?
  • Francisco J. Tirado: is it possible to analyze blogs without analyzing the blogosphere (or the contrary)?

Some comments to the questions:

Some bloggers have become so relevant in their blogging practice that they have ended up being spokesman of or to traditional collectives (e.g. political parties). Thus, sure a critique on their aspirations would definitely had been in place.

There are indeed two different blogospheres: a vertical one, hierarchical and that replicates the hierarchies of society; and a horizontal one, plural, of anonymous individuals. And in these two blogospheres surely hope has very different roles and achievements.

There is a difficult trade-off between ethnography and analysis, and reaching the appropriate equilibrium is complicated. And actually a matter of debate within the discipline of anthropology.

Though it is true that some expectations can be self-fulfilled, it is also true that bloggers’ expectations are adapted on the run as the future becomes present. Thus, it is not the (future) reality that is fulfilled because of expectations, but also that expectations are altered because of the reality.

Verdict

Excellent cum laude.

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2011) “Thesis defence. Adolfo Estalella: Assemblages of hope” In ICTlogy, #92, May 2011. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=3752

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