As you may know, I’m all about producing a dissertation that is primarily a scholarly personal narrative (SPN). This approach tells the story of the South Dakota blogosphere the way we bloggers tell our stories: mingling personal experience and insight with conversation, statistics, and external sources.

I have extensive experience with blogging in South Dakota. I have participated in the South Dakota blogosphere as a blogger, commenter, and reader for over four years. I have organized two social events for South Dakota bloggers. KELO has included my content on its community blogroll, and South Dakota Public Broadcasting has twice interviewed me for insight on blogging and online citizen journalism in South Dakota. I have had lengthy conversations with other bloggers about technical, artistic, and moral aspects of blogging. This experience provides a basis for understanding what his happening among my neighbors and myself as we adopt different technologies and strategies for creating and sharing content.

Practically speaking, SPN relies on a critical examination of the author’s own beliefs, motivations, actions, and experiences. I would thoroughly review my own online content for practices that support social knowledge management. Included in this review would be communications from others that are connected to my blogging: comments and e-mails from readers, citations and criticism in other blogs, and other responses that might demonstrate the discovery, capture, sharing, and possibly application of knowledge.

I would complement this close reading of my content and online experiences with a similar reading of the content of other authors in the South Dakota blogosphere. Critical to this effort is an expansion of scope beyond my own blogging subculture to the other subcultures that exist within the South Dakota blogosphere. Beyond the subset of political blogs with which I generally interact, there are similar networks of blogs centered around religion, arts, bicycling, farming and ranching, and other topics. In all of these networks (and in their intersections), I may be able to find evidence of individuals forging connections with each other and cooperating in social knowledge management.

There are methodological alternatives I can pursue, either as supplements to this dissertation to help inform the overall SPN approach or as separate complementary works for publication in journals that might not want to give SPN room on their pages. For instance:

  1. I could follow up on Herring et al. (2004) by applying their social network analysis to the South Dakota blogosphere to determine the level of interconnected conversation within our geographical subset. Herring et al. themselves find “unexpected clusters” forming topic-based communities: my study takes a look at one such geogrpahical cluster (or is that a cluster of clusters—this is getting very fractal!).
  2. Such social network analysis lends itself to mapping the South Dakota blogosphere in a more quantitative fashion. Perhaps we can identify similar patterns of conversation, linking, and even centrality. It might be interesting to see to what extent an analysis of that sort would support the connections and patterns drawn from a qualitative reading of the blogosphere.
  3. There are plenty of surveys that may be created and distributed among the online community in South Dakota to measure motivations, technology preferences, etc. and test the extent to which users may even be aware of the social knowledge management function of blogging.

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