On military blogs and social media.

What is the impact of social media? Do military blogs shape how we view our military and current conflicts we are engaged in? Does it affect the way we communicate? How about the way we write?

I haven’t the faintest idea. But I know someone who is trying to find out. Patrick contacted me recently with some questions about military blogging and my thoughts on my writing. He also contacted about 70 other military bloggers and has only received about 10 replies. This weak response was unsatisfactory to America’s 1stSgt so I asked Patrick to put something together I could use to post today.

From what I can tell Patrick is researching something no one has seriously looked into before. I’ll let him explain:

My name is Patrick Thomas, and I am a doctoral student in the Department of English at Kent State University. Currently, I’m conducting research for my dissertation on the role of blogs as alternative sources of information about the War on Terror, and more specifically, the writing that soldiers do through blogs-the ways in which soldiers use blogs, their motivations for writing on blogs, and how blogs have changed the nature and function of military communications.

I believe this study is important for two reasons. First, the popularity of social media (like blogs or social networking sites) has allowed for new kinds of writing to emerge at such a rapid rate that many people are still trying to figure out how this writing affects people’s day-to-day lives-at work, at home, in communities, in schools, in corporate culture, etc. Why are blogs important? What motivates people to write them? Second, the sheer number and volume of military blogs suggests to me that the writing that soldiers do through blogs is an important thing for researchers to study. To date, there is no empirical research that examines military blogs or the functions of this kind of writing in the day-to-day lives and work of soldiers. To this end, I aim to use data from this study of milbloggers to argue that the kinds of writing soldiers do on blogs is important for other academic researchers to know about.

As part of my dissertation research, I am conducting email interviews of military bloggers about their blogging practices-how and why they blog, and their perceptions of their blogs’ readership. Therefore, I am searching for soldiers who are currently deployed and who operate and regularly maintain their own blogs to participate in an email interview within the next few weeks. Participating in this research requires soldiers to write responses to a questionnaire consisting of 19 open-ended questions about their blogging practices and to allow me access to their blog so that I can read their previously published posts. Of course, confidentiality will be maintained to the limits of the law, and all identifying or biographical information about soldiers will be kept confidential through the use of pseudonyms.

While I cannot compensate soldiers for their participation in this study, I can assure anyone interested in participating in this study that the information soldiers provide will contribute greatly to researchers’ growing understanding about how and why soldiers write and the implications of social media on communication practices in the military.

Should anyone be willing to participate or would like to know more about this study, please contact me via email at pthomas4@kent.edu, or by phone at (330)672-1760. If possible, I would like to complete these interviews by Monday, February 22, 2010.

A special thank you to 1st Sgt. for his help in spreading the word about this project to fellow soldier bloggers. I cannot complete this project without the generosity of bloggers like you.

Many thanks,

Patrick Thomas

Doctoral Candidate & Teaching Fellow

Department of English

Kent State University, Kent, OH


I’ve had friends contact the university and his work is a legitimate study authorized by the University and its Institutional Review Board.

What is tightening my jaws somewhat is the lack of a response from a group of people who claim to be misrepresented by the media at large. Here is someone asking us to talk about what we do and we as a group we have ignored him. If you have received his e-mail and not responded then I declare you weak-sauce.

If you are a military blogger and have not received Patrick’s questionnaire I suggest contacting him if you are interested in participating. I turned mine in over the weekend.

Man up,

America’s 1stSgt

/ / / /

17 comments

  1. I turned mine in too, and received a very nice thank you note in return.

    I thought the questions were engaging, and very well thought out. It’s obvious that he’s been cruising around milblogs for awhile, and his questions were spot-on.

    Well worth your time!

  2. You make a very valid point when you say that if people want to bitch about not being represented by the media, you should take any and every viable opportunity to respond when asked to represent your self.

    I’m Canadian, but I read a few non-Canadian military blogs(US, Danish, UK) in fact, I arrived here from CI Roller Dude’s blog.

    The blogs I’ve read have changes a lot of my perceptions on a number of things, I won’t bore you with the details, but by writing as individuals, about their experiences in active duty, the mil bloggers really ‘bring it all home’ better than anyone else could. They humanize the entire organization, which is a huge, because its so easy to just think in generalities and news head-lines.

    You write very well, I’m sure your response was very informative and interesting to the researchers.

    Sorry to write half a post on my first time commenting here : )

  3. Leading by example is the best way to go. Not that I need to tell you this! I hope some of the folks not participating will take you as a role-model and follow your lead after failing(?) this way. I sure hope they are just late to respond.

    PS: Could you ask for a download-link for his finished dissertation? I´m curious as you can be.

  4. It’s even more impressive that someone from such a strong Leftist Liberal school would do anything remotely positive toward the military. I wish him success. I would like to read his findings, too.

  5. This makes me happy. I wish Patrick all the best.

    I think milblogging is incredibly important, because it’s one of the few ways that American citizens can get the story straight from the source, without a lot of bullshit.

  6. Kanani, it took me a while to knock that thing out. I’m afraid the last few questions I answered when I was very tired and my eyes didn’t want to look at a monitor any more.

    be603, it’s the 21st Century, even I have to get on board.

    Powdergirl, welcome! You may write as much as you like, especially when you flatter me like that. 🙂

    Levant, couldn’t tell you why others are not participating. Keeping in mind there is a war on not all the mil bloggers are currently deployed. I would think a person could at least drop him a note saying you are interested but may not be able to make the deadline. If I put some word out to my Marines and got little to no response there would be consequences.

    Coffey, not sure how leftist the school is but they are interested in his subject and have not banished him from campus. Maybe if he was attending Berkely they would have strung him up for daring to think military folks were human.

    Saker, if you read some of the blogs there is still some of that going around. Like all media you have to sift through it all to find the good stuff.

  7. This seems like such a worthwhile project! In class today we were just discussing how most doctoral work is too specialized and not pertinent to the “real” world but this project sounds really good! Way to put the word out, 1st Sgt!

  8. I agree with everything Powder girl says.

    But I do think that most milblogs have veered into a hybrid where politics is the primary focus.

    And if it’s politics as the main course and military coming in as a close second, then I don’t think that they’re really looking to mix it up very much.

    By the way…. Skip Rohde, an artist who is serving in Iraq answered the questionnaire. You can see his great blog over here: Ramblings of a Painter.

  9. Top,
    I think maybe, sometimes, people just over think stuff. I told many of my College Professors that…
    I just write because I like to do it. If nobody even read my blog, I’d still write it. It’s fun for me.
    But I wonder when folks start using words like: “Media, Social, bla bla” in the same sentence.

  10. Red, not sure how many folks will actually take action just because I posted about it but it was worth a shot.

    Kanani, cool! I figured you knew more people than I did. And the right ones.

    CI Roller, knuckle draggers like you and me have no idea of what kind of impact we make. I think that is the purpose of the study. We just think we’re out here shouting in the wind but maybe we’re not?

  11. A’s-1Sgt

    There is no way that you and many of the others are “blowing in the wind”.
    What you write gives all of us civilians out here an idea of what the military life is like for the individual warrior.

    How much you work in order to maintain your fighting ability.

    How many of you are able to function when the only thing that wants to happen is the “butt pucker” factor .

    How you are able to get past the effects of boredom. And giving us all answers to our dumb question on how we can help get you past the boredoms.

    OR

    The effect of losing a fellow Warrior without going past the deep end. And how much our replies aid in letting you know that you are not alone with that loss.

    What it means to be receiving letters and packages even when they are late because of locations and/or how often mail is delivered.

    We, the civilians depend on you the Military bloggers not only for that type of info but on what is really happening outside of the wire.
    The media is not going to tell us because they are in someone elses pocket.

    YOU AND ALL THOSE MIL-BLOGGERS ARE OUR TRUE SOURCE OF WHAT IS HAPPENING.

    Many of us don’t care if you are a Rhoades[?] Scholar or the worst writer on the planet, what we care about is the person who is doing the writing and what he/she has to say.

    Miss Em
    Austell, Ga.

  12. Kanani, yeah we need more “Dudes” to turn in their homework! What’s up CI Roller?

    And Kanani on something you said earlier, do you think most milbloggers are going political or simply most of the more well known milblogs?

    Miss Em, despite my scholarly shortcomings 😉 I personally want to write stories that entertain as well as inform. When I was writing monthly updates for our the Battalion web site I had to come up with ways to tell families something without really telling them anything (particularly about operations or how it was raining mortars that day). The cool thing about blogging is I can give more details when it comes to telling stories about things that have happened in my past.

  13. Most of the milbloggers I know aren’t currently deployed and the 1 or 2 who are happen to be deep “in the shit” right now and don’t have much internet access – like One Marine’s View. MAJ Pain was one of the first wave of milbloggers. I miss his posts but he just doesn’t have the time or access out in Helmand.

    Anyone know if these bloggers have been contacted?

    http://afghanistanmylasttour.com/

    http://networkedblogs.com/p16604708 (Three Hour Tour) is in Kosovo

    http://afghanquest.com/

    http://memorandumforrecord.wordpress.com/

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