Defense Date

2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Educational Studies

First Advisor

Michael Davis

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to observe weblogs in their natural setting and to investigate the nature of collective learning within the debt blogging community. How individuals who blog their experiences with getting out of debt use their weblogs as well as the role of the commenter in the debt blogging process were also researched. Four distinct literature pools were used to frame this study including the theory of social constructivism, the context of communities of practice, the problem of consumer debt, and the medium of blogging. Utilizing observational netnography, six weblogs were researched which were comprised of individuals or couples trying to get out of debt or who have recently achieved that goal. The primary data included weblog entries and comments from the inception of the weblog to the date of the IRB approval. In addition, “About Me” pages, blogrolls, personal widgets, hypertext links, static text, and the visual context of the weblogs were also included as part of the data. The findings are as follows: First, the analysis of the data revealed six main themes in regard to the nature of collective learning within the debt blogging community. These weblogs (1) distinguish levels of participation, (2) unify and commit participants, (3) remove barriers, (4) contribute to personal growth, (5) allow for personal navigation, and (6) inspire/help others. Many of these themes are founded in the communities of practice literature, but were expanded in this study to illustrate understanding in the context of a weblog as a virtual community of practice. Second, research findings indicate the main uses of debt blogs were to (1) document financial life, (2) articulate opinions, (3) reach out, (4) express self, (5) build communities, and (6) promote accountability. Each of these findings with the exception of promoting accountability has been found in the literature. Accountability has two distinct components – internal and external. The debt bloggers feel obligated to post due to their own internal sense of responsibility as well as external obligation to post due to their duty to the community. This may be unique to debt bloggers or to those who blog about a specific problem. Finally, the analysis of the data provided seven distinct roles of the commenter: (1) supporter, (2) challenger, (3) confirmer/mirror, (4) admirer, (5) seeker of information/advice, (6) provider of information/advice, and (7) connector of community. The research findings revealed insights to the complex interaction of bloggers and commenters and the technical difficulty with capturing the dynamic nature of weblogs.

Rights

© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2009

Included in

Education Commons

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