Enriching the migrant experience: Blogging motivations, privacy and offline lives of Filipino women in Britain
First Monday

Enriching the migrant experience: Blogging motivations, privacy and offline lives of Filipino women in Britain by Abigail Yao



Abstract
This qualitative study explored motivations for blog creation, use and maintenance through interviews with eight Filipino women in Britain and thematic analysis of their blogs. The participants’ blogs served as a medium for expression and emotional connection with an audience, communication which led to interaction through other online channels and face–to–face meetings. Blogging, as a practice leading to enriched experiences and a process in which rationale, uses and content change over time, holds both potential and challenges to adoption for migrants.

Contents

Introduction
The rise of blogs
Uses and gratifications
Privacy
Methodology
Results
Conclusion

 


 

Introduction

In 2006, 1,062,567 workers left the Philippines for 197 territories, with the female–to–male ratio at 60–40 (POEA, 2007b). While Asia and the Middle East have long been primary destinations for Filipino workers, figures show an increase in deployment to Europe and the United Kingdom. In 2006, stock estimates of Filipino workers in the U.K. totaled 165,564 (POEA, 2007a) and Filipinos received the highest numbers of grants of settlement based on the required four or five years of employment (U.K. Home Office, 2007). However, Filipinos remain largely invisible in British society.

This study, part of a dissertation on blogging and migrant identities, was driven by the phenomenal mobility of Filipinos and the continued feminisation of Filipino labour. Understanding that the social situation and environment affect the use of a medium, I wished to validate the observation that the deterritorialized spaces of blogs serve as transnational communication venues for migrant women. This led me to my first research question:

RQ1: What are the rationale and motivations of Filipino women in the U.K. for blogging?

In addition, I wanted to find out about the privacy concerns of bloggers and the impact of blogging on their offline lives. Hence, the second and third research questions:

RQ2: How are the offline and online lives of bloggers connected?
RQ3: How do privacy concerns affect blogging?

 

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The rise of blogs

Blogs first appeared as Web sites or online journals in the mid–1990s (Gurak, et al., 2006). Described as “combination website/bulletin boards/e–mail”, blogs allow users and readers to respond and interact through hyperlinks and comments [1]. The popularity of these Web pages listing data entries in reverse chronological order grew in part through events which became material for blogging: “terrorist acts, war, political campaigns and natural disasters” [2]. As of March 2007, the technology site Technorati tracked 112.8 million blogs daily.

A 2005 U.S. study found 29 percent of online men read a blog versus 25 percent of online women, while 11 percent of online men have a blog versus eight percent of online women (Fallows, 2005). In 2006, 39 percent of American Internet users, or 57 million adults, read blogs (Lenhart and Fox, 2006). More recently, Herring, et al. (2007) found bloggers a young and racially diverse group with an equal distribution of males and females. In Britain, estimates of bloggers range from 12 percent (Dutton and Helsper, 2007) to 15 percent, or nearly four million, of the 26 million Britons online (Johnson, 2007).

Studies suggested personal expression to be the most common type of blogging across all demographic groups (Johnson, 2007; Herring, et al., 2007; Papacharissi, 2007). However, findings from a British survey showed women to be more focused on social aspects and men more focused on information (Pedersen and Macafee, 2007). Women’s blogs were often seen as less important than men’s blogs because of their domestic and personal content (Gregg, 2006).

Blogging as a hybrid practice reflects and constructs “social norms and cultural concepts, such as individual and community, privacy and publicness, experience and memory” (van Dijck, 2004). We can therefore expect technology and culture to shape each other. As Silverstone (1999) suggested, the content and structure of media narratives are inseparable from the narratives of everyday discourses.

Scholars acknowledge the potential of blogs for individuals who traditionally have few avenues for expression. Lenhart and Fox (2006) found 54 percent of U.S. bloggers were never published elsewhere. Blogging enabled African women to actively create and disseminate knowledge, and promote equality and empowerment (Somolu, 2007). In a discourse analysis of Asian–American blogs, Karlsson (2006) found bloggers’ conception of their ancestral homes to be influenced by fellow Asian–American diary bloggers, showing the social dimension of blogs as crucial in constructing identities.

Despite the increase in blogs and blog research, the medium is still in its infancy and remains under–theorised. If, as Slevin [3] declared, the study of interactions online is concerned with “finding ways to develop skills to use technologies such as the Internet to cope in modern conditions”, then studies of blogs should show how technologies are appropriated as much–needed outlets for creativity, expression, connection, and support for migrants, who are themselves the very definition of the modern condition.

 

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Uses and gratifications

Uses and gratifications theory (UG) assumes audiences are active and aware of their motives for using media, and choose among different sources to satisfy their needs (Katz, et al., 1974).

In a study of politically interested users of the Internet, Johnson and Kaye (2003) found gender, age and education to be predictors of online activities, and women to be less likely to construct Web pages. In addition to applying process and content gratifications, Stafford, et al. (2004) described a third dimension specific to the Internet, leading to social gratifications. This pointed to the multiple needs and functions served by the Internet and moved away from the view of media as providing substitute companionship. Instead, online media mediate social ties.

Pioneering blog studies also used UG because of its emphasis on agency. Kaye (2007) and Trammell, et al. (2006) found expression a major motivation for blog writing and blog reading. Kaye (2007) found a wide variety of blog use motivations for blog readers. Consistent with Pedersen and Macafee (2007), a Polish study by Trammell, et al. (2006) discovered female bloggers to be more motivated by social interaction than male bloggers although both genders were primarily motivated by self–expression.

Building on UG to confirm migrant women’s need for expression and to explore how they adopted and appropriated the blog medium to fulfill social gratifications, I examined both blog production and consumption, aware that bloggers are blog readers themselves.

 

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Privacy

As boyd (2006) argued, the line between public and private is blurred in blogs. Researchers have begun to examine the impact of this phenomenon. Pedersen and Macafee (2007) found privacy a major issue for women bloggers. Although bloggers may withhold information, they have reasons for sharing information as well.Miller and Shepherd (2006) discussed the extremes of the public and the personal in blogs, as readers can be voyeurs and bloggers, exhibitionists. In a study by Herring, et al. (2007), most bloggers gave some identifiable information, going against the perception of computer–mediated communication as anonymous.

The concepts of anonymity and self–disclosure, as defined by Qian and Scott (2007), are valuable here. They defined self–disclosure as the “communication of personal information, thoughts, and feelings to other people” [4] and divided anonymity into two: visual anonymity, “the condition where the physical presence of a message source cannot be detected”, and discursive anonymity, “the condition where verbal communication cannot be attributed to a particular source.” [5]

Qian and Scott (2007) found people who gave less identification information on blogs more likely to self–disclose, possibly because the information could make the blog appear in search results. The authors suggested that blogs may be less anonymous than other activities online such as posting to newsgroups and sending e–mail because blog posts are archived and more information about the blogger are accessible.

 

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Methodology

Initially, search engines were used to find blogs of adult females of Filipino birth now living in the U.K., using various keyword combinations marking gender, ethnicity and location. As this did not produce useful results, purposive searches were conducted on the Filipino blog ranking site Ratified.org and the Filipino group blog Pinoyblogosphere.com. This yielded 11 individual personal blogs at least six months old with at least 10 posts each. Two additional blogs were discovered through Filipino contacts in the U.K. The 13 bloggers were contacted via e–mail, comment on a post or blog contact form. Of the ten bloggers who responded, eight agreed to join the study.

Despite the small sample size and limited generalisability of the results, the variety of findings and the patterns that emerged from the responses offer insightful material that explore the range of motivations and depth of concerns.

Two qualitative methods were used to examine the bloggers as both producer and audience: interviews and thematic analysis, recognising that:

  • respondents may not always be aware of or be able to articulate their motivations for blogs;
  • not all uses are explicitly stated on the blogs; and,
  • reported motivations may not be identical to motivations drawn from the content of blog posts.

All interviews were held face–to–face at a time and place convenient to the participants, with the exception of one interview conducted over a series of e–mail exchanges. All interviews were in English, but some participants occasionally switched to Filipino. For the thematic analysis of blog posts, all entries in each blog until a set cut–off date were read and manually categorised according to emerging themes.

 

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Results

Profile

The participants were between the ages of 28 and 44. They lived in capital cities for most of their lives. All but one were were graduates; two were postgraduates. These were consistent with studies reviewed by Brinkerhoff [6], which showed a significant proportion of Filipinos abroad coming from the most educated age group (25 to 44). The participants’ blogs were written primarily in English. I refer to the participants as bloggers A to H (see Table 1).

 

Table 1: Profile of participants.
BloggerABCDEFGH
Age4433363129283828
OccupationComputer developerIT consultantStay–at–home motherSoftware testerPhotographerSystems developerStay–at–home motherStay–at–home mother/Part–time sales assistant
Year of arrival in Britain19942000200520012004199720002001
Year started blogging20042004200620052006200120052001

 

Karlsson (2007) discovered readers of the same blogs to be similar in gender, age, area, ethnicity, and level of education, suggesting readers are drawn to blogs because they can identify with the content. In this study, the commonalities among the participants may be due in part to the method of selection.

The sample was not representative of Filipino women in the U.K., who are mostly in health care. Four of the participants held jobs in information technology, three were stay–at–home mothers who planned to work in the near future, and one was a photographer. At the time the participants created their blogs, three were students and three were working in IT–related positions, consistent with studies showing the majority of bloggers to be students, followed by programmers or computer consultants (Dutton and Helsper, 2007; Herring, et al., 2007; Papacharissi, 2007).

Beginnings

The participants found out about blogs from friends or from online news articles. For three participants, boredom was the main factor in creating the blog: A had little to do after the takeover of the company she worked for, D was not busy in her previous job, and F had a long break at university. B started the blog because she did not want to repeat her stories to people in the Philippines; E used it to help her university tutors in Britain keep up to date with her research while she was in the Philippines. For C, blogging was another way of getting her writing read: “I felt I needed to use my talents or they’d just disappear.”

All had used the Blogger platform at some time, but three transferred to other platforms. As students, H and F learned the markup language HTML, maintained personal Geocities Web sites containing their photographs and writings, and adopted blogs earlier than the other participants. C learned to blog on her own. She saw the interface of Blogger “very easy, very user–friendly”, which D echoed. D typed journal entries using Wordstar in college and started using MS Word to record her thoughts when she got pregnant. This appeared to prepare her for blogging. However, not all the bloggers were confident from the beginning. G considered herself “an Internet nitwit” and e–mailed a respected Filipino blogger for help.

Reasons for blogging and uses for the blog changed over time. B and H used the word “evolved” to describe what happened to their blogs. B saw her blog as her “own little way to change the world”. F and H used their blogs for keeping memories and for writing practice. H read posts she wrote in the Philippines whenever she felt homesick. She also used the blog as a planner, complete with timetables, reminders and checklists.

A and D blogged instead of e–mailing and sending photos to save time, money and effort. In addition to documenting her research, blogging helped E communicate with people and keep track of links and ideas. Later, it turned into a venue for promoting her and other artists’ work.

Blogging provided participants with a therapeutic release, and a way of reflecting on events in their lives. In the blog, they simultaneously performed their migrant identities and released tension and pent–up emotion about people, places and work.

Writing styles and blog topics also evolved over time. Common content (appearing in two or more blogs) included:

  • forwarded e–mail, funny stories, results of online quizzes, and song lyrics;
  • explanations of medical conditions and links to external sources;
  • consumer complaints;
  • greetings for friends;
  • links to obituaries of prominent people or remembrances of friends and relatives who passed away;
  • chronicles of weight loss efforts;
  • creative expression (e.g. poetry, photography);
  • reactions to films, TV shows, news and current events;
  • narratives of Filipino humor, food and music;
  • narratives of leisure, weather and sport in Britain; and,
  • reminiscing about the Philippines, appreciating Britain, and acknowledging differences between the two countries

Half of the participants tried to earn money through advertisements and sponsored posts on the blog, but only two continued these practices. A signed up for Google Ads but removed them after three days because ads for Filipina brides appeared on her blog. D tried to put ads on her blog and earned money from them, but stopped because she did not want to fill her blog with ads. However, she plans to put ads again in the future.

Selectivity and integrity were issues for the bloggers writing sponsored posts. F signed up for sponsored posts out of curiosity when blogs she read started to carry them. She took her time to accept an offer to write a sponsored post because of what she saw in other blogs: “Sometimes you feel that they’re just making it up.” B, who also had Google Ads on her blog, thought having sponsored posts was “a nice way to earn pocket money” but was aware of the debate over advertising on blogs: “A lot of bloggers say that ... you’re compromising your values, your beliefs. I really don’t write about anything that I don’t believe in.” Paying hosting services for the blog and making a profit from it did not appear related, suggesting that investment in the upkeep of the blog was primarily for control over content.

All participants maintained at least one other blog in addition to their personal blog: either an individual blog centred on a particular topic or Filipino group blog. Three of them had both types of blogs. Although these group blogs and topical blogs revolved around cooking and parenting, the wide range of content in the participants’ personal blogs point to their interest in matters outside the home, such as politics, civil society, and travel, challenging perceptions of women bloggers as dwelling on domestic issues. From the number and frequency of posts in these other blogs, it seemed one or more blogs flourished at the expense of another.

All the participants kept diaries or journals at some point in their lives, and three still did at the time of interview. Blogs, like diaries before them, are built on ‘I’ narratives of a historical subject [7], and have some of the functions of a diary, particularly as a venue for autobiographical narratives. The differences lie in the temporal and social characteristics of blogs. Blogs allow editing, feedback and interaction. Two participants occasionally revised and updated their posts.

Reaching out

Responses to the open–ended statement “If I didn’t blog, _______” revolved around the need to express, cope with life overseas, and connect with people. This last theme appeared linked to remarks of participants that opportunities to meet new friends were limited.

A: I would be really, really bored with my free time… The Internet was good [for] connecting with people.

C: I’d e-mail instead. I would need to have an outlet… Even if I don’t publish it to the whole Internet world, I’ll probably publish it for friends, people I know. If I lived on an island where there was no Internet connection and I couldn’t post my blog entries, I would still write. I would get a banana leaf or any leaf and just write on something.

F: I wouldn’t have met amazing people… I’ve known people from blogging that are very inspiring. If I didn’t blog my world wouldn’t open up.

Blogging came at the time when G was “just really desperate” for a social network. For D and G, blogging enabled catharsis, which they could not perform in their situation.

D: I’d be more than depressed… I found it really hard to adjust to the way of life of being overseas and never seeing my family for a long time. There’s just no way my husband can relate to all of my angst… If blogging wasn’t there I’d be typing away in my computer in a dark room and just thinking to myself how sad and lonely I am.

G: I’d have gone completely off the rails. It’s been a salvation and I’m very, very grateful for it in more ways. It has given me so much than I could ever have wished for.

Participants kept in touch with Filipinos in the Philippines more often than Filipinos in Britain through various communications technologies. These included the telephone, instant messaging and social networking sites. Their contact with Filipinos in Britain depended on how many Filipinos lived near them and how active they were in the Filipino community.

The participants turned to blogging to compensate for the lack of regular face–to–face communication with friends, echoing the findings of Bakardjieva and Smith (2001) that isolation made experiences of the Internet significant and Gregg’s (2006) suggestion that blogs help stay–at–home mothers escape solitude and societal pressure. The bloggers maintained that they blogged for themselves, but hinted at being part of a community.

C: I blog for myself. I blog about things that matter for me. I blog about things that I think people might be able to relate to.

D: It’s just really for me. And to save myself e–mailing people whenever I feel the need to. I just write it there as if I’m talking to a friend.

G: The main reason why I blog was just to vent out [the] frustration and homesickness I was feeling. As a way of reaching out, I guess, to all the people who may or may not be in the same boat I was. And just to shout at a void…It’s an excellent way of letting it out of my system.

Participants initially hesitated to tell others about the blog but eventually announced it via e–mail. Reactions of family and friends were mixed. A’s family did not mind her blogging, even when she took photos of their food in restaurants. Some of the participants’ husbands supported their blogging: C’s husband encouraged her to blog and H’s husband blogged for her just before she gave birth. D’s husband prodded her to tell their friends in the Philippines about it, suggested that she buy a domain name, and recommended blog layouts: “He comes down with red eyes. ‘I just read your archive for two hours.’ He knows that it’s my only outlet.”

At first, G did not tell her friends about the blog because she wanted to be true to her feelings. As she thought nobody read her blog, she complained heavily about the place where she lived. When she was interviewed about blogging by a radio program, she e–mailed her and her husband’s contacts, to negative results: “After that, whenever we had to meet up with these people, I found that I had to justify my blog to them and why I had these sentiments about the place where I am.” Her husband was enraged when she told other people about her blog because her posts were extremely personal. G also had an argument with her son, who forbade her from posting his and his younger sister’s photos because he saw it as an invasion of their privacy.

The participants consciously addressed an audience and showed concern for their readers. For instance, G bade her readers goodbye and announced her return before and after her trips, and asked readers for help when her sidebar shifted down. B also apologized for the layout changes when she was just learning HTML.

As some of the traffic to their blogs come from search engines, the participants did not know who all of their readers were. However, they used site counters and had a general idea of their audience.

E declared her interest in “our” culture, presumably to a Filipino audience. G believed her audience were migrant Filipinos; A assumed her readers were Filipinos searching for Filipino things; D thought her readers were Filipinos and wrote with “Filipinos wondering how an OFW lives in London” in mind. H asked readers about for an inexpensive resort in Boracay island in the Philippines and for help in teaching her son the Filipino language.

However, the participants often added English translations in posts with Filipino statements. B said her readers were probably Filipinos living abroad and British locals because some Filipinos in the Philippines would find her blog snobbish: “They won’t understand. Living in Europe is totally different from living back home.”

The participants appreciated the attention they received from readers and posted messages of thanks when they reached milestones such as blog anniversaries. D said she did not care how many readers she had, but it mattered to her that readers visited and left comments. Comments also motivated C to blog more because they proved people read her blog. The outpouring of support G got from her readers was a source of strength: “I think that’s what made me carry on doing it. I was, in a way, inspiring people with my plight. And I was getting the sympathy I was looking for.”

Widgets, small third–party applications, allowed for more interaction between the blogger and her readers. Half of the participants had Flickr badges on the sidebar, displaying photos they uploaded on the photo–sharing Web site. A few also had tagboards where readers could leave messages, and badges showing their affiliations in blogrings or blog directories.

Reciprocating attention

Commenting habits differed among participants. D avoided commenting because she feared others bloggers might think she was “fishing for traffic”. She left comments only when she felt strongly or could relate to the post. Whereas C commented only when she knew the blogger and what the blogger wrote struck a chord, G commented as often as she visited other blogs.

Personal fulfillment and affiliation with bloggers tend to be the main reasons for reading other blogs. Also mentioned were blog characteristics, information seeking, intellectual/aesthetic fulfillment, anti–traditionalist media and guidance/opinion seeking. Reasons from Kaye’s (2007) survey not referred to by participants were convenience, political surveillance and fact checking.

Eventual linking and commenting led the participants to other blogs. “It’s an organic progress, isn’t it?” remarked G. Among the participants, a pattern emerged: frenzied bloghopping (visiting one blog after another) followed by a slowing down and limiting of their regularly visited blogs to a select few.

Half of the participants intentionally sought out other Filipino bloggers through links and comments. G noticed that when she would comment on other blogs, Filipino bloggers would comment back more often than non–Filipino bloggers: “You’ve got more common ground. You share the same kind of humor.”

Gradually, the participants began promoting and supporting other bloggers, forming an informal community. E got an award from a Filipino blogger; G was linked to and written about twice by a popular Filipino blogger, which made her hit count soar. The participants got reviews of their blog, were interviewed by other bloggers, and sent tags — a series of questions they had to answer and ask other bloggers in turn.

Making friends through blogs, the participants insisted, is possible. Like offline friendships, friendships through blogs get better with time. A felt she came to know bloggers personally because of what they posted: “[It’s] just like being in their living room.” D had not met the Filipina based in Germany who hosted her blog but trusted her because of her blog posts and comments.

B enjoyed seeing people transform online: “I’ve seen people who were so bitchy or bitter or sobrang (extremely) harsh sa (to the) world and then over the years you see them mellow down.” F felt a connection with strangers who blogged: “Although…I know for a fact that what [a] blog contains is only a fraction of what the real person is, if someone’s very transparent and very emotional… you… empathise.” Long–time blog friends were concerned when B and F did not post for months.

A and D read Philippine news in the same two blogs. News from blogs, insisted D, is “not tainted by journalists or broadcasters being paid by a certain politician.” She stopped reading the online edition of the leading Philippine broadsheet, except for a popular column. B saw blogging as more reliable than mainstream journalism because of its immediacy.

To an extent, the posts reflected bloggers’ solidarity and influence on each other. For example, B and C became involved in separate blog campaigns where they had to blog about a particular topic on a certain day. F took up bikram yoga after a blogger recommended it; H made an appeal for tsunami victims and personally made a donation. Both posted about the same case of blog plagiarism to shame the plagiarist.

Half of the participants reported non-bloggers to be uninterested in blogs and thus, rarely discussed blogging with them. Yet the participants inspired bloggers and non–bloggers alike. C said her husband’s friend who already had a blog became inspired by her blog. Readers from the United States who wanted to start blogging, mostly of Filipino origin, contacted A and G for blogging advice. All the participants reported directly or indirectly influencing friends, family members and co–workers to blog, most of whom stopped blogging for various reasons.

Online and offline lives

Blogging quickly became a habit for the participants, and a few published several posts a day when their blogs were new. A said she used to be “fanatical” and blogged or read blogs until midnight. F made quick drafts at work when she remembered something interesting, then published them later. Other participants, including C and D, also saved drafts they returned to at a more convenient time, such as when their kids were asleep. Wanting to blog about new and interesting things became second nature to them. “It’s strange how it changed my thought process,” remarked B.

The time it took the participants to write a post varied greatly, from a minimum of two minutes to a maximum of three hours, depending on their state of mind, passion for the topic, and offline activities.

Participants’ posts became less frequent and gaps of weeks or months appeared in between posts. F did not blog at all whenever she was in the beginning of a relationship; A blogged less when she applied for jobs. The participants acknowledged this trend, citing that they were lazy, busy or lost their momentum after a holiday.

Blogging not only changed the participants’ habits, it also enriched their relationships. All the participants except C met bloggers in person. A met non–Filipino bloggers through the London food blogger meetings and kept in touch with another Filipina blogger in the U.K., even visiting the blogger’s sister. Two participants met each other. F revealed she was supposed to meet two other participants separately, but the meetings did not push through. D said she was not tempted to meet anyone she encountered online, but met a blogger she found through a Filipino food blog.

Among the participants, G had the most offline contact with bloggers. She met bloggers several times in the U.K. and in the Philippines, spent a weekend in Amsterdam with bloggers, and met an American blogger who became her “personal shopper–cum–tour guide” in Marrakesh. G also interacted with bloggers online via Skype and Facebook, where they would send each other virtual flowers or drinks.

Kennedy (2006) argued online identities to often be continuations of offline selves. However, online identities may be constructed to withhold or amplify certain aspects of the blogger’s offline identity. I asked the participants if they felt a disconnect between the blogger they expected to meet and the blogger they met, whether their idea of the blogger was consistent with how the blogger was in person.

In some cases, the bloggers sounded the same as their writing. B thought bloggers were similar to how they were on the blog and found it easier to break the ice. Other participants reported a difference between their expectations and reality. A found some bloggers as talkative as they were in their blogs, but like her, some were more expressive in blogs and less articulate in person. She was aware that her blog persona was a means for her to get out of her comfort zone. F also felt that she had an online persona in the blog, though she did not hide under a pseudonym. She was surprised that she got along with another blogger when they met, even though she thought they would not get along. The opposite happened to G: “Sometimes you have these high expectations and then you meet and you realize, she’s not the person I thought she is.” E compared the experience to having an idea of the person before meeting for the first time.

Privacy

With the exception of private blogs or locked posts, blogs are accessible to anyone at any time. The participants’ posts showed the privacy concerns of the bloggers. In a post, D wrote that the nature of her blog is “very personal”; H once wrote that something “too sensitive to be blogged about” happened, asking friends to e–mail her instead. F thought of changing the spelling of her nickname so Google searches would not lead to her blog. G once had an unfortunate encounter with a woman from a prominent Filipino family and refused to mention the woman’s name fearing her blog would come up in searches.

The participants used nicknames or initials for certain people they referred to in their blog. The decision not to name people appeared dependent on their relationship with the person. Co–workers, as well as some family members, were usually not identified by their real names. In the interview, D admitted she was afraid her blog would be discovered in her workplace, so she used a different name and did not reveal the names of other people, identify her workplace or post photos of others. B practiced self–censorship by refraining from mentioning names and by using password protection for some posts to control who could read them. She once hid from an anonymous commenter after being “bombarded with nasty comments” and was disturbed that I found her e–mail address even though it was not on the blog.

C was likewise concerned for her family’s privacy and feared that anyone could find her, find out her habits or tell what time their house is empty just by reading her blog. Another reason why she posted less and migrated her Blogger entries to Multiply where she had more control over her readers was because she received a comment from a former stalker:

“It freaks me out to know that he reads my blog... You want to be found, you want people to read, you want people to know you, you want to reach out. But there are certain people you don't want to be found by... If I blog, I don't want to be so guarded. The point of having a blog is to express yourself, not to censor yourself. Nahihirapan ako (I'm having a hard time) the way it is right now. Hopefully when I get that sorted out, I see myself really blogging more often long-term.”

G toned down the personal angle of her posts after the radio interview incident, but gave out her last name on the blog when she was tagged by a blogger. She reasoned out that she had met many of her regular commenters anyway and that being identified will help the business she and her husband were setting up in the Philippines. She saw the blogger she visited in Marrakesh as her example: “Everybody knows her name…I look at her and I figured there’s no harm in people knowing you if you want to be known for the right reasons.”

Anonymity and self–disclosure come in varying degrees. However, because of the small sample size, I simplified by grouping the participants’ blogs into two according to self–disclosure, based on the presence of sensitive or potentially offensive information and their frequency. Basic personal information given on the participants’ blogs are charted in the first to fifth rows of Table 2.

 

Table 2: Anonymity and self–disclosure.
BloggerABCDEFGH
Blog usernameUses blogging nicknameUses real nickname and blog nicknamesUses real nameUses blogging nicknameUses blogging nicknameUses real nicknameUses real nicknameUses real nickname
Reveals full nameNoNoYes, in profile sectionNoYes, on profile pageNoYes, in blog postYes, in blog post
Profile section contentsBlog nickname Occupation, e–mail Real nameDescriptions of self Location, name
Profile page contentsInterests, favourites, location, occupation, ethnicityOccupation, ethnicity, location, links to Web articlesInterests, LocationLocation, ethnicityInterests, favourites, location, occupationInstant messaging contact detailLocationInterests, favourites, location, occupation
Contact details givenE–mail, on main page E–mail, in profile section E–mail and instant messaging, on profile pageE–mail, on main pageE–mail, on profile pageE–mail and instant messaging, on main page
Profile photoNon–self Self, not identifiable Self, not identifiableSelf, identifiableSelf, identifiableSelf, not identifiable
Posts photos of selfYes, not identifiableNoNoYes, identifiableYes, not identifiableYes, identifiableYes, identifiableYes, identifiable
Reveals sensitive/potentially offensive informationNoYesNoYesNoYesYesYes

 

The last row in the table divides the participants according to whether or not they revealed sensitive or potentially offensive information, including but not limited to the following:

  • writing about their relationships;
  • openness about sexuality;
  • hints of recreational drug use;
  • use of strong language; and,
  • complaints about relatives.

Participants who posted identifiable photos of themselves tend to reveal more, in contrast to Qian and Scott’s (2007) findings that visual anonymity was not related to the amount of self-disclosure. However, it was harder to link discursive anonymity to self–dislosure as the identifiable information listed in the first five rows above did not appear to be associated with self–disclosure.

 

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Conclusion

“It’s given me so much. I don‚t see any point in putting an end to that.”
—G, on blogging.

This study explored migrant women’s motivations and rationale for blogging, and online and offline lives through qualitative interview and thematic analysis of blogs. Blogging served several functions for the participants. Being uprooted from their social network in the Philippines and their lack of a similar network of friends and relatives in the U.K. drove the participants to look for alternative venues for expression, interaction and support. The participants used their posts not only as autobiographical narratives but also as a means of releasing tensions in the home and the workplace. Blogging also served as a medium for creative expression and writing practice, and as tools for recording and storing memories and reminders.

Blogs provided a venue for sharing experiences about the host country and nostalgia for the homeland with fellow Filipinos, especially Filipino women in the U.K. and elsewhere. Through reading posts, commenting and linking, participants found new friends, kept in touch with previous acquaintances, and built relationships and trust over time. Participants sustained friendships through other communication technologies and often met readers and other bloggers face–to–face, highlighting the blurred boundaries between offline and online relationships. Blog reading habits of the participants confirmed findings of a previous study (Trammell, et al., 2006), suggesting that blogging addresses the gendered need for emotional connection more than the need for information.

The possibility of earning through blogging was attractive to some participants but not a strong motivation for blogging. Differences exist between motivations for blogging and motivations for reading blogs, both of which can change over time.

Challenges to adoption

Despite the benefits of blogs for migrants, three challenges to their adoption are clear: literacy and limits to access, privacy concerns, and the drive to maintain a blog.

First, Internet access, literacy and familiarity with the Web are essential conditions for blogging. Although blogs are relatively easy to construct — you do not need to know programming languages to create one — would–be bloggers need to learn how to blog. This goes for those in the IT sector as well, as not all of them are Web programmers.

Second, while blogs are useful and meaningful communicative spaces for migrant women, the tensions between public performance and privacy draw limits to self–expression. Fear of the loss of privacy because of the public nature of blogs was a legitimate concern. To an extent, the participants were aware of their audience and knew the possible consequences of having publicly accessible information on the Internet. The participants consciously took steps to safeguard their anonymity to a degree that still allowed them to be comfortable enough to self–disclose personal and sometimes sensitive information.

Third, the drive to continually update the blog presents a great challenge. The willpower and effort needed to post, regularly or not, can keep potential bloggers from starting a blog. Blogging is not for everyone — most of the people the participants influenced to start blogging have stopped blogging. Although non–diarists can also be bloggers, diary writing appeared to be good training for blogging. Moreover, blogging habits change over time: exciting in the beginning, but time–consuming in the long run. Perhaps the participants did abandon their blogs partly because of their commitment to their readers.

Future research could look into the reception of migrant blogs, the interaction between bloggers and readers, and the contribution of the Internet in the creation of transnational networks facilitating knowledge and skills transfer. Blog studies should also investigate blog advertising as a source of income, and address the relation between anonymity and self–disclosure, which calls for a reconceptualisation or a operationalisation of anonymity. End of article

 

About the author

Abigail Yao earned her degree in Communication, cum laude, at the Ateneo de Manila University (Philippines). She completed her European MA in Media, Culture and Communication at the Institute of Education, University of London (U.K.) and Roskilde Universitetscenter (Denmark) under the Erasmus Mundus programme.
E–mail: abigail [at] ruc [dot] dk

 

Notes

1. Kaye, 2007, pp. 129–130.

2. Herring, et al., 2007, p. 3.

3. Slevin, 2000, p. 117.

4. Qian and Scott, 2007, p. 1431.

5. Qian and Scott, 2007, p. 1430.

6. Brinkerhoff, 2006, p. 132.

7. Reed, 2005, p. 227.

 

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Editorial history

Paper received 14 April 2008; accepted 14 February 2009.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution–Noncommercial–No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Enriching the migrant experience: Blogging motivations, privacy and offline lives of Filipino women in Britain
by Abigail Yao
First Monday, Volume 14, Number 3 - 2 March 2009
http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2163/2100





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