Filipino Bloggers and the Contingent Construction of Filipino Identity on Blogs
Filipino Bloggers and the Complexity of Filipino Identity Online
I start off with an anecdote about the negotiation of Filipino identity on blogs. After introducing myself and my project on a community blog devoted to Filipinos called flip_united, one person left a comment on my research blog expressing their support for my project saying, “About time attention shifts back to us, the forgotten Latinasians.” Then I do a little bit of unpacking of the anecdote. First, the term Latinasian explicitly identifies Filipinos as having what might be called a hybrid ethnic identity, that of Latin and Asian. Second, it seems to me that such a comment was probably made by a second generation Filipino outside the Philippines because self-identification as Asian and Latin is more likely by racialized Filipinos for various historical and political reasons I will outline.
From that I will move on to a description of my project, its thesis, and a little bit about its theoretical grounding, plus some stuff on background (what blogs are, what the Filipino diaspora is, and so on). I will mention Stuart Hall’s thinking on identity and identification. I will summarize some of Hall’s theorization of the construction of identity through difference and explain why it is useful in the context of Filipino bloggers. Because of the multiple groups of Filipino bloggers I identify from my data, I take the position that there exists no single Filipino identity, but merely different identifications as Filipino that are related to each other to various degrees. I will describe the different articulations of Filipino identity on blogs and will outline the contingent factors behind the process of a blogger identifying as Filipino on his or her blog.
From there I move on to describe my methodology. How I identified Filipino bloggers, how I selected them, what programs I used in my research, the interviews I ran – essentially my whole research process. Entirely descriptive.
Background to the Philippines (these heading titles are also provisional, they’re just descriptive placeholders now)
Here I thought I would do an expanded explanation of the background of my project: a very short history of the Philippines, including a discussion of migration, and the linguistic environment in the Philippines.
Background to Blogs
From there I do a potted history of blogs, the history of the term, how the technology is used today, some previous research on the subject, and so on.
Here I present the data I’ve collected, primarily just the surface stuff. Essentially, this section will be a road map for the detailed explorations of my data I will conduct in proceeding sections. In this section I will mostly discuss the previously existing blog typology I’ve modified from Herring and the types of bloggers I’ve identified: Cosmopolitans, the Philippine Elite, Im/migrants, Second Generation Filipinos, and Younger Filipinos. I will also emphasize the provisional nature of these categories and the fact that they are not absolute.
I describe how exactly each type of Filipino blogger fits into my classification scheme and what is unique about each, such as their gender breakdown, the languages they use, their geographical locations, and the types of blogs each category uses. I also describe the linking behaviour of these bloggers.
From there I discuss the recurring themes I’ve found from the blogs: Nostalgia, Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism, Ethnic Identification, Multiculturalism, Philippine Politics, and Localness. I would also describe which themes are more likely to be discussed by which kind of Filipino blogger. I go on to discuss the data I’ve collected from my interviews, the themes from which essentially mirror what I’ve already established for the content of the blogs themselves.
I go on to describe how there is no single Filipino blogging community, but instead the multiple ones that I’ve described, though they are only the major categories.
Here I again discuss the central concept I deploy in my analysis, which is Stuart Hall’s theorization of identity and identification, focusing especially on identification as process. I also use his ideas on identity arising from difference. While the Introduction will have brought these ideas to the reader’s attention, this part will discuss these concepts more thoroughly and give a deeper explanation of why I find Hall’s ideas useful in the context of my research. Primarily it is because focusing on identification instead of identity accounts for the different groups of Filipinos I have identified
From here I go on to describe the elements that go into the specific form of Filipino identification on blogs, focusing on three main questions.
Why is Filipino identity expressed on blogs?
I show how it is that identifying oneself as Filipino should seem natural in the context of blogging. I address some issues which Lisa Nakamura and others have, such as the idea that offline identity – despite the rhetoric of bodily transcendence online – is still important online. I go on to describe the performance of specific identities online and the specific impression or image of themselves Filipino bloggers want to foster within their audience.
Here I discuss how the Philippine state has been trying to inculcate a sense of nationhood among its citizens, and more recently among Filipinos outside the Philippines. “Filipino” becomes internalized as a natural identification for people from the Philippines. Philippine Nationalism is a recurring theme among Filipino bloggers, and tied up with that are the themes of Philippine Politics, Nostalgia, and Ethnic Identification. Non-Filipinos are the Other or the constitutive outside against which Filipino national identity is defined.
The unmarked nature of whiteness within the US and other white majority countries, where most overseas Filipinos have migrated, causes the construction of Filipinos as always Other, in a reverse process of how Filipino national identity is created. I discuss this in regards to both first and the second generation Filipinos. I also go on to explain exactly why there are so many Filipinos being racialized in the first place (i.e., I describe the Filipino diaspora). Here I also include specific examples from my interviews, where bloggers who barely mention being Filipino on their blogs (and thus perhaps don’t identify as Filipino too strongly) still have stories about the realization of their otherness and are quite articulate about being Filipino. It is because of racialization that the theme of Ethnic Identification is discussed so much by Second Generation Filipinos and Younger Filipinos, as well as by Im/migrants. Tellingly, such discussions of race and ethnicity are largely absent among Philippine bloggers, who express Filipino identity as more closely tied up with the nation-state and national pride (Nationalism) rather than with some kind of broad ethnic identification. The ideology of multiculturalism, which attempts to incorporate ethnic and racial Others within the nation-state, also contributes to the expression of ethnic Filipino identity among migrant Filipinos and their descendants, thus tying into the discussion of the theme of Multiculturalism among Filipino bloggers, mostly female Im/migrants married to non-Filipino whites.
Technological factors in expression of identity
This arises from the commercialization of the Internet and the need of bloghosting companies to know the demographics of their user base (from danah boyd). However, there is also the existing convention of a/s/l, or age/sex/location, a common query online.
How is Filipino identity expressed on blogs?
The specific way in which Filipino identity is expressed also depends on the ways bloghosting companies design their services. These companies make it deliberately hard to link to each other’s blogs and to carry on the kind of extended conversation spread out over multiple blogs that helps in creating a sense of community. Here I’ll include a specific example of this kind of conversation, perhaps the way different Filipino American bloggers have reacted to the Bebot music video made by a Filipino American hip hop star and how their discussion has built on each others’ commentary, culminating in a group letter to the Filipino American creators behind the music video laying out their issues with the music video (for instance, the sexism and the historical anachronisms in the content of the video).
Because this kind of extended conversation is not as easy as it could be (bloghosting companies want to engender brand loyalty), individual communities of Filipino bloggers form on each bloghosting service but completely unconnected to Filipino blogging communities on other services. While Second Generation and Younger Filipinos tend not to link to each other and read each others’ blogs, they do so within specific bloghosting services (give examples from Xanga, Myspace, etc).
I think this should have its own subsection. I describe the ways in which Filipino bloggers codeswitch and some explanations for this behaviour, including the construction of solidarity and for reasons of nationalism and identity politics (ethnic activism? ethnic identification?). There is also the issue of the linguistic resources available to different Filipino bloggers, especially to the Second Generation, whose parents may have actively avoided using anything but English to speak to their children (in the case of Filipino Americans).
Why is there no single Filipino blogging community?
First I describe the numerous ethnolinguistic communities in the Philippines. Second, I describe Rick Bonus’ ethnography of Filipino American communities in Southern California, where he describes the numerous associations. Third, I return to the technological constraints behind the construction of a single Filipino blogging community.
I also discuss the linguistic factors behind the absence of a centre in Filipino blogging. The Internet, as a set of technologies created primarily by Americans, initially had its default language set as English. Thanks to the Philippines’ colonial history, many Filipinos are fluent in English. When English-speaking Filipinos encountered the English-dominated Internet, it was natural that they should use English online. Here I go on to discuss the specific position of English within the linguistic environment of the Philippines, including its signification of privilege. If identity begins in difference, then one crucial signifier of difference, language, is largely unused by Filipino bloggers except in certain political situations. The result is that Filipino bloggers find themselves drawn into other blogging communities besides Filipino ones, such as fan communities around specific tv shows. English, a common language for both Philippine and Second Generation bloggers, is also the common language of many more non-Filipino bloggers. Thus, any tendencies towards linguistic ghetto-ization online (such as can be found for Persian bloggers, in the case of Alireza Doostdar’s work) becomes diffused for Filipino bloggers. One group of Filipino bloggers, the Cosmopolitans, and two recurring themes, Cosmopolitanism and Localness, seem particularly oriented towards addressing non-Filipino bloggers.
The legacy of colonialism and neo-colonial power relations, as well as media globalization, means that Filipinos in the global periphery are accustomed to comparing themselves to the industrialized core (specifically the US) and to addressing themselves to that audience. Media globalization also means that online communities can form internationally around different popular media that is distributed around the world, thus making it more likely for Filipino fans to speak directly to those international online communities rather than to local audiences or to audiences of merely Filipinos.
I also discuss the matter of different political goals. The fixation of Philippine bloggers and Im/migrants on Philippine politics and the corresponding disinterest displayed by the Second Generation shows the fundamental political differences between the different groups (include example of discussion of race by Second Generation and non-participation by Philippine bloggers). While Philippine bloggers and the Second Generation may both be fluent in English, both wish to speak to different political audiences online. Second Generation bloggers often are also participants in the construction of an overarching “Asian” identity and wish solidarity with other Asians (here I bring up examples of Second Generation bloggers explicitly marking out their Asian-ness, such as having usernames like “aznboi”). Philippine bloggers, with their frequent displays of Filipino nationalism, often just end up speaking to each other. Their political goals online tend to be towards building up the Philippines, while Second Generation bloggers want to build up their position within their own countries.
The Contingency of Identity
Therefore, contingency. The expression of Filipino identity on blogs is contingent on these different factors. I will expand this more, but after this is my Conclusion, where I will essentially restate what I said in the Introduction. Either that, or I will make this section itself my Conclusion.