Each Wednesday, I write a post from my dissertation.
It is common for scrapbookers to share their scrapbooks with others at least some of the time. Unlike diaries, scrapbooks can be both public and private at the same time. I consider scrapbooks to be semi-private—more private than public. Though some respondents publish their scrapbook pages or upload them to the internet, most do not share their scrapbooks so publicly.
Even though scrapbook layouts might be shared (or posted online), like the photograph album owner (see Walker and Moulton 1989), the scrapbook owner has some control over who views the album. Moreover, there is often an oral narrative that goes along with the layout and without the presence of the scrapbook maker, that narrative remains unknown.
Scrapbooks, like blogs (Boyd 2006; 2008), straddle the boundaries of what is perceived to be public and private. I argue that scrapbooks are more private than blogs, but in some instances scrapbookers publish their scrapbooks on their blog. Those scrapbooks are more public than non-published scrapbooks because only if the blogger has password protected their blog, can they have complete control over who views it. Scrapbookers on the other hand, have much more control over who views the scrapbook. Ott, Tucker, and Butler (2006:12) also see a similarity between scrapbooks and blogs but note that “many scrapbooks more closely resemble the junk drawer found in kitchens and desks.” In other words, blogs are meant to be understood by others and scrapbooks are not.
Scrapbookers are aware that their scrapbooks are to be shared with others and occasionally strategize to include scrapworthy items privately in their albums. Future researchers who select scrapbooks as a source of analysis should be sure to completely disassemble at least some scrapbooks so that they get a more complete story as some scrapbookers hide things in their scrapbooks. Scrapbookers might hide journaling by sticking it on the back of the page or underneath a photograph. They might include elements on the page that have to be opened in order to be viewed knowing that few people will take the time to open the item or even recognize that the element can be opened. Sometimes this hiding work is done intentionally to hide part of the story. In other cases, this hiding work is done simply to get a more complete story included within certain parameters (i.e., the person runs out of space on their layout so they include the rest of the story on the back of the layout instead of starting another page). Others hide journaling to be less shocking in their scrapbook. For example, one respondent explains how she hid the journaling about her miscarriage underneath the sonogram photograph so that way people viewing the scrapbook are not so shocked by an unhappy moment in the pages of the scrapbook. This event was scrapworthy but she does not want to upset the audience either.
Scrapbooking may share qualities with diaries, journals, corkboards, conventional photograph albums, and blogs, but they are not exactly substitutes for each other. Each has its own purpose. Scrapbooks are semi-private, permanent, collections of memories.
Do you consider your scrapbooks to be private, public, semi-private? What about blogs? Do you publish all of your layouts to the Internet? Why or why not? Join the conversation below or on facebook.
Boyd, Danah. 2006. “A Blogger’s Blog: Exploring the Definition of a Medium.” Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture 6. Retrieved February 18, 2010 (http://reconstruction.eserver.org/064/boyd.shtml).
——. 2008. “Taken Out of Context: American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics.” PhD dissertation, Departmen tof Information Management and Systems, University of California, Berkeley, CA.
Ott, Katherine, Susan Tucker, and Patricia P. Buckler. 2006. “An Introduction to the History of Scrapbooks.” Pp. 1-25 in The Scrapbook in American Life. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Walker, Andrew L. and Rosaline Kimball Moulton. 1989. “Photo Albums: Images of Time and Reflections of Self.” Qualitative Sociology 12(2):155-82.
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