Conversations across Mediums: LiveJournal, Cleolinda Jones, and Digital Transversions
LiveJournal is a blogging website founded in March of 1999 by Brad Fitzpatrick, a student of computer science. In 2005, it was purchased from Fitzpatrick by the American blogging software company Six Apart, and in 2007 the Russian company SUP purchased it from Six Apart. Although academic research on LiveJournal is limited, a December of 2008 study ranked it as the sixth most popular website, among American college students. LiveJournal offers uses personal blogs (or weblogs, online journals) and the option of creating LiveJournal “communities,” which link multiple bloggers together. One LiveJournal blogger of note is Cleolinda Jones, whose blog is called Occupation: Girl. Jones began her LiveJournal in 2003, at the age of twenty-four, and is still blogging on it currently. In her first entry, Jones said, "I swore, when I was in high school, that I was going to grow up but I was never going to grow old, popular culture was always going to be my culture, I was going to be hip way into my 40s and 50s. (Pop quiz: How can you tell that this was a quest doomed from the start? The word “hip,” that’s how.)"
This blend of humor, self-deprecation, and a love of pop culture exemplify Occupation: Girl. While Jones began blogging as a graduate student, she later dropped out for reasons undisclosed. She continues to blog, however, using her grad school toolkit to deconstruct and analyze literature and films. Of the way she presents herself on her blog, Jones says she does not utilize a “constructed persona…Granted, in a text-based format, I have time to think before I speak... But I've always had the most success writing about things that appealed to me, and in my own voice — no matter how silly or embarrassing those things might be." Jones blogs in earnest, as herself; her entries frequently mention personal issues, like her struggles with mental illness. However, she is notable not just for being an honest blogger, or a humorous pop culture blogger, but for her transcendence of the digital/non-digital lines.
Jones is known, in particular, for her parodies Movies in Fifteen Minutes and for her recaps of the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. Movies in Fifteen Minutes, or m15m, was originally begun on Occupation: Girl, but moved by Jones to its own community, m15m, when she ran out of space for fans to become “friends” of the blog; the community format allows a much larger number of members. Movies in Fifteen Minutes, Jones uses a script-style format to recap popular films in a gently satiric fashion. The first movie parodied, in May 2004 (moved to m15m the next month), was Van Helsing. Meanwhile, Jones began recapping books in September 2005, with the Victorian Venus in Boston. She has also done other books, like Varney the Vampire, another Victorian work. Her recaps of the Twilight series, begun in May of 2008 are, however, by far her most popular.
In 2005, Jones made the transition from blogger to published author. An editor from Orion Publishing, a British publishing house, read the m15m parodies still hosted at Occupation: Girl in May of 2004 and asked Jones if she would be willing to write a book of such movie parodies. This book, Movies In Fifteen Minutes: The Ten Biggest Movies Ever For People Who Can't Be Bothered, was published in the United Kingdom in October of 2005; despite positive reviews, it has yet to be published in the United States. Jones thus took a purely digital project, which was deeply rooted in internet-based forms of humor, and transformed it into a published book, using parodies not previously (or, indeed, since then) published online. She also continues to write new parodies for the online m15m, meaning that her work proceeds in the digital sphere even after publication in print form.
Just as Jones’ first book was published because a literary editor read m15m, Jones would later be asked for her opinion on the Twilight series thanks to her blog posts deconstructing the books. Jones is “the person of record [whom] that many journalists call when they need an anyman (or any woman) quote about young adult literature. Particularly Harry Potter or Twilight.” She has been mentioned in pieces on or interviewed about Twilight on multiple occasions. In one 2010 article, Jones argued that Bella, the protagonist of the Twilight series, functions as a stand-in for both author and reader, allowing them to experience the stories as a wish-fulfillment fantasy. That article referred to Jones as a “31-year-old Twilight fan." (While Jones herself was rather surprised to be seen as a Twilight fan, she was not displeased.)
Jones’ work on Twilight is entirely LiveJournal-based, on both Occupation: Girl and m15m. Though she has become well-known enough to be interviewed by reputable news agencies on the subject, she has become known on the subject not due to traditionally published works, but due to blogging. In 2008, a writer for New York Magazine said that the “hugely entertaining live blogs of Breaking Dawn by LiveJournal blogger Cleolinda Jones…[are] well worth a read even if you don't know the books." Just as her LiveJournal blogging helped Jones to get published, it is also the reason she has been asked for her literary opinions.
The LiveJournal format, like that of other blogging platforms, allows an unprecedented interplay between writer and reader. Anyone with a LiveJournal account can join the m15m community. Jones has said that she reads every comment left for her and, just as Jones’ blog entries are public and readable by anyone with internet access, so are those comments. This ability to virtually “create and sustain ‘community’ through audience response" has been noted as an important highlight of the blog format. Readers can leave comments on blogs for the bloggers to read and respond to, engendering entire conversations. On LiveJournal specifically, users can band together to join LiveJournal communities about subjects they find mutually interesting. As Cleolinda Jones also exemplifies, there exists the potential for a talented blogger to be discovered by professional publishing houses of the non-digital sphere, and for blog posts authoritative on a specific subject to garner a blogger respect from the traditional news media as an expert. As Jones has said of her blogging style, "when I'm writing a blog post like this, I'm going to try to write mostly the way I speak, for a conversational tone--since you can comment at the end, it is dialogue, it's a dialogue betwen you and me." Blogs like LiveJournal are not insular, like a paper journal. They are a conversation between writer and reader. As such, they are a newly evolving form, a digital transformation of an older presentation.
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Conrad, Peter. "Tiny Things, Tiny Minds." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 12 Nov. 2005. Web. 03 Feb. 2012. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2005/nov/13/features.shopping>.