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What Is a Blog Carnival?

posted: 6.12.12 by Traci Gardner

On the ferris wheel at the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC)
When you hear the word carnival, you may not immediately think of academic reading, but I’m hoping to change that this week by explaining what blog carnivals are and why you should spend some time looking at what they have to offer. Come back next week for some ideas on how to use blog carnivals in the classroom.

So what is a blog carnival? Basically, it’s a collection of links to blog posts on a specific topic. If you think of blog posts as being similar to essays, a blog carnival is essentially an anthology or a collection of essays. The main page for the blog carnival is like the table of contents for the anthology, outlining all the pieces included in the collection. To read the items in the carnival, you click through and read the posts on the blog where they were originally published.

Two kinds of blog carnivals have developed over the years. One kind is a collection of links that have been found by an editor. ProfHacker’s monthly Teaching Carnival fits this structure. Each month, an editor looks for blog posts that provide “a snapshot of the most recent thoughts on teaching in college and university classrooms.” The June Teaching Carnival was edited by Billie Hara. In the carnival post, Hara arranges the links she’s collected into broad categories of The State of Education, Teaching, Technology, Teachers, Students, and Commencement Addresses. This kind of blog carnival creates a curated list for readers.

Contrast ProfHacker’s collection of existing posts with the inaugural blog carnival at Sweetland’s Digital Rhetoric Collaborative (DRC). The DRC blog carnival focuses on the topic “What does digital rhetoric mean to me?” This kind of blog carnival is a collection of posts written in response to a specific call. Writers take up the topic and then leave a link to their posts in the comments on the DRC site. It’s also a common practice for an editor to collect submissions and only publish links to the best pieces. You can think of this type of blog carnival as a collection of submitted pieces.

To clarify, let me return to the analogy of an anthology. Blog carnivals that curate existing links are similar to an anthology of best articles taken from a journal. The editor takes a journal, searches for the key articles, and creates an anthology of collected readings. Blog carnivals that collect submitted pieces are similar to an anthology of new pieces on a chosen topic. The editor creates a call for submissions and arranges the pieces she receives into an anthology of essays.

Regardless of the kind of blog carnival, the resulting collection of links is a flexible way to gather and highlight material on a particular topic. Where a printed anthology will take months to reach readers, a blog carnival can come together quickly. The ProfHacker Teaching Carnival, for instance, collects posts published during the previous month. Just try to find a printed anthology that has that kind of recent pedagogical content!
You’ll find blog carnivals on a variety of topics. For instance, you can check out The RPG Blog CarnivalThe Mystery and Crime Fiction Blog Carnival, and The Carnival of Children’s Literature. Explore the range of topics on the Blog Carnival site, a clearinghouse that helps readers find and track carnivals. That tracking part is significant since some carnivals travel. While the ProfHacker and DRC blog carnivals have a permanent home, many carnivals travel from blog to blog, appearing on the Web site of whoever is editing the collection that month. The Blog Carnival FAQ calls this editor the host, which makes sense in the case of traveling blogs.

If you want to learn more about the development of blog carnivals, I recommend The Guardian’s “Blog carnivals and the evolution of blog communities,” which traces the genre to online magazines and the practice of publishing a collection of blog posts.

So that’s a quick overview of blog carnivals. Anyone who follows my Twitter updates knows I’m a big fan of blog carnivals, especially the ProfHacker Teaching Carnival. Each month, the carnival suggests several posts that I would have never found on my own. It’s like having a personal librarian who goes out and finds great posts for me to read. The DRC Carnival is proving to be a wonderful place to inspire deeper thinking. It’s like having a meeting-of-the-minds conversation on a key topic with colleagues I know and respect.

Of course, I also love blog carnivals because they are a wonderful tool to use in the classroom, but more about that next week. Be sure to come back to read about how to use blog carnivals to gather readings for students and to ask students to create custom collections. Their ability to build communities and connect readers makes blog carnivals a perfect tool for Connected Learning.

Have you explored blog carnivals? Do you use them in the classroom? I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below, or drop by my page on Facebook or Google+.

[Photo: On the Ferris wheel at the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC) by The Library of Congress, on Flickr]

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One Response to “What Is a Blog Carnival?”

  1. Naomi Silver, University of Michigan Says:

    Traci, thanks so much for including the Digital Rhetoric Collaborative blog carnival in your overview here! We’re hoping this will be the first of many, and we hope that your mention will inspire more folks to post a comment or leave a link to their own definitions of digital rhetoric on their sites. Looking forward to next week’s post on using these in the classroom! Regards, Naomi