Raised online by Daddy: fatherhoods and childhoods in Taiwanese father-run baby blogs
This research explored how and in what ways early childhood and fatherhood are constructed in Taiwanese father-run baby blogs. Nowadays, many parents use the internet to record and share their experiences of being (and becoming) parents. There is a growing body of literature on mothers on the internet, but the subjects of fathers on the internet and the child as recorded by the parents are both under-explored. This research selected three public Taiwanese baby blogs to study. All of the blogs were being run by new fathers and all were named (entitled) using the child’s name or nickname. The entries and interactions within these blogs up until the blogged children turned three years old were observed. The blog entries and the interactions within them were treated as public texts, and a qualitative method suitable for analysing different forms of blog contents was developed. In relation to the new doing of fathering - blogging - the interactive nature of the internet and its function of creating and strengthening the identity were not obvious in this research. Although these blogs seemed to be isolated from other online communities, one of the studied cases provides us with an example of how the blog and the participants’ off-line activities enrich each other. The findings of this research also suggest that these public presentations of family life have the purpose of displaying family, in order to confirm the family relationship with their readers and especially with the recorded child in the future. This displaying provided us with the three fathers’ versions of fatherhood. It was found that the fatherhood being constructed in these blogs is closer to the old version of a good father. The father’s role still appeared as that of supporter of the mother, who was still seen as shouldering the main responsibility for child raising. However, from an analysis of the process and the descriptions of the decision making displayed in these blogs, this research suggests that the supporter (father) – leader (mother) relationship (Sanchez & Thomson, 1997; S. Williams, 2008) should be understood as a relationship between the project director (father), who oversees the project of child raising, and the project manager (mother), who has to get the project done. Although their child-raising record showed the characteristics of intensive parenting, because of this director-manager relationship, the intensive parenting shown by the father should in fact be seen as a type of intensive mothering. With regard to the displayed child, it was found that the Taiwanese child is surveyed and defined (normal or abnormal) by the state, the medical system, and parents’ daily practices. The child is also nurtured with traditional gender stereotypes and traditional aspirations (to be filially obedient) in mind. In the nurturing process, the importance of education is highlighted and the child is taken to participate in competitive activities from under one year old. It was concluded that, overall, the fatherhoods and childhoods found in this research join forces in constructing and confirming (old) Taiwanese norms relating to fathers and to the ‘normal’ and competitive child. Since the children in this research were represented by the father and lacked agency, it is suggested that there is a pressing need for further research into the subsequent experience of these once-displayed-in-public children, that will give us a better understanding of the practice of sharing one’s child(ren)’s information online.