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The rise of the blogspert: biopedagogy, self-knowledge, and lay expertise on women’s healthy living blogs

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Abstract

Healthy living blogs are ideal sites to analyze how biopedagogy (the teaching of body regulation) operates through social media produced by everyday people. Drawing from a theoretical framework grounded in neoliberal governmentality, biopower, and individualization, this paper endeavors to understand how healthy living blogs function as pedagogical sites where body management is taught. To address this question, the food discourse on 459 healthy living blog posts, written by highly successful and foundational women bloggers from the United States, was analyzed. The analysis reveals that the blogs operate as biopedagogical sites, incorporating key elements of truth, subjectification, and power (Harwood in: Wright and Harwood (eds) Biopolitics and the ‘obesity epidemic’: governing bodies, Routledge, New York, 2009). Epistemic logics are also revealed as key building blocks of biopedagogy. The bloggers draw from a knowledge and belief system in the same way that medical professionals rely on scientific knowledge and evidence to support health claims. Healthy living blogs use bodily knowledge and evidence in support of their food choices. As a result, they teach body regulation through the logics of body knowledge and body mastery. The concept of the “blogspert” is offered to describe the way in which bloggers’ authority as health experts is produced through anecdotal evidence that they have successfully cultivated bodily knowledge towards losing or managing weight.

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Notes

  1. The Healthy Living Blogs network (an opt-in organization that coordinates an annual conference for healthy living bloggers) listed over 2500 member blogs on their website in 2015, but total worldwide numbers are unknown.

  2. Dietary restraint is a form of restrictive eating, distinct from dieting, in which calories and/or variety of foods are limited on an ongoing basis (Hawks et al. 2008).

  3. Heather Pare of Hangry Pants stopped blogging in 2011.

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Correspondence to Alexandra Rodney.

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Rodney, A. The rise of the blogspert: biopedagogy, self-knowledge, and lay expertise on women’s healthy living blogs. Soc Theory Health 19, 155–171 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41285-019-00095-z

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