I’ve been planning to reflect on some of the questions raised by the Perseus White Papers’ The Blogging Iceberg, in part because I think it speaks to some of the concerns I want to address in my “Blogging and the Everyday” paper, which is constantly shifting focus as I continue to write, read, and reflect. Warning: random thoughts ahead. I mostly wanted to collect some links to some really interesting posts.
I won’t address the many critiques of Perseus’ methodology, other than to note that by ignoring non-hosted blogs, I’d guess that any information about user demographics would be considerably skewed (as would the percentage of abandoned blogs). I’m intrigued by the growth rate, although I think that is also hard to predict, especially given the unpredictable role that AOL blogging tools will have, but more than anything, the survey indicates to me the extreme difficulty of making too many quantitative claims about blogging.
Instead, I’m more intrigued by what blogs are doing (how people are “using” or understanding them) and what they will or may become. In that regard, I’m especially intrigued by David Weinberger’s discussion of the future of blogging. I think he’s probably right that distinctions between high traffic bloggers and “the rest of the world” (note: Clay Shirky’s discussion is highly relevant here) will probably increase to the point that their sites will begin to look less like blogs and more like something else, a perpetually updated op-ed page, perhaps. Now that I’ve gone back to re-read Liz’s post about this topic on Many-to-Many, I think she articulates what I’m trying to say quite well:
The big difference, to me, is that when you’re at the top of the “power law curve,” you’re in broadcast mode. When you’re at the tail end, you’re in private diary mode. But in the middle, that’s where the interlinking and dialog and community-forming are happening. Those are very different modes of communication.
In my experience, my status (presumably somewhere in the middle) has provided me with the “dialog” and “community forming” that Liz describes, and now that I think about it, that experience considerably regulates my interpretation of blogging as a medium.
Unlike other observers, I’m not sure how much more popular blogs will become, in part for some of the reasons that Alex Halavias describes: (1) blogging takes time away from other forms of communication, work, and entertainment; (2) only a limited number of people write for pleasure (and many of those people prefer not to write publicly or choose other mediums for their writing); and (3) blogging is still intimidating for many non-techies, something I didn’t initially realize when I incorporated blogging into my freshman composition course this semester.
I’m somewhat optimistic that blogs may be of “increasing value” to democracy, but I don’t think this value will necessarily be recognizable in campaign blogs (although I think campaign blogs are very important) as much as it is in blogs as alternative media or media filters. Blogs that create coalitions of citizens invested in various political issues (copyright law, anti-war protests) seem to have more potential in creating long-term alliances.
As an aside, I also found the discussion on aldon of the research on “blogging as a genre” intriguing, but I’m still tempted to reserve the term medium to describe the blog itself (or the various “levels” of blogs) and genre to describe various types of blogs (academic, personal, journalism, political, etc). Obviously most (perhaps all) blogs don’t fit into such discrete categories, and I have mixed feelings about categorizing blogs, anyway.
I believe that my project will be operating in this mid-level space, for the most part, the spaces where academic bloggers are making connections, exchanging ideas, and sharing experiences. Now what any of this has to do with original topic, blogging and the everyday, I’m not sure…