The Future of Blogging

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…

3 Comments »

  1. Francois Lachance Said,

    October 21, 2003 @ 4:59 pm

    Chuck,
    Your title seems to recall Michel de Certeau
    _The Practice of Everyday Life_. Was that the intent? Seems plausible since you end with a typology of practices:

    - making connections
    - exchanging ideas
    - sharing experiences

    Reminds me a bit of George’s categories of moves in the game of conversation:
    http://ghw.wordherders.net/archives/000371.html

    I like the way you sandwich exchange between connection making and experience sharing. The making of connections can be done solo. The sharing of experience is ab ovo a solo action (the autobiographical entry/comment). Both of these (story telling, sharing, and connection making, linking)do not require the structure of interpellation and acknowledgment for their completion. The exchange in a sense marks a type of dialogue where the bloggers are likely to tip into the spiral of an economy of the gift and experience vertigo. It is a moment that may become emulated in other social and discursive spaces. I suspect the formula “in doing X you helped me do Y” will catch on. Imagine a generation raised on feedback loops of such civility.

  2. chuck Said,

    October 21, 2003 @ 11:08 pm

    I didn’t intend the title to echo de Certeau’s, although I was certainly aware of his book. I’ve been skimming it over the last few weeks, though, just to see what he’s doing with the concept of the “everyday.”

    My title was intended to bring Benjamin’s treatment of “the everyday” into relief, drawing from Peter Osborne’s reading of him in _The Politics of Time._

    I like that you break down each “move” that I described into a discrete activity (the comparison to George is unexpected, but I think it works). I was using the terms in a far more general sense, and it’s useful to see the specific implications of them.

    I’d still suggest that sharing experiences–in the best sense–should be understood as a reciprocal act. I don’t feel like I can share “an experience” unless someone gives back/has already given back.

    I found it interesting that you transform “exchange” (which in a classical economy usually implies *unequal* exchange) into exchange as giving, but I have experienced the latter several times (Liz’s entry bringing together Weez’s thread on narrative, for example).

    Glad you reminded me to go back to de Certeau!

  3. Francois Lachance Said,

    October 22, 2003 @ 12:12 pm

    I had that tonic ironic reading of “share” — the popular culture connotations of the social-worked to nth degree term where sharing is often a power ploy. I also realize that I read “experience” as the “narration of an experience” i.e. I had reified. Sharing stories aligns with the other products: ideas and connections.

    I was attempting to locate the moments of reciprocity in the space occupied by many many non-reciprocal gestures. I think the way the technology has been taken up in the culture of blogging there is on the side of the “call” or invitation the possibility of articulating links and talking story. On the side of the response, there is an intriguing triangulation: readers witnessing the interlocutors acknowledging each other and readers wondering if the connection between interlocutors also continues elsewhere via face to face encounters or private email. This state of unknowing allows, at least allows me, to relish the secondariness of commentary, that is to openly move from observation to speculation. [I see or sense X and wonder if it may be related to Y]. It is the very possibility of so easily partioning and repartioning the discursive space (by timed entry and by multiplication of interlocutory personna) that produces what to me is a renewed civility that favours the politeness of pointing.

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