Friday, January 09, 2009
  What made blogs significant?
Jenna, who commented on the post below, linked to a post of hers that that opens presenting Rheingold's distinction between "audience" and "public" - basically an "audience" is composed of passive receivers, while a "public" engages with and/or acts on the material. The distinction is useful, though I've never liked Rheingold's language for it. Many audiences used to be very engaged etc. though perhaps they have become culturally less so with the advent of TV.

I am thinking of a 1960s political meeting, with hecklers - with whom the speaker, Harold Wilson, "speaking" from an upper floor window of a terraced house in a less wealthy part of Leicester, engaged vigorously ;) There were also a whole cast of audience "types" as well as hecklers there were protestors and the bouncers who removed them, the true believers who rose for a standing ovation at the close of the speech, and many participants who then went out to canvas in an election. If I compare that scene with a TV audience, participation has been numbed into merely shouting at the referee, or offering unheard advice to the character in a soap; or dumbed and commercialised into TXT us and we'll either charge you $1 to vote in our poll, or (in the most generous case) put you into a draw to get one of our sponsors products free.

The distinction is also always a spectrum, particular audiences (and indeed individual members) are more or less involved and active, "public", but still it is a helpful distinction to consider.

Jenna turns from introducing Rheingold's classification to discussing blogs whose "authors leverage 2.0 practices" and briefly touches on the history of blogs. This is where I think it gets interesting. As Jenna reminds us, blogs began as "Weblogs" - online diaries. As weblogs, the genre was of minority interest and only a few were read by more than the writer and their second cousin who found it via a Google (or perhaps, in those far off times, some other search engine) search for the person's name. Then weblogs evolved, they added features permitting "comments" and other arcane interactions like trackbacks and blogrolls... in short, as well as shortening their name, blogs added "community". The blog bubble was born.

[I have a post in my head, that I WILL write "one day soon", on the recent discussion of "the death of blogging" - basically I'll claim that reports of this "death" are somewhat exaggerated but seek to outline some of the live areas amid the dead wood...]

[I also have a post that bemoans the way in which Christian organisations online simply do not "get" the culture but persist in seeking to address what Rheingold would call "audiences", that also will get written "some day after or before"...]

For now, notice the salient fact, blogging took off when it added interactivity and community. The resources that threaten the "death of blogging" are all offer more affordances for community. It is no accident that in 2008 Facebook killed the blog, or that (perhaps) in 2009 Twitter will kill Facebook. Community rules, OK?

[One question remains... can I bear to become a Twit?]

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