This page discusses notions of 'community' and the 'blogosphere'.
It covers -
Enthusiasts for blogging, in particular some of the self-described
blog evangelists, have echoed past rhetoric about the
net as an "online community" of "netizens"
be on the Net is to be part of a global community. Netizens
are ... people who understand that it takes effort and
action on each and everyone's part to make the Net a
regenerative and vibrant community and resource.
has thus been characterised as
new, personal, and determinedly non-hostile evolution
of the electric community.
who write, read and comment on blogs have been tagged
"the blogosphere", a community that supposedly
features a distinct "blogger ethic".
In practice it is debatable whether the 'blogosphere'
is a usable concept other than as an indicator of hipness
in media reports and as a device for promoting primers
or appearances by digerati on the lecture circuit. Would
one talk about a community of diary writers, newspaper
readers, television viewers or journalists?
In discussing rhetoric
about 'online community' we have noted Jonathan Zittrain's
community" joins "sysop" in the oversize
dustbin of trite or hopelessly esoteric, hence generally
meaningless, cyberspace vernacular ... it represents
something once craved and still invoked (if only as
a linguistic placeholder) even as it is believed by
all but the most naïve to be laughably beyond reach.
Since it's applied to almost anything, it now means
vague warm fuzzies and nothing more.
a blogger ethic?
'Blog evangelist' Rebecca Blood argues that "weblogs
aren't just glorified pages of links and rambling personal
sites; they are an antidote to mass media" and "are
also bringing creative expression to everyday people when
they need it most".
In a nice spin on the 'Hacker Ethic' - discussed here
- she claims that there is a Blogger Ethic, "fostering
real connections based on trust, respect, and creativity".
Weblog is based entirely on trust. People come because
they like to read what you write. If you suddenly began
promoting Nokia cell phones on the side, news of it
would come out quickly because this is a close-knit
community. And that would be a tremendous breach of
trust. It would be a scandal in the Weblog community
because it goes against our entire ethic.
"bloggers don't need to write a novel - or even a
complete sentence - to get their point across to a mass
audience", the residents of "blogistan"
or the "blogosphere".
Insightful US lawyer Martin Schwimmer more tartly observed
that "In the future, everyone will be famous to 15
people". Others have quipped that some will be infamous
to everyone in the blog echo-chamber, with advertising
guru Neil French, resigning from WPP amid claims of "death
by blog" after furore over his comments about women
Brad Fitzpatrick of LiveJournal argues that online journals
are better than email, which places a 'burden' on the
author's friends to provide some responses -
email, even if you say 'Don't Reply' you are kind of
expecting them to read it. A journal makes no such demands
because 'you're telling everyone' rather than anyone
Some people (and robots) do provide responses: Gilad Mishne
& Natalie Glance's 2006 Leave a Reply: An Analysis
of Weblog Comments (PDF)
on the basis of a sample of 500 posts claims that the
average blog comment is 63 words long.
Paquet claims that "the millions of links present
in weblogs form a giant, visible web of affinity"
and that "a philosophy of sharing generally prevails
in the weblog community", although we suspect the
same could be said for the 'community' of newspaper readers
or television watchers.
Warblogging - from the same school as warchalking
and wardriving - offers an opportunity for the politically
engaged to vent their spleen, articulate a cause or foster
a community network. At best such blogs have the bite
and relevance of a Karl Kraus or an IF Stone. At worst
they have the subtlety of a drive-by shooting.
James Crabtree comments
Are Like Cocaine - Cocaine makes its users feel overwhelmingly
popular, and they get very aggressive about their opinions.
It is also addictive. Blogs often have the same effect.
Because bloggers are at the centre of their own personal
world of communication, it can feel like a rush, and
can lead bloggers to be opinionated and extreme.
a community of bloggers?
Crabtree had earlier explained that
Are Like An Episode Of Lassie - In an episode of Lassie,
the dog always trys to tell people something important.
Because Lassie can't speak, being a dog, someone has
to interpret what she is saying: "What's that lassie?
There are some children stuck in the old mine?"
The same is true with a network of Blogs. Because the
"blogosphere" has no centre, and no official
leaders, it is very difficult for it to express a collective
For politicians this means becoming able to sense what
people are saying online. Concepts of "emergent
democracy" as promoted by Joi Ito require institutions
and politicians that can act as weather veins for which
direction the broad mass of blogging opinion is heading
in. But politicians should also recognise that the blogosphere
never has a single coherent view, or collective will
– it is not a system for formal representation.
in The Revolution Will Not Be Blogged that many
blogs are "meta-comment by bright young men who never
leave their rooms", George Packer commented
prose is written in headline form to imitate informal
speech, with short emphatic sentences and frequent use
of boldface and italics. The entries, sometimes updated
hourly, are little spasms of assertion, usually too
brief for an argument ever to stand a chance of developing
layers of meaning or ramifying into qualification and
complication. There's a constant sense that someone
(almost always the blogger) is winning and someone else
is losing. Everything that happens in the blogosphere
— every point, rebuttal, gloat, jeer, or "fisk"
(dismemberment of a piece of text with close analytical
reading) — is a knockout punch. A curious thing
about this rarefied world is that bloggers are almost
unfailingly contemptuous toward everyone except one
tendency of bloggers to talk about blogging is often
criticized, yet this practice of self-reflection is
precisely what makes blogging a valuable contribution
to public discourse. Bloggers are highly critical, questioning
creatures. Whatever their subject, they document their
observations and examine them inquisitively.
unkinder critics have dismissed such assertions as problematical
or suggested that the process is akin to an examination
of navel lint by other "highly critical, questioning
creatures" (albeit in padded rooms of the non-digital
variety). Aaron Barlow's Blogging America: The New
Public Sphere (Westport: Praeger 2008) was greeted
with assertions that blogs are
our cultural landscape, creating, as his title suggests,
a new public sphere. For those concerned about the future
of democracy, the existence of such a civic space may
be our last bulwark against neo-liberalism "disappearing"
Graham Lampa's 2004 Imagining the Blogosphere: An
Introduction to the Imagined Community of Instant Publishing
those making a case for the blogosphere as a community,
the results of the Perseus study are anything but encouraging.
How can a community be said to exist among individuals,
the vast majority of whom have never met one another
and do not communicate with one another? The easy answer
is to declare that the blogging community does not exist,
that the blogosphere is not a cohesive group of people
who share common goals and values. This answer, however,
does not account for the widespread notion of the transnational
blogging community or for the persistence of the blogger
identity. A clearer answer to the community conundrum
lies somewhere between the hype of a new and revolutionary
online community and the sobering statistical reality
of the Perseus study. In the absence of strong interpersonal
links among members of the blogosphere, an alternative
explanation for the persistence of community is needed.
At the core of the blogosphere lies a minority of active
and engaged bloggers who post, comment, and link frequently,
creating a kernel of conversational community based
on personal networks facilitated by blogging tools and
associated technologies. However, for the vast majority
of users who blog casually, infrequently, and for the
benefit of their real-world friends and family, the
blogosphere does not exist in the ethereal, hyperlinked
connections that bind blogs to one another; rather,
it resides in the mind of the individual blogger as
an online imagined community resulting from the shared
experience of instant publishing.
is unclear whether such a community is any more meaningful
than the 'community' of those with a shared experience
of watching television or reading offline text. Digerati
and desperates aside, how many bloggers indeed characterise
themselves as part of an "online imagined community"
comprising those who have merely placed a few words online?
Other perspectives are provided in works such as 'A Bosom
Buddy Afar Brings a Distant Land Near: Are Bloggers a
Global Community?' by Norman Su, Yang Wang, Gloria Mark,
Tosin Aiyelokun & Tadashi Nakano in Communities
and Technologies 2005: Proceedings of the Second Communities
and Technologies Conference, Milano 2005 (Springer
2005) edited by Peter van den Besselaar & Giorgio
an online truthsquad?
As the following pages note, blogging has been acclaimed
as the latest "new journalism" and as a mechanism
for democratising the media or merely making reporters/proprietors
more responsive to the "community".
Some of the more fervent true believers have even characterised
the blogosphere as an "online truth squad",
although in practice community involvement in life among
settlers on the digital frontier often seems to be a matter
of indifference or a wild west lynch mob.
Danny Schechter of MediaChannel.org commented to the NY
Times in 2006 that although active participation
by media consumers was healthy for democracy and journalism,
partisanship was sometimes masked as media criticism -
now O.K. to demonize the messenger. This has led to
a very uncivil discourse in which it seems to be O.K.
to shout down, discredit, delegitimize and denigrate
the people who are reporting stories and to pick at
their methodology and ascribe motives to them that are
have suggested that exhaustive dissection of journalists
may be fundamentally unfair
have a longer shelf life than most traditional news
media articles. A newspaper reporter's original article
is likely to disappear from the free Web site after
a few days and become inaccessible unless purchased
from the newspaper's archives, while the blogger's version
of events remains available forever.
Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary
People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths
(Nashville York: Nelson 2006) by Glenn Reynolds mixes
triumphalism about 'the little guys' with zaniness about
colonisation of outer space
was a time in the not-too-distant past when large companies
and powerful governments reigned supreme over the little
guy. But new technologies are empowering individuals
like never before, and the Davids of the world - the
amateur journalists, musicians, and small businessmen
and women - are suddenly making a huge economic and
is alive and well in the blogosphere.
Lovink's Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet
Culture (London: Routledge 2007) "upgrades worn-out
concepts", claiming to develop "a general theory
of blogging", with blogs embodying an "incommunicado
agenda" and a
impulse to empty out established meaning structures.
Blogs bring on decay of the 20th century broadcast media,
and are proud of their in-crowd aspect in which linking,
tagging and ranking have become the main drivers.
not much there about self-indulgence and obscurantism.
'Ethics in Blogging' (PDF)
by Andy Koh, Alvin Lim, Ng Ee Soon, Benjamin Detenber
& Mark Cenite and 'C.O.B.E: A proposed code of blogging
by Martin Kuhn look on the bright side. Other codes include
those of -
Blood | here
Blog entrepreneur Jason
Calacanis fashionably dismissed hype about the "blogging
revolution" by commenting
hype comes from unemployed or partially employed marketing
professionals and people who never made it as journalists
wanting to believe. They want to believe there's going
to be this new revolution and their lives are going
to be changed.
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