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« Power Laws and Weblog Patterns | Main | Blogs, Curves, and Grades »

October 21, 2003

Communication Is Content

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Posted by Seb Paquet

Richard MacManus is not resigned to describing C-list blogging (i.e., one-to-few, by far the most prevalent mode in the blogosphere) as mere "communication":

I think there is a comparison between some C-List bloggers and student radio stations, or pirate radio stations. We have a limited audience, perhaps even no audience. But we're broadcasting because we believe that our ideas have some inherent value.

Which is more reminiscent of the attitude of 19th-century pamphleteers than of that of a bunch of teens in the food court.

There is indeed a qualitative difference between blogging and conversing among friends as we are used to doing it: the conversation is persistent and strangers may peek in, sometimes in the middle of the conversation, sometimes months later, following some obscure link or a lucky Google query. Linkable conversations enable new interested parties to connect the way ordinary conversation simply doesn't.

So how should we frame the activity? By considering the audience, or the author? If we take the intent of the author as the starting point, "broadcast" may be the appropriate term - even given a nano-audience.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software


1. adrian chan on October 21, 2003 3:51 PM writes...

You bring up an interesting point, and a difficult one to resolve, I think. What you're referring to is a hybrid of a "community of readers" on the one hand and "speaking/writing" on the other. Since there's push and pull, it's not broadcasting. And since it produces an archive that is available to new participants as well as committed ones, it's not just a conversation.
(You can distinguish between ratified and non-ratified audiences, or addressed and non- addressed audiences. Blogging mixes them up: the writer addresses a familiar group of readers, but her statements have meaning to people who weren't addressed also.)
I think of them as an "open state of talk." (Goffman) I don't know if that helps. In real life, an open state of talk exists when two people doing something and talk periodically but incidentally. Say, two mechanics. Talk is not the focus of their activity. While they're fixing an engine they're free to comment on the game, lunch, vacation, whatever, but the talk isn't their activity--fixing the car is.
I think a blog and its comments are like that: asynchronous, irregular, and non-binding interaction around an initial monolog that's sometimes augmented by comments.
Blogspace seems to be characterized by this "open state of talk." Say the blogger's post is a statement. It's somewhere on the textual end of speech. It's not writing, but not speaking either. It's a written statement that invites conversation/commentary. The more that people comment, then, the more it becomes conversational.
Blogs have the capacity to facilitate conversation around statements made by their authors. They're technically unique, and as a form of communication, vary from "lecture" to "conversation" depending on how much interaction they develop.
I don't know if this helps, but it does seem that the audience makeup, the incidental nature of the conversation, and the format distinguish blogging from other kinds of communication/writing systems.

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2. Levy Matt on January 9, 2004 11:07 AM writes...

Make sure you still have something worth wishing for.

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