Monday, February 28

comment on summary part X

In the Netherlands, access to IT is unevenly distributed among population groups. As in other countries, males, young people, the higher educated and higher income groups take the lead. This pattern also applies for the possession of a PC and for Internet access at home, as well as for the frequency and diversity of use and for digital skills. These differences coincide with old inequalities. However, the rise of IT also leads to new inequalities. Early adopters of a PC have gained an early advantage, and they have a lasting lead compared to laggards. Early adopters more often have Internet access at home, they have more digital skills, and they use the PC more often. These differences cut across existing social inequalities. This lead by early adopters also applies to differences between early and later adopters with regard to e-commerce and establishing new social contacts via the Web.

Do blogs offer a plattform for the "ideal speech situation"? X & getting stuck

now, I'm not quite sure if this is really a quicker way to summarize sth. - especially as copy-past makes it much easier not to summarize, on the other hand(side!) it's much more satisfying to press "publish" after every chapter, that keeps me going....
Anyway: as this is the last and most important chapter of the whole article, I'll try to continue.

5.) Analyzing the weblog

...the last two research questions will be discussed here...

5.1.) Weblogs and the ideal speech situation
In section 3 it has been discussed that an ideal speech situation requires three things: all parties involved have equal opportunity to start and take part in a discussion or discourse; there are no power differences between the parties involved; all parties involved act truthfully. These three conditions ensure communicative symmetry between all parties involved.

5.1.1.) Equal access
The first condition for the ideal speech situation is equal access. The first hurdle is access to the internet. Van Dijk (1999) rightfully concludes that only a minority of the world population has access to the internet. This means large groups of people are kept out of discussions that take place on the internet in general, and more specific in weblogs. The potential reach of weblogs is nevertheless vast. All those with internet access are potential weblog readers. In the Netherlands the number of people over 16 yrs of age with internet access is estimated at 9,2 million, which represents 72,4% of the population. (Nielsen-Netratings, 2003) This is
the second highest internet penetration in Europe, after Sweden. The unequal distribution of internet access around the world is no small problem, but in the Netherlands there is almost no such inequality. To research the possibilities of weblogs further, from now on those who have internet access are taken as a given.
Several communication capacities of weblogs have a positive effect on the access to
communication through weblogs. In a face to face discussion all those who are not present, or do not know that a discussion is taking place, are automatically excluded. Only those present have equal opportunity to take part. The low selectivity of weblogs initially ensures dissemination of that which is communicated. Public publishing on the web makes the content potentially available to all those who might be interested. It has also been shown that weblogs provide asynchronous interaction, which means that same time and same place are not required to take part in a discussion. This combination of low selectivity and asynchronous interactivity increases the number of people that can take part in a discussion, and also heightens the chance that those who have a stake or interest in the discussion will be reached.

[...] ‘Listening in’ on the web is possible however, because of the
public nature of most of the web pages.

In conclusion access to communication through weblogs is high, because of the ease of publication, low selectivity, asynchronous interaction, and large storage capacity. The first condition of the ideal speech situation [ie. equal acess] therefore can be met.

Do blogs offer a plattform for the "ideal speech situation"? IX

4.4.) Key aspects

The weblog, using the model of Van Dijk, is a new medium. It combines the three information patterns, heretofore uncombined, of consultation, registration, and conversation. The strong communicational capacities of weblogs are the possibility of interaction, high storage capacity, large reach, high stimuli richness, and high complexity of information. [...] The biggest difference between web pages and weblogs being the possibility of interaction. Where web pages communication is usually one sided, weblogs invite to two and more sided communication. Comparing weblogs to forums, the stimuli richness and information complexity are added value in weblogs. This makes weblogs a means of communications that bridges the differences between web pages and forums.

The high stimuli richness of weblogs removes the limitation to stick to text. It is relatively easy to add photographs to texts, or even to only publish pictures (so called photoblogs). This makes weblogs attractive to a higher number of people. The high stimuli richness also has the effect that more of the author’s personality can be made visible than e.g. in forums or chat. Control over the communications through weblogs is completely in the hands of the author. The weblog is suited to discuss complex topics because of its high information complexity. [...] The low selectivity of weblogs makes it possible to reach audiences that would have been unreachable otherwise. From that large potential reach asynchronous dialogue can follow. It is through this asynchronous communication that differences in time and space can be bridged with weblogs.

Do blogs offer a plattform for the "ideal speech situation"? VIII

4.3.) Communication capacities (not relevant for me)

Van Dijk describes nine communicational aspects of new media. He compares those capacities of new media in general with traditional media, like the telephone, print, and broadcasting. However new media is a very broad term, and within the spectrum of new media differences can be seen with regard to the communicational aspects. The nine communication capacities will be used to compare weblogs with other forms of communication on the internet. In order to be able to answer the research questions properly at the end, Van Dijks terminology will be extended in this paper with two new ones.

The complexity of information possible through the different channels differs from channel to
channel. Chat allows for low complexity only, as it is meant for short text messages. The
interface design of chat software is geared to this as well, e.g. by the small editing window.
Forums allow for a bit more complexity. Answers in forums can be longer, and because of its
asynchronous character discussion can be carried out in more detail. However all
communication in forums remains text based which limits the complexity of information that
can be expressed. Web pages and weblogs, as they allow for visually represented
information, make higher complexity possible. Illustrations, graphs, and video images can all
be used.

The control an individual has to determine the content of communication is the last communicational capacity discussed here. Control is not one of the communicational capacities Van Dijk introduces, but it is introduced in this paper as it is a significant distinguishing factor. For chat the level of control is medium. One can decide who to chat with or not, and as it is synchronous communication the direction of communication can be influenced. For forums the level of control is lower, as it is not possible to determine who will take part in the communication or not, and the asynchronous character of forums makes it much harder to influence the direction a discussion will take. The author of web pages has absolute control over the information, and it is much the same for weblogs. If the correct software is used, control over comments and trackbacks is also possible, giving the author absolute control over the channel of communication.

Do blogs offer a plattform for the "ideal speech situation"? VII

4.2.) Information patterns [not really relevant for me]

When there is two or more sided communication, we can look at the patterns the communication could follow. Van Dijk uses the theory of Bordewijk and Van Kaam that consists of four information patterns. These are: allocution, consultation, registration and

Allocution: the simultaneous flow of information to a collective of decentral units by a centre that is the source of the information and determines the topic, time and pace of the information. (e.g. radio and television)

Consultation: the consulting of information at a centre by individual decentral units where the centre is the source of the information and the decentral unit determines the topic, time and pace. (e.g. newspaper, teletext)

Registration: the collecting of information by a centre that determines the topic, time and pace, from one ore more decentral units that could be the source of this information and can initiate information transfer. (e.g. questionnaires, electronic banking)

Conversation : the exchange of information by two or more decentral units without a centre but through a medium, according to Van Dijk only through speech, where these units determine topic, time and pace together. (e.g. telephone)

In new media the communication pattern evolves in the direction of decentral units. The movement flows from allocution to consultation, registration and conversation. That means that for the first time in history media give us the opportunity to choose between face-to-face contact or mediated communication for a range of social activities.

The first appearances of weblogs were filters for the web, and are good examples of the registration pattern. These early weblogs functioned as a sort of news-collecting web pages. The sources that are referred to often are bloggers themselves, another centre, pointing to yet another set of (decentral) sources. Thus networks of bloggers emerge, who collect sources, point to interesting sites, with a certain measure of overlap.

Amongst professionally oriented bloggers linking to each other is also very common. There are for instance academics and higher educated people who use their blogs to sharpen and test their ideas. So these weblogs too, fit the pattern of registration.

She then criticises Van Dijks concept of conversation as speech only and draws on Donath et al (1999) who state that "conversations can be asynchronous as well". Therefor Weblogs can be included in the category and now span from consultation through registration to conversation. " the weblog as a communication
medium is really a new medium because it combines three information patterns in itself."

Do blogs offer a plattform for the "ideal speech situation"? VI

4.) The weblog as a form of communication

To analyze the aspects that can influence the communication through weblogs, Van Dijk’s terminology will be used. Van Dijk (1999) formulates a framework to analyse new media based upon the many theories on media that have been used in the past.

4.1.) Interactivity
According to Van Dijk new media are characterized by a shift from traditionally one-sided communication [...] to two- and more-sided communication that is potentially diverse and rich through the integration of sound, text and images. [...] Van Dijk comes up with four levels of interactivity that indicate the quality of interaction. [...]The highest level can only be reached when the first three levels are met.

The first level of interactivity is the possibility of two- or more-sided communication. [...] An example of the first level is e-mail. Basically we could call this type of communication asynchronous.

The second level of interactivity is synchronicity. Van Dijk thinks that succession of action and reaction without time intervals generally will do good to the quality of interaction, though some new media, like e-mail are especially popular for its asynchronicity. Asynchronous media can be used on multiple times and locations and there is more time to reflect before responding.

The third level of interactivity is the extent of control by the interacting parties. [...] Conversations through the telephone can reach this third level.

The final level Van Dijk distinguishes are actions and reaction that include understanding of context and meaning. This is a level of interactivity that is limited to humans and animals with consciousness. According to Van Dijk this level still hasn’t been reached with interaction between people and machines or media.

The weblog [...] does meet the first level of interactivity[...] no matter how many tools are added to encourage communication between the author and readers, the communication through a blog will be asynchronous.

Do blogs offer a plattform for the "ideal speech situation"? V

3.) Habermas theory

Conversation can be more or less deep. [...] Chat style of conversation can be seen in diary style blogs. It’s sort of a replacement for the chat with the neighbour. More deep conversation can be seen in blogs with a professional slant, for instance blogs about knowledge management. The latter form of blogs is where this paper will focus on.

[...] Ito (2004) sees weblogs as an instrument to reach consensus between people. Habermas states that a consensus can only be achieved when there is communicative symmetry between people, within the ideal speech situation.

In Habermas’ theory the relation between people, the intersubjectivity, has a central role. Through communication it is possible to reach agreement between people and reaching
agreement is in the interest of the continued existence of social society. Through
communication people continuously reach agreement on what true knowledge is in the world which leads to a stable social order. The point where people reach agreement, in other words, what true knowledge is, will change over time as it is the result of inter-subjective discussions. Conditions can change over time, for example because of new possibilities created by technological innovation. Whenever conditions change a new discussion between people is required to redefine true knowledge.

In a discussion, consensus or agreement is aimed for by using arguments and counter arguments. Decisions based on arguments can be called rational. For Habermas rationality means reaching consensus by communication that is free of any form of coercion. Language is the means by which inter-subjective agreement is reached. To explain what language is Habermas uses the theory of speech acts. With this theory it can be determined when we can speak of communication. Not all speech acts can be seen as communication.

Habermas distinguishes three different types of action:

  • instrumental action,
  • strategic action
  • and communicative action.
Instrumental and strategic action both are goal oriented whereas communicative action aims for
consensus. In terms of Habermas only communicative action can be called communication. In communicative action participants are not oriented to their own individual successes. They pursue their individual goals under the condition that they can harmonize their plans on the basis of common situation definitions. In this respect the negotiation of definitions of the situation is an essential element of communicative actions. (Habermas, 1984: 286)

With every speech act (e.g. command, ask, declare) we make certain claims:

- the aspect of the rightness that the speaker claims for his action in relation to a normative
context (or, indirectly, for these norms themselves);
- the truthfulness that the speaker claims for the expression of subjective experiences to
which he has priviliged access;
- the truth that the speaker, with his utterance, claims for a statement. (Habermas, 1984: 307)

By introducing these three claims Habermas shows that common situation definitions thatresult from co mmunicative actions relate to three realms of reality or world perspectives:

  • the objective reality of things and occurrences,
  • the social reality of norms (also called the intersubjective reality)
  • and the inner reality of intentions emotions and needs (also called the subjective reality). (Kunneman, 1986)

With speech acts the speaker makes claims regarding objectivity (truth), intersubjectivity (rightness) and subjectivity (truthfulness). These threeclaims that Habermas defines have a verifiable character. One can retrace the reasons the speaker has for claiming something.

We already saw that Habermas defines good communication as communication for reaching understanding. Communicative action, as a form of communication doesn’t mean however that a perpetual discussion is going on. In general all kinds of claims are accepted without discussion, against the background of shared frameworks of interpretation such as cultural background. Therefore we should distinguish between communicative action on the one hand, where validity claims are accepted at face value, and discourse where validity claims that have become problematic are challenged by argument and counterargument. (Kunneman,1986: 219) If during communicative action questions arise with regard to accepting one or more validity claims, three routes are possible:

(1) those involved decide to break off communication;
(2) those involved can switch from communicative to strategic action and try to manipulate each other;
(3) those involved switch to another level of communication, discourse, where they try to re-establish consensus about the problematic validity claim. (Kunneman, 1986: 219-220)

Discourse is meant to reach consensus or agreement. The question is how to create a
communication process in such a way that agreement is indeed reached. It is of crucial importance that all relevant arguments are included in discourse. Habermas postulates that the quality of communication can only be guaranteed if there is communicative symmetry between all parties involved. Communicative symmetry means that certain conditions have to be met. Habermas calls these conditions for an ‘ideal speech situation’.

The conditions are:
  • all parties involved have equal opportunity to start a discussion,
  • and to bring forward arguments and criticize those of others;
  • there can be no power differences between parties involved, as that might prevent relevant arguments being put forward;
  • all participants should act truthfully towards each other, to ensure that manipulation does not take place. (Kunneman & Munnichs, 1998)
Only when these conditions are met, communicative symmetry is possible. It may be clear that in many ways this symmetry can be distorted. [...] In order to achieve communicative symmetry it is important that all participants in a discourse can be trusted and behaves in terms of the ideal speech situation.

Habermas [...] doesn’t offer any opinion with how this ideal speech situation can be achieved in real life. The coming of the internet has inspired researchers to think about settings in which an ideal speech situation can be achieved (see e.g. Drake et al, 2000; Froomkin, 2003; Heng & De Moor, 2003) To answer the question whether the blogosphere can meet the conditions for an ideal speech situation it is first necessary to look at the communicative characteristics from the weblog, how the technology shapes communication through blogs. It might be that certain aspects of blogs strengthen Habermas’ theory and others weaken it.

Do blogs offer a plattform for the "ideal speech situation"? IV

2.) The weblog: a definition

Focusing on the technical aspects of the blog doesn’t tell much about the thing that is the most important about blogs, namely that one communicates with others through them.

[...] perhaps best compare them to ‘Speaker’s corner’ in London [...] by blogging someone climbs on a virtual box to tell a story. This story attracts the attention of passers by on the internet [...] People [...] can stop for a while and listen to what is being said. People who are interested can react on the things that are written through a comment function or by writing about the topic on one’s own blog.

What happens in both cases, at Speaker’s Corner and in blogs, is that through dissemination dialogue will be achieved. Peters (1999) explains what these two terms mean.

According to Socrates [...] the only way in which people can truly communicate with each other is through dialogue. The melting together of two souls is the only way in which two parties can communicate with each other.

on the other hand departs from the point-of-view that the best way to get ideas into the world is by scattering them around [...]

Through blogging one starts with dissemination on the internet. [...] Allowing readers to comment on the written entries makes it possible that conversation between the reader and the blogger, or between readers, can ensue.

Looking at weblogs in a communicative way we could therefore define a weblog as follows:

The weblog, or blog, is a webpage on which the author publishes pieces with the intention to start conversation.

This means that there are a few technical demands to be met to be able to speak of a weblog. First of all conversation must be possible. This is achieved through a comment function to enable dialogue within the same blog. To be able to track conversation through different weblogs one should have trackback functionality. To be able to use trackback every single entry needs to have an unique URL. Finally, to encourage people to read the weblog continuously one should offer a RSS or Atom feed.

Do blogs offer a plattform for the "ideal speech situation"? III

1.1.) Research questions

This paper will look at the weblog as a form of communication. Central question is what form of communication is made possible through weblogs. This question will be answered through three sub questions. First of all it is needed to have a better understanding of [1] what a blog is and this paper will give a definition of the blog based on the communicative aspects. [see chapter 2]

The theory of Habermas will be the basis for this research. Thompson (2003) and Mortensen & Walker (2002) discuss whether blogs can be a public sphere. This part of Habermas’ theory is part of his greatest work from the early eighties, Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns (Theory of Communicative Action). In that work Habermas formulates a rationally justified analysis of society. On basis of an analysis of speech acts he develops a theoretical framework which gives hold to societal progress. (Kunneman & Munnichs, 1998) Part of this theory is the building of consensus, which is needed to have a stable society. The only way we can build consensus is when people meet the rules of the ‘ideal speech situation’. This means that all participants in social discourse enjoy an equal opportunity to initiate and sustain communication and the whole communicative exercise is transparent. Desirable features centre on the strength of good, well-grounded argument provided in an open forum, rather than authority, tradition, ideology, power or prejudices. (Heng & De Moor, 2003) These features of the ideal speech situation form the basis for what we called earlier the public sphere.

[...] So the second question in this paper is not whether blogs can meet up with the
public sphere, but [2] whether blogs can offer a platform for the ideal speech situation.

This second question can only be answered when we look at the technology that is used in blogs. Van Dijk describes in his book The Network Society the changes that new media bring to our society, based on various theories on the mediating role of communication technology. He has developed a framework of characteristics which can be used to compare old and new media. This framework will be used to analyse which characteristics of weblogs can influence the achievement of an ideal speech situation.

[3] look on the opportunities that weblogs offer for the future and in what areas they can be used.

Do blogs offer a plattform for the "ideal speech situation"? II

6.) Conclusions

In this paper the weblog has been defined as ‘a webpage on which the author publishes pieces with the intention to start conversation.’ From this definition one can derive the technical tools that need to be added to a web page in order to become a weblog: comment and trackback functionality to cater for conversations, and a RSS or Atom feed to encourage others to read your blog.

The weblog is a form of communication that integrates three information patterns, consultation, registration and conversation which makes the weblog really a new medium. The weblog forms a bridge in the spectrum of communication channels on the internet between traditional web pages and an internet forum.

The main research question in this paper is what form of communication is made possible through weblogs. Combining the communication theory of Habermas and the communication capacities of Van Dijk, we have seen that weblogs offer a platform for the ideal speech situation.The high accessibility of the communication, the equal power distribution between publishers on the internet and the fact that acting truthfully can be judged on offered context, are the conditions that make this possible.

The weblog can be used for reflection on three domains: on the subjective domain for selfexpression and –reflection, on the objective domain for sharing knowledge and on the intersubjective domain for criticism on society.

Because of its high information complexity, the weblog can be used for sharing knowledge with others. [...] Finally, the highest potential of added value in blogs will be in the intersubjective domain since it offers the opportunity to increase political awareness.

From a communicative perspective the weblog can best be seen as starting point for discourse, a communication hub. The weblog is a fixed marker on the internet that offers readers multiple communication channels to choose from to enter into conversation and participate in or start a discourse. By using multiple communication channels, like chat and voice over IP, discussion will grow more intense and social ties will become stronger. Finally, from the different domains networks of people with shared interests will emerge, who will thus create a communal space for their discourses.

Do blogs offer a plattform for the "ideal speech situation"? I

So, shall we give it a try and summarize sth. in my blog? Well, why not.

Abstract of "Understanding Weblogs: a communicative perspective" [by Elmine Wijnia]:

Abstract of the abstract:)
This research investigates what form of communication is made possible through the weblog and what its uses are for the future. Taking Habermas’ theory, it will be investigated whether blogs offer a platform for what he calls the ‘ideal speech situation’. Conditions for the ideal speech situation are that everyone has equal access to the communication, that there are no power differences between the participants and that the participants act truthfully towards each other. To answer the question whether weblogs can satisfy these conditions, the framework of communication capacities of Van Dijk (1999) will be used and extended with two concepts. Based on these communication capacities it can be concluded that weblogs do offer a platform for the ideal speech situation. [...]
1.) Introduction
The rise of this new genre on the internet has triggered people into researching whether blogs can be a form of communication that complies with the vision of Tim Berners Lee when creating the WWW. “The vision I have for the Web is about anything being potentially connected with anything. It is a vision that provides us with new freedom, and allows us to grow faster than we ever could when we were fettered by the hierarchical classification systems into which we bound our-selves.” (Berners-Lee & Fischetti, 1999) The WWW should be a place in which everyone can speak for him or herself without the boundaries that are set by traditional media. Ito (2004) describes that publication tools like weblogs could contribute to a new form of democracy in which consensus is no longer build by the mass media through broadcasting, but a process of conversations between people to reach consensus. The weblog could be a way for building consensus according to Ito (2004). A highly regarded philosopher of our time, Jürgen Habermas, explicitly describes how people could build such a consensus. Several researchers have connected Habermas’ theory to what we call the blogosphere, the network of bloggers. (Thompson, 2003; Mortensen & Walker, 2002) These researchers question whether the blogosphere can comply with what Habermas calls the public sphere.

The comparisons from Mortensen & Walker (2002) and Thompson (2003) between blogs and Habermas’ public sphere are not thorough enough to conclude that the blogosphere could be compared with it. They only regarded a small part of Habermas theory and therefore they don’t do fully justice to his theory.

academics who use blogs

and more of it: Susan Herzog’s lovely annotated list of essays and blog posts about academics who use blogs in their teaching...through jill

every day...

More than half a year ago (is that ages in Internet-time? more than a lifetime in Blog-time?) liz posted five different ways into blog research ...which SocialTwister nicely summarizes.

Amazing how I find more and more relevant stuff every day! If there wasn't some life out there I think I'd just stay glued to my laptop.

Saturday, February 26


The focus of this article is on the use of blogs by students as learning journals. Blogs are able to integrate the personal aspect of a traditional learning journal or diary that documents a student�s journal through their leaning with the immediate publishing capability of the web.
via DOAJ

Friday, February 25

Anthropology Matters...

Cyberspace invites the rethinking of the concepts culture and location. But it also demands a re-examination of the idea of 'the field' in virtual-or what is also called cyber-ethnography. This article focuses on one way of locating the field in cyberspace by exploring the concept of home as it is conceptualized by the ethnographer and imagined and negotiated by those with whom she works. The article suggests a critical way of approaching belonging on-line, and examines the epistemological position of anthropology at home when applied to cyberspace. On a theoretical level, this article brings together the growing field of cyber-studies and critical feminist and post-colonial perspectives. more here

Thursday, February 24

comments gone...

just installed Haloscan-trackback to my blog and now all the comments on my posts are gone!
What a pitty!!!

Blogging and academia II

More about the same:
Some additional discussion on my talk. In the first comment, I identify what I said about 43 Things. More importantly, in the second comment, I elucidate what I mean my reducing the big spike. "Power laws develop only under certain conditions, which I describe in my talk. Change the conditions - as I proposed - and you change the power law." By Stephen Downes and Others, Common Craft, February 23, 2005 [via OLDaily]
The fact that we’re here for a blog conference says something about how we are at the very beginning of something and trying to understand it. It’s like phones or cars, you don’t see people having a conference discussing how phones or cars are going to change the world – it’s something everyone takes for granted. They did have conferences in the beginning their history, but now it seems silly. It won’t be long until the same is true for blogs – it’ll just be a part of what we do. [more here]
There are much more links and audio-files on NorthernVoice and things disccussed there...
Open Academics:

Since the invention of the printing press, and more so since World War II, academic research has become a major industry, propelling the academic publishing industry to become a massive enterprise that has overwhelmed researchers. In the 1980s alone, over 30 000 journals were created causing researchers to often complain of being overwhelmed with information. Consequently, experts no longer have time to properly peer review new articles. Errors published in articles go unfixed, or require the expense of new articles to correct. Existing research is often overlooked, leading to redundant work or missed linkages.

The press is only a relatively recent development, and the Internet is even newer. The Academy has undergone many changes in media in its history, from oral culture to literacy onward. This paper will perform a comparative historical analysis of changing media's impact on social practices in academia in order to extrapolate how academia will be re-organized in the age of the Internet.

This predictive framework will be applied to Stevan Harnard's valiant efforts to change academia. An attempt will be made to explain why his initiatives have gotten narrower and narrower over time after repeated false starts. Recommendations to how to more effectively achieve his goals will be offered.

Sunir Shah's presentation on the topic at the ASIS&T 04.

Wednesday, February 23

Blogging and academia

Just a few links to comments about the "Blogging and Academia"-Panel at "Northern Voice" in Vancouver:

Sunday, February 20

oh well...

Discovering the blogosphere and trends in it can be quite disappointing! Here's a link to a forthcoming chapter in book: The five keyes for building business relationships online... I guess soon buiness-oriented blog's will be all over the place...
"If you are using your blog as a tool to build your network, remember that people relate to people, not to companies. Write in the first person, write in a natural style, and have a genuine opinion. Whether you own a small company or work for a large one, be the voice of an individual in your blog. People are tired of corporate-speak,..."

Friday, February 18

selfish reasons for blogging

Something Torill wrote in 2001:
I also have selfish reasons for blogging. I think better when I write. Sometimes, I need to get rid of thoughts, and then I write them down so that I can go on. When I was 16 I wrote down the names of the boys I was in love with. If it was one I happened to hate I would burn the note afterwards, and feel like I had some kind of closure. Now, when I am in love with a thought, I can write it down. That lets me examine it when it doesn't expect me to look at it. I can sneak up on it at a time when my head is busy with something else, and I can surprise it in a different context. This will let me see my newfound love, the virginate idea, in a different light, and I can see its flaws and weaknesses, as well as its beauty. And I can move on, let the ones which are not worthy of being taken home live on somewhere outside my head.
I can relate to that a lot and I think it's just a beautiful description! Found it in her paper with Jill. Something I wonder about is how academics can share ideas, thoughts, links... so freely - I mean - of course! - it's great, that's what we all dream of, discourse in a non hierarchic public sphere yes, I too write to be part of a community of researchers, part of an ongoing dialogue. (although I'm not a "real" researcher yet, I guess...I'm more trying to become a part of a community). But what about people "stealing" your ideas?

Is something published in the World Wide Web really "save"? Isn't a "proper" publication in a peer reviewed journal much more respected and doesn't the reasearcher get much more "brownie points" out of that? Or are we all taking that risk cause what we get out of blogging is just much more worth compared to this tiny risk?

Thursday, February 17

following the conflict...

I spent most of today reading Alireza Doostdaars' The Vulgar Spirit of Blogging. The paper gives an interesting insight into "Weblogstan" - the iranian weblogsphere - by concentrating on a specific debate about "vulgar" linguistic and cultural practices there, thus cleverly avoiding issues of outlining which blogs one is analysing and which not. Part of the research was to keep a blog in which the author commented on the ongoing conversation - thus participating as well as observing what was going on. He very openly reflects on his methods (like sending trackback pings or referencing "Harvard" to get attention to his posts) and also puts them in context with what bloggers usually do.

Something I'm still wondering about is what the reactions to the paper are. I did an internet-search for reviews but found disappointingly unsubstantial comments. Is it that people don't print out a 16-page paper that is written in (a very readable but still) acadmic style or are there just much more reactions in Persian to it? What I also did not discover was a hint at informed consent: were the people cited asked when their posts were put in the paper? But I guess they could watch the evolving paper on the (now not any more updated) blog.

In my search for comments I discovered another paper by the same author: Blogging for Imam Hussein. And if one doesn't feel like's a link to a speech given by Alireza on "Vulgar Vagabonds in Veblogestan"

Oh - and for all of you who speak Persian - here's a collection of all the important contributions to the debate analysed.

Interesting are also Alirezas comments on why he's blogging the way he's blogging:
First, it is unusual for an ethnographer to put his/her observation notes where everyone can see them (i.e., on a blog). [Yes, indeed! And I wonder if he'd written it much differently into a little notepad just for himself...] Second, I wasn’t really a “participant” observer because I was trying to write about Iranian weblogs without myself immersing in blogging in the way that it is commonly practiced (although there might be some difference of opinion over just what IS common… but I won’t get into that). I have now realized that these issues can potentially lead to confusion over why I’m blogging and what my blogs are really about... more here

Oh - and if anyone's still wondering what it's all about - here the authors own words:
My study focuses primarily on the linguistic side of the controversy: I analyze blogging as an emergent speech genre and identify the structural features and social interactions that make this genre seem "vulgar." I also examine the controversy as a confrontation between bloggers with unequal access to cultural capital and a struggle over "intellectualist" hegemony. In the conclusion, I use the construct of "deep play" to weave together multiple layers of structure, explanation, and meaning in the debate.

Tuesday, February 15

who blogs why?

...difficult one again...

What about: What do people write about?
their own experiences, photos, political comments, links to other websites,...the only restriction is the ability of the blogger...but there's a common sense of agreement that blogs are personal.

What about: Different kinds of blogs?
  • photoblogs
  • moblogs

so....what are blogs?

Very good question. I guess the my aim shouldn't be to provide a highly scientific definition (besides: are there any yet?) but rather something people can work and think with.
Lilia and Stephanie Hendricks in their paper point to a definition in Walker: 2003:
"a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order".
That sounds quite straight forward to me, what I'd add is, that blogs are personal

"not formal, faceless, corporate sites"

(same source). What I'm not sure about is, how often exactly is frequently? :-)
What about comments and links? Do they have to be there to make a weblog a weblog? Torill and Jill mention it in their paper: Blogging thoughts. I guess they're not absolutely necessary, but still most of the blogs contain them.

Weblogs sind eine Nachrichtenbörse. Das Internet wird gefiltert und die (subjektive) Selektion wird der Weblog Community online mitgeteilt. Weblogs sind deshalb das schnellste Medium für die Verbreitung von Nachrichten im Internet"
found at

talk on blogs

Okay, so I've got the main outline for my talk on blogs at the Department of European Ethnology in a few weeks. It'll be very simple, 'cause I expect that people have never heard of blogs. Here we go:
  • What are blogs?
(including definition, who writes why blogs...)
  • How does one starte one?
(don't know yet how many providers I should introduce, also I want to include a short how-to)
  • Why should I as scientist do that?
(advantages & disadvantages - yet to find out...)

Sunday, February 13

why do people blog?

In a very early post ... Lilia reflects on why she's blogging: it's a way to represent herself, a way to summarize what she is and what she still should be reading - and not yet: a place where she shares and discusses ideas with others. She also blogs to keep a feeling of "coffee table dialog", something I can relate to very much, although I don't like coffee except for it's sweetness IF there's sugar in it.

Dina about why she's blogging:
When i think of what i've gained from blogging, i've made some great friends with whom i can share many parts of my life with. I've also been stunned sometimes at the personal discoveries i've made through the act of blogging - about my own dreams, persuasions and passions, some of which i talk about more openly, others that make me see with new eyes, still others that i maynot be able to consciously pinpoint but that have allowed me to grow as a person. And on the work-front, or professional front - today i have so many options that i could never have dreamt possible before i started blogging and interacting with this community - there's many loose-ends still, yet some clear directions too.

Here Lillia argues for something I myself haven't discovered yet, but am desperately waiting for, as I'm becoming a ever so experienced blogger:

When I work on a paper I often write posts related to it: informal notes that later will turn into formal paragraps, side track ideas, paper summaries or just associations. Next to a good feeling of producing at least something it get's me into a writing mode: switching from blogging to paper writing is much easier then starting directly.

Ton Zijlstra started once a conversation on Conversations, blogs and related musings at Knowledge board - and there are lots of interesting answers there...the one I like most: "blogging is like a loving sexual relationship".

Lilia also mentions something about not overflowing others with stuff they are probably not interested in - thats something I never thought of, but in E-mail discussions I've had that sense of drowning quite often, so that's a good point too!

After all this interesting posts on blogs on why people blog I still wonder if keeping a blog could be useful for an keeping and editing "field notes", links, ideas, snippets of thoughts - whatever. What about people stealing your ideas? And isn't a blog through it's very nature of being public going to influence the way you write about "the others"? Does it make sense to keep a blog in "normal" anthropological research? I mean I do see the point in doing so when one's into "virtual ethnography", but what are the limitations of blogging - are there any?

he's gone...

Peter, my boyfriend, went back to Britain today. It was a great week we spent together, lot's of time for each other...and as we were reflecting about what had happened, shortly before he left I had this curious feeling of actually enjoying our crazy relationship-lifestyle. I wonder what it is, that makes me actually not sad. Peter's approach to it was, that the time we are spending with each other is actually very special, 'cause we're making an effort to do so - this keeps our relationship being special in his opinion. I don't know if that's true for me too. Anyway: now I'm back to studying for exams at the beginning of March and preparing a presentation about blogs until April - and I'm very much looking forward to the latter! :-)

Saturday, February 12

a view links to interesting articles

Blogging thoughts: personal publication as an online research tool
is an interesting article in a book called "Researching ICTs in context". I haven't read it properly yet, but I guess "Making The Electronical Text Canonical" at Golublog and Kerim Freemans' Article on Open Source Anthropology might be arguing in a similar vein.

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