Sunday, March 25, 2007

Let's Get Academic About Blogging

Conceptualizing The Weblog: Understanding What It Is In Order To Imagine What It Can Be By Andrew Ó Baoill, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


This article provides a model for defining the weblog and differentiating between its manifestations. First we have the definition of the weblog based on the basic format - websites with posts in reverse-chronological order. Second we have audience, the division between those weblogs that deal with personal issues and expect an audience known to the author, and those that place themselves in the public sphere, addressing a more general audience. Within those weblogs operating in the public sphere we can make a further delineation in terms of the domain of issues covered. Third, and finally, we have the organization of the weblog, either as a hobby, an income generating operation, or a professional operation.

Weblogs have received much recent popular and academic attention, being seen by some as heralding a potential inversion in information flows in society and online. However, concurrent with the coverage of the potential of weblogs has been a discussion of what actually constitutes a weblog. It is necessary to have a clear understanding of what weblogs are, and of their structural context in order to properly assess the potential role of weblogs in the greater media environment. In this essay I examine the various elements associated with the weblog, and previous attempts at classification and definition. I develop a model that will assist future
research into this phenomenon. By developing a multi-faceted understanding of the various forms of weblogs, and the roles assigned them, we can better hone research and obtain clarity on what we can reasonably expect of weblogs.

Weblogs emerged online in a rather unplanned fashion. While hosting companies and email providers throughout the 1990s billed themselves as helping to create ‘communities’ online, and tried to figure out exactly how to ‘leverage’ these communities,1 computer savvy amateurs were doing it for themselves. Slashdot, for example, was an early entrant to the scene, allowing readers to discuss stories that had been submitted by other readers.2 Relying largely on other online outlets for original content, the emphasis is on technology related news. Entries are usually short, consisting of a link to a timely article, though there are occasional interviews and essays.

No comments: