Blogging as a Social Activity: Would You Let 900 Million People Read Your Diary?
Bonnie Nardi, UC Irvine, Diane J Schiano, Michelle Gumbrecht, Stanford
This paper presented an ethnographic study of a small pool of "average" bloggers, meaning bloggers off the A and B lists who have smaller audiences, both mostly=professional and mostly-personal. The main conclusion was that blogging is NOT like a diary, but more like radio. Their argument is that since blogs are intended to be read people work with them differently than they do with a diary: messages to friends, advice, invitations, etc. The motivations for blogging were familiar to other things I have read: provide updates on activities; express opinions; influence others; seek other opinions; thinking by writing (McGee's Thinking Out Loud); and emotional release. In the end, they suggest that bloggers aren't letting 900 million people read, but they are standing in front of 900 million people who can look if they want.
The back channel and some questions took exception to the idea of blog-as-radio. In discussion at the reception, we played a bit with the idea that blogs are nothing like radios or diaries. Rather they are one piece of a larger set of activities that people participate in throughout their day: email, IM, blogging, reading (other blogs), interacting, etc. To really understand blogging, suggests metamanda, you must follow how these people operate throughout their days. I suspect this kind of study will turn up many different types of behaviors (motivations?) that result in blogging. And I suspect that individual bloggers exhibit a variety of these behaviors over the course of their blogging experience. The researchers at the end of the talk suggested that it would be interesting to study blog readers, which would be a step in this larger kind of study.