Category Archives: Blogs
The blogging community is growing, stretching its muscles and increasing its influence. Blogs are, according to a number of studies, providing more insight and more thoughtful analysis than traditional media. Clearly, there are amateurish and ineffectual blogs that contaminate the blogo sphere but these will always be with us as long as communication environments are unrestrained.
In a study by Johnson and Kaye (Media, War & Conflict, Vol 3, 2010) they discovered that the Iraqi war was a significant event with respect to blogs when people began to see them as more thoughtful and often more accurate than traditional media. Until then, blogs were mostly annoying sideshows dismissed by quality journalism as something not to be taken seriously. But soldiers in Iraq who began to write war blogs and report on what they were seeing, including a natural view of the military and the culture of military life, began to acquire support. These military blogs were popular and attracted the attention of traditionally trained journalists as well as the public.
But a strong majority of Americans who supported the war up until the toppling of Saddam Hussein began to fade away as the war effort shifted to state building in Iraq. Attention to blogs began to wane and it appeared that military blogs were consistently the most popular and blogs lost some of their appeal as things moved to routine politics. Still, the public recognizes that government sources control wartime news and these sources of course have their limitations and biases. The beginning of the Iraqi war and the hunt for Saddam Hussein produced more cheerleaders than journalists.
In time of war blogs written by soldiers are particularly popular for some rather straightforward reasons. They offer up more detail, insight, and perspective as well as assumed to be more authentic. Moreover blogs by soldiers, or more detached participants, can write in a subjective and breezy style that does not adhere to normal journalistic standards. And although this can have disadvantages it makes for more enjoyable reading. The interactive features of blogs are also very popular where readers can respond and initiate extended discussions.
Johnson and Kaye found that blogs were influential in establishing perceptions and had the power to influence opinions. Readers of blogs in their study reported increased influence and attributions of credibility about the blog as time went on. There are of course a number of political and foreign-policy explanations for this including the influence of changing popularity from traditional media.
Also of interest is the predominance of Republican and conservative ideology among blog readers and users. We would expect military blogs to be largely conservative but overall blog attention increases among Republicans and conservatives. In the same way that conservative radio and television is more popular or “works better” than liberal programming, conservative ideologies seem to seek out alternative media probably because of their general belief in liberal media bias.
Some years ago it seemed quite unlikely that citizens would drift away from CNN and traditional news and start partaking regularly of blogs for war news, a time when blogs were considered more hardscrabble upstarts then respected and reliable. But the blogosphere is growing and shaping itself into something significant as well as genuinely challenging traditional news. The blogs of war were unleashed during the Iraqi war just at the moment where technology and politics intersected.
Blogs are probably the best form of user generated content. And finding good blogs is a challenge because there’s plenty of junk out there. Let’s take a look at a little of the organizational structure for blogs. The network of computers that connects us all makes for an ecosystem and every blog fits somewhere into that system. The first type of blog and the most popular is the personal blog. This is the type of blog where you express yourself and layout your own feelings and thoughts. Of course, if you happen to be bright and interesting and quirky than these are good blogs. But if you are dull and plodding than your blog will follow suit. A good example of a personal blog is Dooce.com. You can check it out here: Dooce.com is a personal blog that records the person’s life. A second type of blog is a filtering blog. These simply lists links with little or no commentary but they connect you to many other blogs. Filtering blogs filter the web from the blogger’s point of view. So some topics are more representative than others. Jason Kottke’s blog is a particularly good example that uses the web to represent his own interests particularly when he and his wife had a baby. You can find the blog here: Jason Kottke’s Blog
Topical blogs are of course extremely popular and they are simply devoted to issues and focused topics rather than the blogger. You can probably imagine the variety of topics available on the Internet. Politics is important but less so than you might think. A Pew Internet research study in 2006 found that only around 11% of all blogs were primarily about politics . You might also try The Daily Kos and The Artful Parent. Topical blogs usually take the practice of writing a post like a news story; that is, they describe an activity and then include additional information and insights about that activity. Some of these topical blogs are simply quirky and creative and enjoyable to read. For this, I would recommend “your civic doody.” You can find it here: Your Civic Doody.
Liberal blogs are plentiful on the web but there are even more conservative blogs. One fellow who is chronically pissed and pretty fun to read can be a found here : chronically Pissed. An angry liberal blogger. No holds barred language
The conventions and the practices of blogging will change over time. Blogs will change as the technology changes as well as the communication interests of people. Still, there are millions of blogs and very few of them receive very much attention . But it is also important not to think of them as mass communication . They are not designed for the masses but for slices of the audience. I think the issue of whether blogs are simply a medium or whether they are genre of writing is an interesting one. If they are simply an electronic tool through which text passes then they have relatively little to offer other than speed and availability. But if they are genre of writing then blogs stand to play a significant role in the expression of information.