ye olde net…

An article on the resurgence of ‘closed’ social media sites or ways of limiting your social media networks to *actual* friends or net acquaintances – which the writer suggests are remininiscent of old style news boards, bbs’s, and … email lists, for my money.

a short excerpt:

Rebecca Greenfield, writing for Fast Company, traces the return of the internet newsletter to the death of Google Reader. A representative from TinyLetter told her that there was an uptick in users just as Google pulled the plug last year. Some of us switched to other RSS readers, nevertheless a number of bloggers saw their community and traffic take a hit, and posted less as a result. (By the way, Aaron Straup Cope has a tool to read TinyLetters with RSS). Sara Watson told me TinyLetter is one of the sponsors for “99% invisible,” a podcast with an audience of a number of bloggers and former bloggers. There’s another reason why people are turning to newsletters to publish content now: it is a not-quite public and not-quite private way to share information.


anyway, one for the files:



recent thesis on blogging available

posted recently on the CITASA list, what looks to be a work of interest to some of us. i’ve added the link to the downloadable file below – haven’t read it myself yet, but if the abstract is anything to go by….

“As if nobody’s reading’?: the imagined audience and socio-technical biases in personal blogging practice in the UK”
David Brake. (2009) PhD thesis, London School of Economics.


This thesis examines the understandings and meanings of personal blogging from the perspective of blog authors. The theoretical framework draws on a symbolic interactionist perspective, focusing on how meaning is constructed through blogging practices, supplemented by theories of mediation and critical technology studies. The principal evidence in this study is derived from an analysis of in-depth interviews with bloggers selected to maximise their diversity based on the results of an initial survey. This is supplemented by an analysis of personal blogging’s technical contexts [what i’ve been wont to call ‘affordances’ -el] and of various societal influences that appear to influence blogging practices. Bloggers were found to have limited interest in gathering information about their readers, appearing to rely instead on an assumption that readers are sympathetic. Although personal blogging practices have been framed as being a form of radically free expression, they were also shown to be subject to potential biases including social norms [that’s us! – el] and the technical characteristics of blogging services [‘affordances’ again]. Blogs provide a persistent record of a blogger’s practice, but the bloggers in this study did not generally read their archives or expect others to do so, nor did they retrospectively edit their archives to maintain a consistent self-presentation. The empirical results provide a basis for developing a theoretical perspective to account for blogging practices. This emphasises firstly that a blogger’s construction of the meaning of their practice can be based as much on an imagined and desired social context as it is on an informed and reflexive understanding of the communicative situation [sounds as if he has been reading us all this time?]. Secondly, blogging practices include a variety of envisaged audience relationships, and some blogging practices appear to be primarily self-directed with potential audiences playing a marginal role [and, i feel we may be framed here again]. Blogging’s technical characteristics and the social norms surrounding blogging practices appear to enable and reinforce this unanticipated lack of engagement with audiences [indeed]. This perspective contrasts with studies of computer mediated communication that suggest bloggers would monitor their audiences and present themselves strategically to ensure interactions are successful in their terms. The study also points the way towards several avenues for further research including a more in-depth consideration of the neglected structural factors (both social and technical) which potentially influence blogging practices, and an examination of social network site use practices using a similar analytical approach

well, i’m convinced that the work will be worth reading, and very interested in what david proposes.
available with this link

discussion is invited on the blog at:

media still influencing public opinion?

the xplosion of information on the internet means high signal-noise ratio. we need filtering mechanisms – friends, trusted sources, or our own motivation to check it out for ourselves. as my mother told me: ‘question everything’.
but even our friends and large media outlets have limited time and resources. things need to posted as soon as received, otherwise it’s not current – 48 hours after posting to youtube, you gotta get your vid 50,000 hits to get up there on the daily most-watched, otherwise you go down to the weekly most watched according to dan ackerman greenburg.

so how much can you believe what you read or hear?
what is the value of an ‘independent voice’ too, and how far does independence stretch nowadays? i mean, we have clay shirkey on TED extolling the virtues of groups and amateur input being co-ordinated via the internet and by virtue of self-organising systems, while we have others such as the horrible andrew keen (no i will not be drawn into linking anything to do with this charlatan on this site, but he is an eye opener. also, colbert’s interview with him on the colbert report was rather amusing) arguing that the amateurism promoted by the internet is ruining journalism and also, well, yes, honest profit-making – which, as we all know, makes the world go round. and will probably not cost us jobs, but will cost us a habitable earth itself into the bargain.

meantime, a small experiment seemed in order over at hungry beast:

…and bugger off murdochs of the world – leave our BBC’s and ABCs alone!…

uh, for those of you not comprehending this outburst, i recommend an update via the following video – made by the BBC, so it must not have an ‘independent’ view of this issue anyway, according to james murdoch. james equates state management of media news gathering and dissemination with lack of plurality, and unfair ‘land-grabbing’ of the media commons.
he claims that the only way for an independent media to survive is through profit… the BBC does not make a profit and thus it unfairly takes away the profit of commercial media enterprises by being too good… and free… duh. but of course, he neglects to mention that if anything is run by the state it is not free, it is a community resource. as people protesting againt universal health care in the USA must also believe….

if the BBC is so popular, then why shouldn’t it be used as a standard? i mean, does popularity necessarily mean lack of independence, or that news and other programming it delivers will be slanted or ‘biased’?
for those on the right, this seems to be the case, i.e. anything run by the state they believe must necessarily produce programming that is skewed in favour of what the government of the day does.

in fact, the problem with the ABC here in oz is that conservative governments so much fear the ‘independence’ of this state-run organisation, that they regularly reduce its funding, cut back positions and instal new heads of departments. it is only the more middle of the road governments (i cannot class the present labor govt as left by any stretch of the imagination) who do not appear to intervene… but of course, all these media wags at the ABC are lefties anyway, as the right will tell you.
oh, and teachers too for that matter – unless they are kept in order by being employed by… you guessed it! private schools run for the holy profit motive.

A Room of One’s Own

Of all the phenomena ‘afforded,’ as-it-were, the set that interests me most is how illusions are afforded. There are easy, maybe facile, metaphors come to mind. I can split the focus and wonder about how those illusions may be said to be typically afforded and then move into a more phenomenological frame and wonder what a given typical illusion feels like for the subject. So: when this is pointed out or otherwise amplified for the subject, what does this then evoke in the subject?

I’ll use myself as such a subject. If I ask myself what are the the different types of illusions of privacy afforded differently by email discussion list, and, by group blog, the first images that are aroused differentiate the illusory walled living room of the cozy email list, and, the private hushed conversation conducted in the midst of the uncaring audience.

Let’s leap. This example leads–for me–to the following sense: as a matter of personal preference, I would rather contribute an instance of expression on this blog, have it ignored, yet have it ignored for all the world to see then do the same on an email list and have it echo off the walls. Better the ‘thud’ than the reverberation.

There would be reasons for this.

A better term, coming from wanting to develop a better term, for reflexive affordances is, intraspersonal affordances. It seems to me, even if novel, what I’m trying to locate is the introspective response to the environment. Maybe it’s a sort of bridge or liminal aspect of reflection upon what is afforded. And, what is afforded by the uncertain flux of structure and the interpersonal.

The echoing room refers both to the seeming boundedness of the structure of the list, and, the lack of human reception.

I could run with the room metaphor. To do so is to wonder about what kind of room is a blog. Now my original evoked image shifts. It’s not like creating for all the world to see. All the world can’t fit into its room. It’s a bigger room, and, it’s a bigger illusion of roominess.

Various modalities, and their affordances, look different from one another. For example, Facebook, is like having to occupy a room someone else designed, and, along with this comes lots of constraining rules. Along this same line of thought, as you have noted, the blog modality seems like this too when someone else is busily overhauling the room with their design and with their rules, or some of them.

Obviously this is in high contrast with the austere structure of an email list. With a list, the tools with which one can ‘mark their territory’ are few. But, at the same time, the effects one can create are substantial. In terms of illusion, it would then be the case that a participant might think: “Ahh, this is what is imagined about me.”

Naked text provides for some cruel austerities. Contrast this with the different ways multi-media affords different kinds of mediation. For example, to easily see the artistic product of the photographer is better than even to hop on a text link dangling at the bottom of a post.

Going further, the sensemaking concerned with another person’s embodiment, is enriched via the multi-sensory potential. (Hmmm, methinks the intrapersonal affordances are embodied affordances.) This, then, comes to one of the first winds of the netdynam email list gyre, when psych type and psycho type alike pondered the absence of the body.

Still, I’m mindful of the necessary promotion of illusion. It is possible that illusion is preferable to realism.

I have a favorite example of this. There are immensely popular blogs where a single post evokes tens, hundreds, even thousands of comments. Probably, in a structural sense, a comment threads allows a given comment to ripple downward through successive comments up to the point the comment–in result–dissipates its energy. There, no doubt, are affordances having to do with the dissipative propensities in a modal system. The existence of long comment threads on blogs begs lots of questions. To suggest one answer to an unspecified question: if you read a long comment thread top to bottom, the temporal slices can sometimes be identified because some threads demarcate their own waxing and waning and waxing.

What would a commenter be thinking to lose one’s self in such a trailing crowd?
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blog affordances anyone?

1. Blog versus email list discussion

The affordances of the blog medium render discussions conducted there different, both in content and expression, from those previously conducted by the same people via a mailing list.
Reference to content and expression planes is meant to distinguish the meanings made possible by any text, and so we can say that while the expression plane refers to the materiality through which meanings are made (e.g. sound and articulation, movement, gestures, graphology and letters, etc), the content plane refers to meanings derived from the discourse made possible through these media.

In other words, BOTH the formal features of the posts and their responses  – what are labelled ‘comments’ in a blog environment –  are different in every respect when comparing the email-list versus the blog environment: formatting, colour, dispersion on the page, linking/nesting, inclusion of graphics AND  the content of the responses and posts are different. At the same time, what we say and how we say it are affected by our notions of ‘audience’ on the blog. The email list in the case of Netdynam was available by subscription and only subscribers are privy to the posts. The subscription list was small and the active posters became well known to each other. In the case of the blog on the other hand, it is not easily clear who is reading the posts since the web-log is public.

Audience potential appears to be the biggest difference affecting interaction on the blog – as contrasted with the experience of interacting on a mailing list. The technological contraints and enablements notwithstanding, the net effect of the extra appurtances is that blog-members now have open boundaries – or perhaps semi-permeable boundaries if the levels of administration and moderation are taken into account – and this does not make former members of a small list feel as ‘secure’ when faced with an open audience. For example, the projected audience affects how a writer addresses the content – this paper was originally written to fellow list-members and instead of third person referents, general nouns, and past tense, I used second person referents, and habitual or present (in the past) tense, i.e. whereas in the paragraph to follow I originally wrote “we have been spending many years defining boundaries…”, for general consumption, I now write something different…

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Blogs, Their Popularity, Lack Thereof, Community Usefulness



Researchers have analyzed the dynamics of how blogs become popular. There are essentially two measures of this: popularity through citations, as well as popularity through affiliation (i.e. blogroll). The basic conclusion from studies of the structure of blogs is that while it takes time for a blog to become popular through blogrolls, permalinks can boost popularity more quickly, and are perhaps more indicative of popularity and authority than blogrolls, since they denote that people are actually reading the blog’s content and deem it valuable or noteworthy in specific cases.[15]

The blogdex project was launched by researchers in the MIT Media Lab to crawl the Web and gather data from thousands of blogs in order to investigate their social properties. It gathered this information for over 4 years, and autonomously tracked the most contagious information spreading in the blog community, ranking it by recency and popularity. It can therefore be considered the first instantiation of a memetracker. The project is no longer active, but a similar function is now served by

Blogs are given rankings by Technorati based on the number of incoming links and Alexa Internet based on the Web hits of Alexa Toolbar users. In August 2006, Technorati found that the most linked-to blog on the internet was that of Chinese actress Xu Jinglei.[16] Chinese media Xinhua reported that this blog received more than 50 million page views, claiming it to be the most popular blog in the world.[17] Technorati rated Boing Boing to be the most-read group-written blog.[16]

Boing Boing

How popular are the following blogs? Examine how much participation each engenders. Put the URL in google and see how much each is mentioned at that ‘root’ URL.

Plug this into your browser and gauge results and authority to blogs:

Technorati: Top 100 Most Popular Blogs (Speaking of Technoratio,’s blog has achieved an authority rating of 2, and a rank 1,154,896.)

Selection of blogs to investigate under the fold
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One Blog Clapping

Blogs Falling in an Empty Forest
Published: June 5, 2009 New York Times

Gist of article is: supply of blogs outstrips demand. Most bloggers give up their blogging project. Quite possible an active blog will have no readership.

According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.

Richard Jalichandra, chief executive of Technorati, said that at any given time there are 7 million to 10 million active blogs on the Internet, but “it’s probably between 50,000 and 100,000 blogs that are generating most of the page views.” He added, “There’s a joke within the blogging community that most blogs have an audience of one.”

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