The Blogging Discourse
Recently, however, I was talking with my friend Travis on Skype (he is the first non-living-abroad American I know to have bothered to get this simple technology, a fact which continues to amaze those of us here), and the topic of blog-reading came up.
I mentioned that he is really the only person in our department (of those not abroad) who has kept in touch at all. He subscribes to my blog on Bloglines and occasionally even emails me a report of his latest adventures.
Travis says that while he doesn't keep a blog himself, a good many of his friends do, and that he reads quite a few blogs. On the other hand, we concluded that other people in our department simply do not read blogs, even those by their friends. Anything Kristen and I write that might be directed toward our colleagues is pretty much wasted effort, which may explain why we don't say more about our dissertations.
Danah Boyd, the much-read chronicler of the internet "social networking" phenomenon, has also been pondering the issue of who reads blogs and why. It does not really surprise me that Danah reads fewer blogs as she approaches her comprehensive exams, and that those she reads are entirely escapist rather than dissertation-related, but all the same, since blogs and related phenomena are her professional interest, she has some interesting observations. Danah asks, for example,
"what does it mean for blogging discourse if there's a consumption/production divide in blogging? Are (non-professional) bloggers with more readers less likely to read blogs than bloggers with fewer readers? What kind of peculiar power hierarchy emerges if bloggers who are read more read less and depend on readers more? Are those who read less less involved in the dialogue or are they simply bridges dependent on sharing?"This blog certainly isn't as widely read as Danah's, but it has a respectable number of readers for a blog of its type, most of whom are not people I know personally, and I see some of the same dynamics at work. I read very few blogs regularly, various others now and then, and I thus fall somewhere between the person who primarily provides content (especially those who are fed material by their readers) and the person who may or may not blog but reads and comments on numerous blogs.
Well, this is just the anthropological/cultural historian part of me at work wondering about this larger phenomenon in which I participate in my small way.