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  Saturday, June 12, 2004

  Wish I was there: Weblogs and Cross-Disciplinary Communication panel

I should be working on a paper right now, instead of blogging. But since I got interrupted anyway: read Collin Brooke summary of Weblogs and Cross-Disciplinary Communication panel by Liz Lawley, Alex Halavais, Sébastien Paquet, Clay Shirky, and Jill Walker at Media Ecology Association Conference [via Many-to-Many].

Liz Lawley chaired the panel, and opened with a brief discussion of the definitional problems that weblog research encounters:

  • There's no such thing as an "average" blog, making generalizable conclusions difficult;
  • Most so-called "personal" blogs defy narrow categorization;
  • Most weblogs shift in tone and focus over time, making it difficult to generalize even within a single blog;
  • Many of those writing about them aren't writing them, and research that treats bloggers as "others" often misses crucial aspects.

Liz' summary resonates well with my own thinking (especially the last point :). Recently I was thinking a lot on difficulties of selecting a proper sample of weblogs for a study given all differences between weblogs. Of course, one can take a random sample (e.g. as here), but then all specifics (most interesting for me :) will be lost.

I guess that a better strategy will be to study specific weblog neighbourhoods (Alex Halavais too according to the summary). Not only because studying a weblog outside of its author's social ecosystem is a best way to miss the essence of blogging, but also because it may be easier to generalise.

Many people distinguish technologies and practices of blogging (I picked up the idea talking with Sebastian Fiedler, but if you want something to read check this post of Alex Halavais). I suspect that blogging practices are tied more to specific social networks than use of specific blogging tools (also taking into account that choice of weblog tool is social as well). For example, when I read some of weblog studies I do not recognise my own experiences of blogging and experiences of others in my own weblog social circles. It seems that certain practices are shared in my weblog community that do not exist in "average" weblogs. Could it be that studying weblog communities would make generalisation easier? (Of course, once you solve the problem of drawing boundaries of a weblog community :)))

[Have to stop on the topic of studying weblog communities for a moment: writing all my ideas would mean not coming back to the paper at all :) May be I need some discipline of not checking my news aggregator :))) ] 

A few more things from the panel:

1. Clay Shirky (in Collins interpretation) on weblog collaboration:

As of yet, though, the interfaces themselves are still geared towards individuals, and so there's a sense of "parallel play" rather than actual collaboration.

This is close to "actionable sense" discussion (which is, btw, something analysed in the paper I'm not writing :). Would be nice to find out experiences of other groups...

2. Have no idea how I missed it in my subscriptions: analysis of scholars' weblogs by Alex Halavais connections and network visualisation.

Of course, there is much more in the summary of the panel, so make sure you spend time reading it.

This post also appears on channel weblog research

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© Copyright 2002-2005 Lilia Efimova.

This weblog is my learning diary. Sometimes I write about things related to my work, but the views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

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