Time in blogging: writers time and readers time
This is the second piece on time in blogging and it's about time in reading weblogs (you may want to read the first one - Time in blogging: catching a moment to write).
To start with: a piece from our paper on distributed apprenticeship
Next to the real-time interaction and learning that weblog networks can facilitate, they have an interesting potential as a mean to "preserve" authentic experiences over time, so future generations of employees can learn from them. While real-time reading of a weblog seems to provide a good view of blogger practices illustrated with unfolding stories, it is not clear if these effects would persist while reading a weblog written several years (or even months) ago.
This question came back during Jill's talk on distributed narratives and made me thinking about (at least) two dimensions of time.
First, there is a writer's time: weblogs stories often do not come as one piece, but instead emerge as a results of narrating personal life, thinking, bits and pieces of conversation with self. Of course, you can make it more complex and add other dimensions of Jill's distributed narratives, distributed space and authorship, and then end up with conversations with others and blogosphere stories. In any of these cases writing is distributed over time.
Second, I'd think of a reader's time: time of reading a story distributed over time (by writers). Reader's time could be distributed and (almost) synchronous with writer's time: for example, me reading Jill's posts over months, almost as soon as she writes them, or following a weblog conversation as it is unfolds. But it's not necessary: I could go to the archives and read everything at once or (given tools that we don't have) go through a weblog conversation a few months after it finished, collapsing writers' time at a moment of reading, so it's not that distributed any more.
So, to be more specific, this post is about readers' time, distributed/synchronous or collapsed. I woke up with it today, thinking about differences between those two. So far I can think about two: gradual learning and participation.
It's not a secret that learning takes time, but in many cases learning also requires time distributed over time. For example, one week of intensive training in a gym wouldn't bring you the same results as an hour every other day for a year. I guess there are many other cases where you need gradual learning, so your brain or body has time in between to absorb and adjust.
Participation is another difference. Think of watching news vs. watching a documentary. Documentary is about history that you can't change (of course you can, but it's another story :), while news are about something that happens now, so it makes much more sense to do something about it. Or - as news is not an "actionable" example for many - there is a difference between watching your child putting metal in a microwave and finding it out (here) a few years later.
Coming back to weblogs. Regular reading of a weblog (distributed/synchronous time) is about gradual learning and opportunities for participation (that's why some people so addicted to their RSS readers :)
Of course, I can go on writing about implications it has for conversations, relation building and weblog research, but probably I have to take time to think of it making my writer's time distributed :)
This post also appears on channels weblog research and AOIR