Formation of norms in a blog community
Carolyn Wei (2004). Formation of Norms in a Blog Community. In Laura Gurak, Smiljana Antonijevic, Laurie Johnson, Clancy Ratliff and Jessica Reyman (ed): Into the Blogosphere; Rhetoric, Community and Culture of Weblogs, University of Minnesota. (other papers)
The purpose of the study is to identify common themes, behaviors, and practices with respect to content and site design within this community of knitting bloggers and to examine the formation of these norms, particularly in relation to the community’s stated rules.
- weblog community: 300+ knitting weblogs from Knitting Bloggers NetRing (English)
- method: content analysis (homepages + 1 months' posts), 33 weblogs (stratified random sample), two coders (the author/member of ther community and non-member researcher)
It's an interesting paper, especially given that it describes specific weblog subculture:
Like many other online communities, the Knitting Bloggers embody a distinctive culture, where members are often passionate about knitting and are excited about getting to know like-minded people either through personal interactions or through the words on a blog. Relationships between the knitting bloggers can move fluidly online and offline. Some bloggers regularly get together in real space to participate in "stitch 'n' bitches" (informal knitting and gossip parties) or go to yarn stores. Group activities may also be carried out online. One interesting tradition is the "knit-along" where a group of people knit from the same pattern, such as for slippers or a sweater, and blog their progress. Often, one of the knit-along bloggers will post pictures of the participants’ finished items as they complete the knit-along. The unique culture of knitters who blog likely contributes to some of the behaviors observed in member sites.
As Jan Schmidt already commented the paper doesn't really look at formation of norms, but rather at actual practices compared with norms stated in Knitting Bloggers NetRing membership guidelines (e.g. writing about knitting or displaying web ring code). I'm more interested in emergent norms (Jan also suggests a need for classifying norms), e.g. common knitting weblog features:
Some features on the knitting blogs are unique to the knitting genre. One convention is to track progress on knitting projects or to show off completed works. Over 57% of the bloggers tracked their "Works in Progress" or the items that they are currently knitting. These were directly listed or were linked on the home page. Over half of the blogs also kept lists or photo galleries of their completed works. Another popular practice was to keep a separate list of links to favorite knitting blogs in a side bar, without commingling them with links to other kinds of sites: over 60% of sites linked to other knitting blogs in this manner, suggesting Knitting Bloggers spend time visiting other blogs in their community. These simple normative practices help knitting blogs develop a distinctive flavor, one that allows visitors to see that the blogs are knitting blogs even if the posts are not exclusively about knitting.
The way Carolyn defines a community membership (those who are members of Knitting Bloggers NetRing) is an interesting one:
On membership in multiple communities (defined as belonging to multiple knitting rings):
Membership in multiple web rings leads to a question for future research: how do blogs adhere to norms and rules for multiple blog communities? Granted, there is much overlap of interest and probably practice between these knitting blog communities, but when differences exist between them, how does a blogger resolve them?
On studying own community (re: my own approach):
...it was discovered that prior immersion in Knitting Bloggers was extremely useful in certain situations. For example, it may be difficult to distinguish between a personal knitting project and a group knit-along project without prior knowledge. Much of the writing in a blog is in shorthand, and it can be difficult to detect the whole story behind the blog by looking only at a month-long block of posts. For example, a blog author might fully describe embarking on a knit-along glove project and refer to it subsequently without mentioning the knit-along. Without prior knowledge, a coder may not be able to tell the difference.
This post also appears on channel weblog research