There have been a lot of articles going around lately, and everyone just seems so excited to start finding out WHO bloggers actually ARE. The statistics, as it were. Now I admit to a bit of initial excitement myself. Everyone likes to read about a group that they feel they are a part of. Not to mention that given the previous state of things, the demeaning ways the New York Times is usually given to portraying bloggers and blogs as information sources (read: untrustworthy, echo chamber, etc.), it’s nice when some good things start coming out (in respectable print, no less) about the blogosphere. (Thanks, Alex and Caleb.)
But here’s the deal: I’m over it. I’m pissed off and I’m disappointed and I don’t really understand what everyone is so surprised about, anyway. I mean, did we really think that blogging was a revolution, or that every blogger would be tearing apart the latest political scandal? I mean, I respect Dan Gillmor. Hell, I’ve MET him and I LIKE him, but at the end of the day (well, at the end of the book) I just couldn’t help but feel that it was too politically-centered, that there must be more, equally as important uses of the blog than just making little citizen-journalist gumshoes of as all. Up til now, politics has been the best example of the importance of blogging, but it’s become tired and over-used, and I have to suppose that this is what’s partially been behind the latest rash of new ways to look at the blogosphere. Hence the numbers.
But the numbers are not enough! That’s just not the value that I see in blogging, and not just my own, but in most of the blogs that I read daily. When are we going to stop looking at the blogging statistics as simply empty demographics? Who is going to start evaulating the emotional value that blogging has for people? The way it makes them feel about their voice? Everyone’s so intent on proving that blogs are mostly used to keep friends and family in touch, as though they’ve found some fatal flaw, and nobody is bothering to ask those families and friends how it has improved their lives.
For example: Nowhere in these articles has anyone mentioned the number of bloggers who are women. When I attended the Beyond Broadcast conference in Boston this summer, I was so pleased to look around at the number of women who attended and, for the first time since the magic of my first few days at ITP wore off, felt COMFORTABLE being part of a discussion that revolves around technology, and (call me sexist because I’m sure that I am!) confident that the issues that arose from such a group would be valuable and emotional, not just a bunch of geeked-out tom-wankery. But, again (focus, Christin), it’s not just about the numbers. Even if any of these articles HAD mentioned the percentage of bloggers who are women (actually, upon 2nd reading, NYT reported that roughly half of the bloggers surveyed were women) I would still not be satisfied. The question in my mind is how have these women enriched the media space in which they write, and how has being a part of this space effected their lives? What is the value that the presence of the feminine voice has instilled in this new medium? I imagine it is a lot more than any statistics could describe.
In the future I hope to see a new set of bloggers statistics. Not the numbers themselves, but the value of those numbers on peoples’ lives. Maybe the value that peoples’ lives instill in the numbers. Not so much who the bloggers are, but WHY they are. What qualities does the blogosphere posess, what opportunities does it provide, that make them want to blog? In what ways do they evaluate their success, since it has been proven (not at all surprisingly) that monetary gain does not suffice? How does blogging improve their quality of life (I mean, isn’t that what technology is for anyway)?
So here, without any supporting evidence, just a 14 year old girl writing about her cat, is the beginning of MY blogger stats. If anyone else cares about this, hell, if anyone else is even READING this, please feel free to add on. At the moment I’m just too upset to write anymore.
1. Validity and self-empowerment: As ubiquitous as we techies like to think the web has become, sometimes we need to stop ourselves in our disillusionment and recognize that, for most people, there is still some mystery to it. It is still a magical place. How else do you explain the wild popularity of sites like My Space? Has anyone compared the amount of time that the average last.fm user spends looking at her own profile to amount of time she spends reading through others’? I guarantee that even with all of the social networking the web is capable of most users are still just entranced with their own stats. To clarify, I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. On the contrary, the validity of the web in turn instills its self-publishers with a sense of vaildity in their opinons. Why does Jonny Goldstein teach inner-city kids to video blog? In part, because media literacy is becoming increasingly important as the web becomes more ubiquitous. In part because it teaches them to think analytically about the media that they consume. But the most immediate, and, to me, the most important, result is a sense of empowerment that most people, even adults, don’t often get to feel in their lives.
2. Communication: When I started the momblog, it was with the purpose of determining wether the new technologies we are becoming accustomed to using are really helping the ways we communicate. The perfect control group? A fifty-year old woman who, in over ten years of using the web, still mostly uses it for email. What I’ve found, however, is much more interesting than what I set out to. I’ve learned more about my mother and have felt closer to her in the past 6 months than I have in possibly my entire adult life. The blog has not only proven to be an effective communication tool, but a rich one, as well.
3. RSS just rocks! Think about it. In any new technology there is a ratio of usefulness it provides to the barrier of entry it imposes, and, let’s face it, this ratio is historically low. Not so with RSS feeds.