Lovink (Reader, page 222) argues that: “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”.
Discuss this argument giving an example of a blog.
From wanting to relay tales of Shakespearean tragedy, to divulging crass everyday moments just to pass the time – there has always been a million reasons to write.
photo by Scott Fitz
Blogging falls between “online publishing and the intimate sphere of diary” (Lovink, 2008: 7) with author Thomas Mallon concluding no one ever kept a diary for just himself (Mallon in Lovink, 2008: 6). This is true of many of today’s blogs, which Lovink believes act as “a tool to manage the self” – a narcissistic practice.
In spite of discussion by media theorists like Terry Flew, about blogs facilitating the public sphere and driving citizen journalism through disseminating and news contribution, (Flew, 2008:164), they are often used a means for people to offer ‘exhibitionist insights’ (Lovink, 2008: 28), stroke their own ego or to manage their personal happenings.
This is especially true of celebrities with their own blogs, such as the example of faux-celeb Kim Kardashian’s blog. (Countless others exist, such as Jennifer Love Hewitt, Pamela Anderson and Zach Braff). Figures like Kardashian – who are famous for reasons no one can quite pinpoint – thrive off media technologies such as blogs and even online gossip sites like Perez Hilton discussing them; to accomplish their level of fame.
Celebrity blogging is more a case of talking at the blog’s readers, rather than talking to them and facilitating two-way communication, like Flew believes blogs ideally are for (2008, 142-166). Online, people constitute themselves as assemblies of documents and data designed for people to read and establish some relationship (Matthew Berk in Lovink, 2008: 33).
In Kardashian’s official blog, the reader is accosted with blow-by-blow accounts of Kim’s shopping trip, weekend plans and her personal accomplishments. The blog contains a ‘Press’ page, where her recent endorsements are shown as well as press clippings from magazines.
photo by Life & Style Magazine
Alongside the posts she has contributed, there are ads linking to external websites she is affiliated with.
Though this is an extreme example of blogs being used as a “tool to manage the self” and funding the notion of celebrity, it is evident these purposes exist. But they are not the sole purpose.
Flew discusses journalists employing blogs in creating community forums to enhance their ‘professional capacities’ (Flew, 2008: 165).
This can be seen on sites such as The Huffington Post. This website dubs itself a ‘news blogs community’, and features news discussions from many prominent members of society. This does not limit it to journalists – there are also doctors, health officials, historians, religious leaders, political leaders and commentators contributing blog entries.
(photo, above, and headshot by The Huffington Post)
These do not demonstrate the use of blogs as a tool in “managing the self”, they are providing the opinion of the contributing author. These newsworthy discussions can ‘express and map micro-fluctuations of opinions and mood’ (Lovink, 2008: 38), and move beyond employing blogs as a tool to gratify egos or promote oneself.
Flew,T. (2008) ‘Journalism’ in New Media: An Introduction, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, pp.142 – 166
Lovink G. (2008) ‘Blogging, The Nihilists Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge, pp. 1 – 38
Type in ‘me singing’ in the YouTube search bar and you are met with a barrage of videos of people singing, mostly covers of popular songs. They range from screechy young men who proudly belt out a number, with countless comments underneath telling them to ‘shut up’; to people who actually have decent voices, and potential to at least make into the first few rounds of Australia/American/[insert country] Idol.
I found this video while I should have probably been studying, and I think she is pretty good 🙂 Looking at the description she has provided underneath, it is also an example of using YouTube for self-promotion. She also cites the name of her music channel, and seems to have developed a little fanbase, with comments under her video saying things like:
‘I Can’t stop watching your videos there just so good and your so talented : ]’
or ‘unlike all the other youtube singers, i actually want to listen to you!’
video by YouTube user zeldaxlove64.
WordPress “masks the database and creates a continuous blogging experience within the browser” (Helmond in Reader, p. 180), yet the database is rigidly defined and categorised. Discuss how this shapes the way we interact with the World Wide Web through blogging and how it affects user agency.
The existence of WordPress’s database may go unknown to some, because it is so well concealed. However, it is one of the most important parts, storing ‘most of the blog content and … [more importantly] the connections between the content’ (Helmond, 2007: 50).
The platform provides free space to type away our discoveries, thoughts and beliefs. Bloggers see their blog’s appearance and unique posts are a result of their creative efforts.
You can quickly change the layout or theme, by ‘flipping a switch in the admin panel’ (Ibidem in Helmond, 2007: 79). Bloggers may upload or link to content on external websites, like Flickr, YouTube or Twitter.
It allows for ‘functionality for many special pages’ like archives (Ibidem in Helmond, 2007: 79), and you can physically separate blog sections, add Widgets, tag posts and specify how accessible the blog will be. In short – ease and continuity of use.
Continuity, in terms of blogs, is defined as “the set of techniques practiced by webmasters, that … create this pleasurable, fluid experience for the user.” (Galloway in Helmond, 2007: 46).
But this ease of use only comes as a result of manipulation of the ‘application layer’. WordPress is in fact a ‘decentralised network composed of many different data fragments.’ (Galloway in Helmond, 2007: 45).
The agenda of networks is to ‘get out of the way, not to be seen … technology should be transparent’ (Galloway 2004: 65; Berners-Lee 1999: 159 in Helmond, 2007: 53). WordPress does it well, whilst simultaneously imposing boundaries, as defined through its masked database.
This concealed front is called user agency. It controls size and type of content – restricting it to 42 predetermined types (Helmond, 2007: 51). A ‘security error’ message appears if one attempts to download unknown content types. Bloggers are also restricted by ‘maximum amount of web space and traffic, as determined by the web host‘ (Helmond, 2007: 51).
User agencies create interfaces to make their website simple to navigate, whilst offering a ‘new way to structure our experience of ourselves and of the world’ (Manovich, 2001 in Helmond, 2007, 49). If using the site proves challenging, there are tutorials to ‘Get Customized’ or ‘Get Published’. This means an average user, seeking a clear blogging experience will be more inclined to use WordPress, with the site’s boundaries defined through user agency.
photo by WordPress.com
Using a broader example, let’s examine the formerly popular social network site, MySpace. Like WordPress, users are able to personalize their page through backgrounds, layouts and privacy options.
photo by Social Times
This motivates users to delve deeper into the creative platform, and as things in their lives changed continuously, so too does their page.
photo by 352 Media
This created fluidity in one’s communication with the site, while its user agency concealed the database.
As a user, I wondered how MySpace kept track of all that we didn’t see – how the links between profiles, friends and photos were organized. I now understand this is all contained in the ‘rigidly defined’ database. It is user agency that allows us to feel the experience is a simple one.
So like WordPress’ database and user agency operation, it keeps our interaction on an essentially superficial level, so that we may accomplish what the platform sets out to provide – a blogging experience, which we can create and customize whilst remaining in the boundaries the site dictates.
Helmond, A. (2007) ‘Software-Engine Relations’, in Blogging for Engines: Blogs Under the Influence of Software-Engine Relations, Amsterdam: Univeristy of Amsterdam.
This post was very engaging, especially in the way it used links to YouTube videos and hyperlinks. The author explored the issue of whether DIY or YouTube ‘personalities can break through online obstacles and become ‘celebrities’ in the ‘real’ world’.
He did it using both genuine examples, like Chris Crocker and Alexis Jordan, as well as explaining the theory espoused by Burgess and Green (2009), and their assertion that YouTube celebrities are not ‘celebrities’ in the real-world sense [of the word]’.
Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question:
“Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Russell, 2008: 67).
Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.
“Traditional media services are being challenged by new digital technologies, resulting in … new players, new content and new platforms”, stated former Communications Minister Helen Coonan (Independent Australia, 2011). Blogging is providing such challenge.
The blogging practice demonstrates “the edge becoming the core” (Hagel & Brown in Russell et. Al 2008: 44). Specialty blogs covering niche interests are booming – those seeking gossip, Perez Hilton. If its relationship information, Christiana’s Rants. Going fishing? Jump on Josh Wight’s fishing blog.
With blog numbers increasing, the ‘Long Tail’ theory emerged, stating we are “shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of ‘hits’ at the head of the demand curve … toward a huge number of niches in the tail” (Russell et al., 2008: 47).
With their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity, are blogs more effective in informing the public than elite media?
“Blogs … are a kind of collective intelligence in which individuals pool together … knowledge that can challenge the authority of the professional press” (Russell et. al 2008: 46). The capabilities of blogging are blurring the line between producers and consumers.
This new hybrid role of “produser” – interacting with and enhancing existing content (Bruns, 2008: 85) – means one can take an active role, as opposed to the presumed passivity of consuming.
Anyone can be a journalist in the DIY media created by blogging, with some believing its ‘increasing the ranks of informed citizens and facilitating … participatory culture’ (IndyMedia, 1999).
IndyMedia formed as a collective of independent media groups and journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate coverage (IndyMedia, 1999). One of their central goals is to:
“enable people, while “becoming the media,” to realize they can take control of other aspects … that they previously left up to ‘professionals.’” (1999).
But should we believe news delivered by amateur journalists? How do we know if the information comes from a valid source?
This question can be posed to any media company. The elite media and institutions also contain biases. So can we believe everything written on The Herald Sun online?
Rupert Murdoch and his News Limited Corporation tend to follow Murdoch’s conservative political stance. More alarming is that his media empire controls two of out of the three main newspapers in Australia (Simons, 2011: 2), and their online counterparts. These views are often imposed on their reporters, or reporters self-censor to conform to the employer’s stance.
video posted by YouTube user mediamatters4america
They are also obligated to consider their employer’s commercial position when publishing content. In a survey conducted by Alliance Online, under federal secretary Christopher Warren, 48.4% of respondents say they have felt obliged to take into account their employer’s commercial position, with 37.7% of respondents saying they have even been told to obey the line (Alliance Online, 2006).
Warren believes these results reveal further empowerment for media owners “who already have an unwelcome influence on their employees to report the news in a way that suits the owners’ agendas.” (Warren: Alliance Online, 2006).
This doesn’t mean we should totally abandon elite media sources. New media technologies, like blogs, enable consumers to “annotate, appropriate and recirculate media content in powerful new ways” (Jenkins in Russell et. al, 2008: 48) – but power doesn’t necessarily bring valid knowledge. Blogs may inform the public more openly than traditional elite media, but all sources should be read critically.
Alliance Online (2006) ‘Survey Says 84% Of Journalists Believe Media Law Changes Will Undermine Diversity’, http://www.alliance.org.au/, 8 August [13 May]
Bruns, A. (2008) ‘The Future is User-Led: The Path Towards Witdespread Produsage’, Fibreculture Journal 11 (accessed online). http://eleven.fibreculturejournal.org/fcj-066-the-future-is-user-led-the-path-towards-widespread-produsage/
Independent Australia (2011) ‘Concentrated media ownership: a crisis for democracy’ http://www.independentaustralia.net/2011/democracy/concentrated-media-ownership-a-crisis-for-democracy/ 14 March [13 May]
Independent Media Centre (1999), IndyMedia website, http://www.indymedia.org/en/ [13 May]
Russell, A., Ito, M., Richmond, T., and Tuters, M., ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’, in Kazys Vanelis (ed.), Networked Publics, Cambridge, MIT Press, 2008
Simons, M (2011) ‘Crises of Faith: The Future of Fairfax’, The Monthly: Australian Politics, Society, Culture, no. 64, February 2011.
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Today, I was first informed of Osama Bin Laden’s death via Twitter, THEN I went to an online news source to confirm it!
No wonder Times magazine crowned ‘you’ – meaning each one of us as members of the global community – as Person of the Year in 2006. We were given the title for reasons given on the Times website as providing “a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.”
To see the rest of the article, jump on Times magazine online.