Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Monolith Of Alternative Media: Thoughts On Blogs & Blogging

Amber Rhea writes of different kinds of blogs:
...this is something I’ve talked about all over the place plenty of times before: how making sweeping statements about “blogs,” as if blogs are a monolith, is pointless because there are so many different kinds of blogs. There are blogs that are online news outlets, many of which break stories. There are blogs that are devoted to political analysis. There are blogs that are focused on a specific topic and definitely write with more of a “for the audience” perspective. And there are plenty of blogs (such as I would class my own) that exist primarily for the blogger, cover a wide variety of topics, but do not purport to be unbiased or “fair and balanced” or objective, etc. etc. etc. So when talking about credibility, citizen journalism, etc., I was thinking it only makes sense to apply those standards to the certain types of blogs that want them.

But then I thought, well, that’s too simplistic, too. With a lot of blogs, there’s not this stark dividing line between one type vs. another type. I would call my blog a “personal blog,” but I also have, arguably, “reported” on plenty of things. So have many other people who write the type of blog I do - and that makes sense, because why should writing about an issue, or posting news, etc., have to be sequestered from writing about one’s life? And really, i think when the two mingle, that’s when some of the most effective political activism can take place - or am I abusing the old adage “the personal is political” again? ;) I just think for a lot of people, putting the humanity into something helps them see why it’s important, and think of it in a more concrete way, and not just as an abstract “issue.”

Her post, as usual, is thought provoking & brings up several good issues... Today, I'll just focus on the matter of blog definitions; something I find both interesting and irrelevant.

Such distinctions are are irrelevant because as the self-published acts of individuals, they are about as varied as the individuals themselves and so warrant no distinctions. Like the paper diaries and journals they digitally represent/replace, they are without need for categorization. However...

As published public displays, they become media; and this is where it gets interesting.

For the most part, individuals themselves categorize the blogs just by the act of selection; they read what they like and eschew the rest. But as blogs are available to all, some feel the need to define, even regulate. Combine this with the fact that many bloggers themselves argue for the same rights, access privileges, & status as "members of The Media", the discussion of definitions (including the side-paths of credibility & legitimacy) will continue.

"Legitimate" is a funny word. It is about as subjective as the "art vs. porn" debate, wherein the I-know-it-when-I-read-it definition of value will be applied to, in this case blogs and bloggers, as each individual sees fit to define it. Even when they cannot articulate it.

From a business point of view, the popularity (in terms of readership, loyalty &/or following) speaks volumes to the issue of legitimacy. Consumption is a bottom line that few can argue with, even if issues such as quality, purpose, and status continue to elude agreed upon definitions.

Many of us simply just act as if we and our blogs are Media. Considering ourselves to be/offer alternative media, we don't worry about the pat on the head which comes from a "legitimate" label. We just do it. And we do it in our own way.

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