Friday, January 24, 2003

Blogging rules

My primary interest in maintaining this site is to keep track of my research and the things that inform it through time. And most days I am quite taken by the quantity and quality of research blogs out there. As well, my research and personal interests overlap with aspects of design, so I've also become quite attached to certain blogs that address those issues directly (and in ways I can appreciate).

But all of these blogs are located within a larger and longer tradition of blogging - a tradition that is being increasingly dissected both from with-in and from with-out. I won't rattle off a list of links that refer to these debates around the nature and purpose of blogging - suffice to say that issues like what is worth blogging and what isn't (not to mention how items should be blogged) are up for debate.

What immediately strikes me in these discussions is the struggle between culture and sub-culture(s). Let's just say that the infamous "A-List" of bloggers represents blogging culture, and the rest of bloggers constitute the sub-cultures. Now, some sub-cultures will want to ally themselves with the dominant culture - even if that doesn't result in their integration into the dominant culture, it will bring them closer and afford them the power of association. For other reasons, some blogging sub-cultures will try to distinguish themselves in opposition to, and distanced from, the dominant blog culture.

How does this play out? Simple answer: rule-making strategies. Conformity and resistance.

Dominant blogs propose the formal rules, and have the (relative) ability to exclude those that cannot, or do not, follow the rules. Subordinate blogs either conform to the rules (partial inclusion) or try to resist and rearticulate them (from a place of exclusion). In any case, these are struggles between homogeneity (one culture) and heterogeneity (multiple cultures).

After ten years of cyberculture studies we're finally beginning to look at the dystopian qualities of online "community." Few researchers maintain the early utopian visions of online equality - that virtual world which transcends the vulgarities of real life. It has become (somewhat painfully) obvious that the same inequalities that we struggle with in the everyday are equally present in cyberspace - they just take on context-specific qualities.


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