Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Reflexivity vs. navel-gazing

Tom Coates continues to unravel the fabric of the blogosphere and readers weigh in - lots of interesting thinking here.

My thoughts since my original post?

I wish I had not framed my discussion in terms of culture and sub-culture - because it seems that non-anthropologists(?) may treat these as homogeneous and mutually exclusive categories, which they are not. All I really wanted to get at was an understanding of the power relations played out in blogging practices - because, for me, these are social matters not adequately explained by mathematical equations and "power laws". And I was interested in the language, in the rhetoric at play. The origin and use of words like "blogosphere" and "A-List" fascinate me - these are social constructs that act-in-the-world.

UPDATE 4/2/03 - Steve has added some very thoughtful comments, and gets right to the points that interest me:

One thing we can't do is to study influence/power by concentrating on links and visibility in a purely statistical way... To get a sense of online influence, I think, we need a more qualitative, ethnographic approach to the web--something I haven't seen much of... The way to understand context specific influence is to explore its specific context. Simple, no? One means of doing this is to track an individual meme, an individual link, in other words, as it moves and meanders across the web. Not to count the number of times it's linked, but rather to understand the ways in which it is linked, because I think real influence, genuine power is tied up in the ability to make meanings and direct the meaning-making of others far more than in raw numbers and visibility.


Also somewhat related: Meg Hourihan on The Margins of the Writable Web


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