In the last few weeks we already saw several contributions by Lilia, Denham and others, like myself, discussing whether blogs can actually serve as a place for knowledge sharing, dialogue (or deep dialogue, although I don’t really know what that is supposed to mean).
Lilia points to, writes and comments on some new entries into the debate:
Blogs, dialogue and identity building
Blogs, dialogue and identity building (2)
I wonder why it’s hard to believe that weblogs are good
Blogs, dialogue and identity building (3)
Denham and Lilia also provide a place to keep track of
the conversation as a whole: Is Weblog a Hype?
I really like that Denham Grey has stirred up this conversation, but I don’t yet really know what his concrete objections and reservations are. I get the feeling, and I hope Denham will tell me if this is not correct, that the basic point of
critique is that weblogs don’t serve just the one purpose of deep dialogue and that dialogue is not contained within that single space, and second
that the medium is not automatically a place for dialogue, but has to be
used as such first. In other words that the medium in itself is not a real catalyst for dialogue.
Both objections I can agree with. But so what? Do blogs need to be?
When I wrote about listening, and knowledgesharing as storytelling and listening, one of the comments I got was that blogs are, since they’re published on the internet, per definition broadcasting media.
My reaction to that is, that, yes, some blogs are more the broadcasting type, but some are not, mine certainly isn’t. The fact that I’m sitting down with friends in front of my fav pub on the market square for a beer, and have a conversation everyone could potentially listen in to, or take part in, does not make me the town crier. On the internet it’s the same difference.
The number of potential audience is irrelevant, it’s about the actual returning audience, in this blogs case around 20 people, not counting the passers by. (Ross Mayfield has written interestingly about audience size and blogs: Blogging Bubbles, Repealing the Power-Law, and especially Distribution of Choice).
It is with that core audience that dialogue ensues, or debate. When the audience increases to several hundred ‘regulars’ one tends to see the author
taking a less active stance in taking part in discussing postings, except with
the core-group bloggers that have been around for a longer time. That is the
transition towards broadcasting.
So, no blogs are not automatically fostering
dialogue: people have to make an effort, as always. You have to have a group of people around you, not too large, not too small, to have a dialogue. Or
different groups for different topics. Blogging functions both as a place to
start building those needed trusting relations, and a place to have the
dialogue, and write down the different inputs in to it. That does not take place
automatically, you have to be committed, just as in any other setting for dialogue to ensue. The art of dialogue is therefore probably just as widespread here, as in other areas of life, with one advantage: it is easier to spot the willing amongst bloggers, than picking them from a crowd. I see no reason therefore to denounce blogs as unfit for dialogue.
The other assumption, that blogging does not have dialogue as its single purpose, nor that it is the single space in which dialogue takes place, I think isn’t of real importance either in my opinion. The point is that I have dialogues with people. One on one mostly, and sometimes it’s a multilogue, when there are more people involved. People. Now in my contacts with people I employ whatever means of communication is the most fitting at a given time. Can be face-to-face in different settings, can be e-mail, can be phone, and of course can be blogging. My blog often serves as a starting point, where I write something that has triggered my interests, follow ups by others in their blogs or in my comments-section then come into view. And from that it’s a mix of the things I mentioned. I already know that I will probably be talking about dialogue with Lilia and Sebastien when I meet them in Vienna next month, or that I might have a conversation with my girlfriend about it tonight, and insert the results here. It’s the conversational cloud I referred to in an earlier posting.
Dialogues in my view will never be confined to one single space, or medium. Even if you put a group in a room for a day to have a dialogue on a certain issue, it will continue and evolve beyond those walls, first during breaks, and then afterwards. To me it seems that the wish to have it all in one place reflects a deeplying command and control issue. Thing is, I’m utterly fine with chaos, as long as I am in command and control of just one thing: me.
And of course blogs do not have being a platform for dialogue as a single purpose. It is about maintaining a thought-record, it is about annotated bookmarks, it is about having a low threshold place to take down notes
from wherever I am, and it’s about added bonusses of doing that publicly: new
social contacts and the resulting trusting relationships from them, some vanity
when people say you posted great things, and dialogue. It’s the basics that
started me going in blogging, it’s the bonusses that keep me doing it for you to
see. If not for the bonusses I would have returned to the stacks of legal pads
that served me well for almost 15 yrs.