Elmine Wijnia (blog) has published her BlogTalk paperUnderstanding Weblogs, a Communicative Perspective” (pdf).

Although I have been an eye-witness of how her work took shape in the past months, with her master thesis and this article as outcome, now that there is something like a finished product it speaks more clearly to me.

In my view Elmine’s work does something very important, which is to firmly place weblogs in communications, and not put the fact that it’s technology-based first. This is a notion that I and others attempted to do in the past in anecdotal form, but she does this academically.
That is why her definition of weblogs resonates with me:

The weblog, or blog, is a webpage on which the author publishes pieces with the intention to start conversation.

Or in more detail, a weblog disseminates ideas, to generate conversation.

It catches the part of blogs where publishing/broadcasting has a role, and when the more intense forms of 1 on 1 communication kick in. It describes what we actually do, in stead of which tools we use to do it.
Another interesting find is her conclusion as to why weblogs are a new medium:

the weblog as a communication medium is really a new medium because it combines three information patterns in itself.
(the three patterns being, consultation, registration and conversation.)

That is something that wasn’t here yet. So when someone says that a weblog is like a website, or like a forum, they are all partly right. They lift one of the traffic patterns to the foreground, but ignore the other two. Its significance is not that it is like a website, like a forum. It’s that it combines three basic information patterns that makes it interesting.

Comparing weblogs, based on their technological aspects, with the communicational theories of Habermas, Elmine provides a framework for thinking about the possible uses, and their limits. Although this is perhaps not worked out in full detail in her paper, as it wasn’t the main focus of her work, it does open up a way forward in understanding why I like these tools so much.

I can recommend reading the whole paper, although I am biased of course as we live together. You might have some difficulty getting to grips with Habermas, but it is central to this paper that you do. His work is not easy to internalise, and I am glad I could follow Elmine’s work for a year so that I think I now have a basic understanding of his ideas.

3 reactions on “Understanding Weblogs

  1. Understanding Weblogs

    Understanding Weblogs: a communicative perspective. by Elmine Wijnia Abstract This research investigates what form of communication is made possible through the weblog and what its uses are for the future. Taking Habermas’ theory, it will be investigat…

  2. I completely agree with you, the paper is very concise and informing; Habermas’ ideas (and the way Elmine discusses them) are pretty important (although sometimes hard to grasp…:)), especially for those trying to use them for purposes of community building (in the wide sense from comm. of. practice to the general political public).

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