Fifteen years ago today Elmine Wijnia published a paper “Understanding Weblogs: a Communicative Perspective” (PDF) for the BlogTalk conference based on her master thesis. In it she discusses weblogs as a communications medium and compares their role and potential a.o. with Habermas’ philosophical work on communications (Habermas’ work on this predates the web). I have a ‘on this day in….’ widget in my sidebar, and it showed me I had blogged about it back then.
From my posting then, I feel much is still the same, and much is still as key as then in bringing online expression and interaction forward.
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.
It describes what we actually do, in stead of which tools we use to do it.
This is a core element in my thinking about technology in general, unchanged in all these years. It is about what people do and can do. The agency that technology provides.
She positioned weblogs as a new medium because it combines three information patterns in itself, that previously stood on their own (e.g. in separate digital tools): consultation, registration, and conversation.
In part it feels like silo’s such as FB and Twitter break that combination of multiple patterns again, after weblogs joined them, and from which these silos themselves in turn emerged. The ‘back to the blog‘ urge I’ve felt and lived here in the past two years, is an expression of seeking the richness that the combination provides. My involvement in IndieWeb which tries to strengthen the ties between those patterns by adding new functionality to our blogging tools is also explained by it.
Because it allows better communication. Which is what matters. As Kicks Condor phrased it when he reflected on my information strategies
It is very focused on just being a human who is attempting to communicate with other humans—that’s it really.
Elmine and Habermas still point us in that direction. We can do better in this, and we should do better in this.