A couple of pretty interesting reads on just why it is people do this stuff. The first, titled “‘I’m Blogging This’ A Closer Look at Why People Blog” (via Lilia) is a comprehensive look at what blogs are, who uses them and, of course, why. Much of it resonates, and much of it has implications for Weblog use in the classroom. For instance:
For bloggers who think by writing, blogging provides two vital advantages: an audience to help shape the writing and an archive of posts, some of which may be valuable in the future. Personal webpages often perform in a similar way, but the audience is far less defined. In our study, bloggers had “regulars” who they knew were reading their posts. The writing could be directed at them, solving one of the key problems of any writing, i.e., knowing who to write for. The fact of having an audience would keep the writing moving along, as the author knew that people were anticipating new posts.
Most bloggers are acutely aware of audience, even in flagrantly confessional blogs, calibrating what they will and will not reveal. Many bloggers explained that they have a kind of personal code of ethics that dictates what goes into their blogs, such as never criticizing friends or expressing political opinions that are openly inflammatory. Not that bloggers eschew controversy-quite the opposite-but they typically express themselves in light of their audience.
In one example, an instructor was able to create a community of learners:
Rob required students to conduct field studies on topics related to the use of computer-mediated communication within communities and to write weekly blog postings on assigned topics, as well as to read and comment on other students’ blogs. He hoped these assignments would “facilitate the building of the learning community by getting [students] in conversation with each other electronically.” And that is what happened. The students found that maintaining blogs and reading their classmates’ blogs created a sense of community that would have not been generated within a conventional classroom setting.
But another instructor was not:
Although the blog had many visitors, even some from the local press who wrote a story about the site, few commented on the posts. The blog functioned primarily as a website. Colleen noted that students did not feel moved, on their own, to comment, and without a course requirement calling for them to do so, they chose not to. As with other electronic media, blogs in themselves are not sufficient to build community.
And something to show my creative writing teachers:
The most authentic, grass-roots blogging community we studied was that of the poetry bloggers.
The second read is at Crooked Timber and it’s a collection of responses to the following questions:
If you’re an academic who blogs, what prompted you to start blogging? And what keeps you going? What do you try to do in your blog? Does your blog have any relationship to your scholarship? If you’re an academic who just reads blogs, do you intend to start your own blog sometime? If yes, what are the reasons that you haven’t done so at this point in time? If no, why not? Either way, what do you get from reading blogs?
Some really interesting responses, and quite a few references to the issues of privacy and anonymity. I found this one to be especially relevant, but there are many others:
The newest twist for me is that I’ve begun to incorporate blogging into my pedagogy, and have students keeping weblogs. In discussions with students about why so many (at least on our campus) are so uncomfortable with blogging and resistant, we had some provocative conversations about accountability – not everyone wants their words published online where anyone can see and you are held accountable for what you say. After that, I decided to put my money where my mouth is, and allowed the interactive editor at our local newspaper to link my blog, with my real name, on his page of “local bloggers.”