Since Time Immemorial – thoughts on the blogging tradition?

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Omisyth posted his (her?) thoughts on the long-lasting dichotomy of episodic and editorial blogs. As its title may suggest, the interplay of thoughts is an ongoing, consistently occurring one. Various points have been made. Kabitzin succinctly puts his opinion as “[i]t’s not that episodic or editorial blogging is better; merely, they are both ways to talk about and analyze anime.” I like this perspective since it wraps up some of my own thoughts not necessarily towards episodic vs. editorial but the way we handle reading and how the role of the blog and the author tie into this.

Blogging styles are just different approaches to analyzing and talking about anime – we’ve established that. But when reading all the posts and comments on this, as well as other meta posts, the argument is narrowly focused around the space of the blog, the function of the blog, the mere purpose of the blog (as it should be). The point here is to think a little bit more about the interaction between the four keys parts of the blogosphere – the author, blog, content and reader.

Perhaps in an earlier state the aniblogosphere saw blogs as autonomous entities, that it was the blog itself that produced content as if it were a seemingly animate organism. And perhaps this notion has changed somewhat with the massive surge of team blogs. Team blogs suggest that it is not the blog but the author that creates content, and that the blog is only a space that holds the content. You see, it seems like the essence of the blog is a trivial thing, only an aesthetic visage to keep readers “focused” on the content by utilizing the social processes behind the [anime] blog. In some ways, you could argue that the “blog” is in itself entirely a social entity or a discursive product. This differs from forums, out of which blogs may have possibly evolved, where you can easily get lost in the masses and where avatars and signatures are the only aesthetic and visual means by which you are able to distinguish yourself. Blogs, with their customizable themes/CSS, seek to alleviate the problem of individuality by giving the voice a recognizable platform on which to speak. [Of course not all forums are sink-or-swim, some allow or promote a greater sense of individuality, but blogs do take this to the next level.] The problem is that there are so many elevated platforms that the aniblogosphere becomes a maze, one where you can’t see very far because blogs simply aren’t contained within a single space (readers and aggregators fix this problem) and are limited within your niche unless you venture out via blogrolls, trackbacks, once-in-a-blue-moon-commentators, and so forth.

I wouldn’t say that blogs have lost footing to the author. It seems like we have blogrolls, not author-rolls nor specific-post-rolls. There’s a tendency to get caught up in the general representation of blogs, specifically team blogs – especially RandomC. Of course its house dish is the now-idiosyncratic episodic post, though Natrone’s entries are a rare treat. And exceptions like this precisely outline some of the pitfalls of the blog. This isn’t necessarily to say that we should abandon the blog in favor of the author, towards a seemingly postmodern setting where the blog becomes not an inert location but an amoebic space that acts as a refueling station to which kinetic, nomadic authors or contributors roam. But let’s speculate here:

What if all team blogs became mere receptacles for authors, and concrete locations that seemed like they were inextricably tied to founding authors (like Impz to THAT, Riex to OH! or BigN to Drastic)? I think this would really shift how specific content is distributed throughout the sphere. Blogs attract like-minded readers, and so avid readers would sign up to a blog, yet their content, insofar as it is very similar to what the blog’s prevalent authors already produced, would only propagate that specific type of content as opposed to a diverse spread of content; so to speak, the growth becomes vertical, not horizontal. This is enforced by the thought that people wouldn’t post content on a blog which makes it seem irrelevant – Chuchlann isn’t going to write about literary criticism on Yukan. It seems like blogs establish their own ideologies, codes to follow, specific rules of discourse to which you must adhere. Blogs essentially can act like frames, giving content additional meaning, or changing their “meta-connotation”. Trite material in a “serious” blog might come off differently than the same material at Yukan, typically a very “non-serious” blog. I think this is definitely a reason why some of Jacob’s (and mine) posts stir the shit the way they do. Readers that are attuned to the particularities of an author at one end of the spectrum are not necessarily accustomed to the rambling of voices that are clearly at the other end. To reiterate, and it should be obvious, specific content-driven or content-oriented blogs attract readers that are interested in such content. Superfani is one good case.1

So in the event that this method of blogging arises, how will that affect traffic? Given that content will be extremely centralized, will it then become monopolized? If We Remember Love evolves into a megalopolis that somehow stamped itself (de facto, of course) the king of all things mecha, would that effectively reduce the chance to zero any new blog about mecha? Perhaps. The point is traffic, of obtaining readers and opinions and discussion, so a nascent blog that has no traffic isn’t an attractive locus for the production of content. Would this discourage people from creating blogs? Hypothetically, yes. It would, however, promote people to contribute to already existing blogs. This goes into my last point: what would the role of the “author” become? Would the traditional role of the blogger remain? Or would team blogs then employ a method in which people sporadically contributed material, regardless of authorial position? In this sense, the blog becomes a kind of wikipedia-esque pool that isn’t limited by the voices of its primary authors but, instead, by the collective mindset of its readers and the content they find attractive and wish to propagate.

It’s funny, and disturbing, I just realized – that this method of blogging effectively transforms blogs back into forums, centralized, content-oriented spaces for specific discussion, instead of diverse blogs the way they are now. Hmm.

So, what are your thoughts? I’ll leave you with some questions:

1. What is the role of identity and individuality in the single-author blog and the team blog?

2. What is the social role of blogs? – is it more than just the directing of traffic?

3. Can you see the blogging tradition moving towards this speculative state and would you want it to or not (what is “good” for the blogosphere? What is “bad” for it)?


1 But then there are times when content strays from its portrayed norm and loses readership/traffic, BigN’s Hidamari Sketch posts an example, though that may just be because it’s harder to comment on them? He states himself that “it can be hard finding good motivation to keep at it (like myself keeping at these posts), and while keeping at it can be good motivation in and of itself to keep at it, sometimes you need something more, as can be shown here.” Though this perceived “lack of readership” is based totally off of the absence of comments.

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18 thoughts on “Since Time Immemorial – thoughts on the blogging tradition?

  1. To me the blog is like the forum, only with a greater degree of control for the author. It’s a form of communication as well as a record of it where the initial communicator/author fears neither the censorship nor the decay of their message to the degree they would have in offering it on a forum. For the team blog the option of choice becomes introduced as if adding channels or a track to a singular form of communication from which the audience can then choose which one(s) to respond or just to listen. Though unlike the medium of TV for example the choice of topic clearly belongs to the communicator and not the communicatee.

    I will also offer that in my case I sometimes offer topics that I know very few people want to read and the goal in that is just the fun in doing it. I also think there is more to measuring the success of a blog then the number of comments or viewers one gets in a day, week, month or year. That would of course be the quantitative side of evaluating a blog, but the qualitative side comes in analyzing the quality and meaningfulness of the comments one gets as well as the uniqueness and quality of the message the author is offering. Some blogs can get many hits and short comments while offering an equally short and possibly irrelevant message that does not carry with it much meaning or weight beyond a way to pass the time, while others can get an average number of hits and comments that spark relevant discussion within the group participating, but that those that are just looking for a way to pass the time will not be attracted too. This is where the importance of the reader becomes in since it is their preferences that will determine the overall quality of a blogs message.

    I think what is good for the blogosphere more than anything else is seeing that more variety in the tone and type of message is introduced in the coming years. To much of the same message can lead to stagnation and choice as if going from premium cable to basic cable down to eventually just one channel. Variety is something that is up to the readers to introduce to the medium though and this is where their potential power in the grand scheme of the blogosphere comes into play.

  2. 1. The single-author blog spans a single individual’s perspective, while
    the team blog is a parent wrapper of single-author blogs, in which a sense of conformity is found. This allows the wrapping distribution of content to become more diversified than what a single author would provide.

    2. The social role of blogs is on the order of expressing opinion in which readers may be able to relate to, confronting issues objectively, and/or providing a form of entertainment to readers.

    3. By speculative state I assume team-orientation, or bloglomerates. While I do worry that the vertical intensity of subject matter is not going to stimulate positive development in the blogosphere, I don’t believe grouping authors is solely a negative aspect. For instance, a group blog with solid diversity of perspective vs one where the authors agree on everything to watch [or more crucial, what not to watch]; I have seen the latter case and wondered why there were 5+ authors, when there was no discrepency between them … redundancy -_-

    I’ll likely write a related follow-up shortly on my own blog, nice writeup lelangir.

  3. *blink* Not being familiar with Yukan at all, I’m not sure if I should feel slighted or not. : D

    @Ryan A: Do you mean by “parent wrapper” just that the blog collates the bloggers together? Because I think a team blog does alter the content of each member’s posts. (When I’m not busy with schoolwork) my personal blog has theoretical posts and random, reaction-filled posts with nothing critical about them at all, but I would never post the latter at superfani. I did once, actually, and it made me uncomfortable.

    Of course, that’s just me. I could be the fluke, not the standard.

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  5. I’m new to actual blogging, but I’ve been looking through anime blogs for some years, and there are definitely some blogs that are turning into specialized forums. That’s fine, but it would definitely be a pity if they all ended up that way. Ideally the blogger has a certain perspective that allows his readers to connect to their favorite shows in a new, deeper way. I’d rather there were 5 million bloggers debating with each other than 5 forums each with a million participants. By providing the blogger with a stable identity, his/her message will get across more effectively and the level of discussion will rise, rather than get drowned in a foamy forum.

  6. Oh wow. This is exactly what I needed to read.

    Being so new to all of this (lurking around since April this year, and blogging for 5 weeks) I don’t have an opinion yet on the three questions asked. I apologize for not contributing to the discussion directly.

    I do want to react how reading this post led me to evaluate my own goals for blogging. When I told myself that I want to emulate Cuchlann in being a uniter and not a divider, it didn’t necessarily mean I wanted to be the definitive mecha (or even Macross) blogger, nor do I intend to be limited by that identification.

    I do find myself partial to animekritik’s view above who’d rather there were many many bloggers interacting rather than 5 forums having all the traffic. I don’t think this will be the case, as niches upon niches are created as categories are likewise created and filled. As Long Tail economics can tell us, there is merit in this optimism.

  7. I think that if a single-author is looking to find themselves a wider audience then the team blog serves to help them achieve that without having to resort to blogging about something they have no passion for.

    Unless they are just doing it for fun and are unconcerned with whether or not people read what they post.

    Team blogs allow the individual to keep their identity by taking away some of the pressure. In a team situation they can feel free to express their individuality by discussing a subject they enjoy because topics they have no interest in or no knowledge of will be discussed by other members of the team.

    For me joining a team blog was sort of a support kind of thing. I wanted to post on shows/mangas I enjoyed but didn’t really have much confidence in my writing. Writing in a team setting gave me a little bit more confidence about doing so.

    Gah I don’t know if anything I’m saying even has any relevance its just what popped into my head after reading what you wrote.

  8. “I think what is good for the blogosphere more than anything else is seeing that more variety in the tone and type of message is introduced in the coming years.”

    Pretty much, though I’d favor the tone more than the type of message. 😛

    1. Well to me, identity is more defined by what the collective other things than what you yourself think. Taken individually, the first thing that apparently many fellow bloggers see about me is that I’m an ARIA fan. Well yes, but there’s more to me than that, and I’d like to think that you could see it in content. Taken collectively, I think DMAB is seen as more of a hodgepodge of stuff, which suits me just fine.

    As an aside, I expect the Hidamari Sketch posts not to get as much traffic than other posts, as it focuses on one show that not many people have seen, and because my posts aren’t episodic summaries but expansions on a theme or themes that I see in each episode. Or so I’d like to think. 😛

    2. I’d say the social role of blogs is, sadly, to get people to like interest to come together in a way. People that like a certain subject matter, or a certain writing style will likely gravitate to a specific subset of blogs compared to taking a chunk of all that there is to to offer from all sides. Though I do want to see people do more of the latter.

    3. I say it only becomes a problem where the blog encourages isolation from other groups of blogging. You might want to keep your communities to yourself (a couple come to mind, but I won’t name names) and that’s all well and good for you, but it deprives the entire blogosphere another set of interesting opinions and insightful points. While the animeblogosphere probably wouldn’t need it, I’m of the “more is better” argument. When it gets saturated (if it ever gets saturated), I think we could deal with that when the time comes. 😛

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