Friday, December 10, 2004

Bloggerphilosphie I

Business week gives some stats on the commercialisation of weblogging which is inevitable. Useful background on nick denton which I read in the early day a year ago, but who has fallen off my list of "must visit". That's how it gets in weblogworld. Constantly looking for new blogs but at the same time having a core of regulars, itself in flux.

Categorising is surely a must now that blogging has been around for a year or so. Why not a biological model ? The problem with this one is the initial division into homospecific (same species) and heterospecific (1 + x species) association. A little bit of mind bending can say, "Let's pretend this classification refers solely to humans", although as it says:
  • homospecific is defined as same species associations which form the basis of social behaviour
  • studied under the discipline of animal behaviour
For this exercise we need to epoché the homospecific branch to concentrate on the divisions within heterospecific, with its three main categories: commensalism, mutualism and parasitism.

A quick read through the classification then back to the thought "Which blogs you know fall into which of these?" By saying heterspecific we are saying "inequality". Another way of grouping weblogs is by expertise of users, say,
  • naive
  • semi-techie
  • techie
  • super techie
I place myself in the bottom rung of semi-techie because I can mess with some HTML, paste in add-ons and have above average understanding of how to get information off the web. A techie programmes.

Nick Denton is a super-techie because he starts from software and works back to content - indeed super-techie blogger content is often exclusively technical - whereas, naive-blogger may have learnt about weblog software through coming across a blog, clicked on the company icon and ended up a weblog from idiot proof software such as Blogger. He would not know about FTP-ing (I only know about it because I read about it, not how to use it) to his server of choice. That's a completely different cognitive space. Naive-blogger concentrates on content - a restricted knowledge space. Moving up to semi-techie means picking up along the way a few more ways to enhance a blog, such as registering with a search engine or adding a counter. In general terms naive = content.

Having spent a year or two surfing weblogworld, webloggers come to some conclusions about the sort of people in weblogworld and where they themselves fit in to it. Some include:
  • Webloggers are grouping together round common interests (similar to forums, IMs)
  • Groups rise and fall
  • Bloggers bitch and fall out like people in IRL

Academics soon latched onto the term social software.

The idea is being flogged to death as they try to find models, analogies and metaphors for what they think is happening and going to happen. Some is very good and quite clear like Clay Shirkey's essay. While others develop a stoggy goo of academic jargon which completely baffles their grant aiders.

Without the very internet and web this all comes from I would never have come across W.R. Bion's "Experiences in Groups", which Clay summaries brilliantly.

Bion was a psychologist who was doing group therapy with groups of neurotics. (Drawing parallels between that and the Internet is left as an exercise for the reader.) The thing that Bion discovered was that the neurotics in his care were, as a group, conspiring to defeat therapy.

There was no overt communication or coordination. But he could see that whenever he would try to do anything that was meant to have an effect, the group would somehow quash it. And he was driving himself crazy, in the colloquial sense of the term, trying to figure out whether or not he should be looking at the situation as: Are these individuals taking action on their own? Or is this a coordinated group?

He could never resolve the question, and so he decided that the unresolvability of the question was the answer. To the question: Do you view groups of people as aggregations of individuals or as a cohesive group, his answer was: "Hopelessly committed to both."

He said that humans are fundamentally individual, and also fundamentally social. Every one of us has a kind of rational decision-making mind where we can assess what's going on and make decisions and act on them. And we are all also able to enter viscerally into emotional bonds with other groups of people that transcend the intellectual aspects of the individual.


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