David Weinberger recently wrote a weblog post entitled When blogs get really popular. In it he states that the line between blogging and email will become blurred. He says:
"The word "blog" will expand to cover any linkable posting (a place) where a person gets to speak her mind more than once. If it's more permanent than IM, it'll be a blog."
It was when reading Liz Lawley's Many-to-Many post (or rather her reply to my comment) that it suddenly hit me what David Weinberger was getting at: Blogging will become a communication medium, rather than a publishing one. In my comments, I huffed and puffed a bit about this because weblogging to me is primarily a personal publishing medium. Sure the collaboration aspects of blogging appeal to me, but the thing that got me blogging in the first place was a desire to write down and publish my ideas.
The difficulty I had with Liz's argument was that I didn't grok why A-List bloggers are different from the rest of us (who I refer to as C-List bloggers!). But Liz explained that the disparity is due to the different modes of communication:
"The big difference, to me, is that when you're at the top of the "power law curve," you're in broadcast mode. When you're at the tail end, you're in private diary mode. But in the middle, that's where the interlinking and dialog and community-forming are happening. Those are very different modes of communication."
Clay Shirky later posted a response to Liz, further clarifying the different modes of weblogging. He wrote that popular bloggers in affect "join the mainstream media". They become broadcasters of information, because they can't possibly link to or participate in conversations with all of their readers. Meanwhile the vast majority of weblogs, "the long tail of weblogs with few readers", will operate in conversational mode. I largely agree with this 'modality' theory...except one thing still bothers me. I still think of myself as a publisher, albeit an amateur one.
You see, I don't use blogging as a communication tool like email. I use it to publish essays and writing, that otherwise I would not be able to release to the world. OK I am in a minority, because most people have no desire to write or publish in this manner. Most people do want to communicate and collaborate, just like David and Clay's theories say they do. But still, I don't like to have my weblogging experience typecast as "conversational". To me blogging is more than that...
As a way to try and explain this, let me make a connection between blogging and radio broadcasting. The "mainstream" radio stations are the ones that most people listen to and so can be compared to A-List bloggers, whom most people read. I won't get into the argument that most mainstream radio stations are stale and boring, because their music programming panders to advertising. That is, the content (the music) is determined not by artistic merit but by what will appeal to a particular "demographic" audience. No I won't get into that argument - but God help us if A-List bloggers ever get down to that level of broadcasting!
But I think there is a comparison between some C-List bloggers and student radio stations, or pirate radio stations. We have a limited audience, perhaps even no audience. But we're broadcasting because we believe that our ideas have some inherent value. Blogging doesn't necessarily need to be about communication or collaboration, although those are noble sentiments and they are a corollary of blogging. Blogging to me is about publishing ideas. Never mind if few people read them - my ideas are out there. My ART, released to the ether, each piece a part of me forever allocated to a place on the Web...