We had an anthropologist from the University of California Irvine — Bonnie A. Nardi — up for a lecture at the end of Spring Quarter. She had done some research with a small cohort of bloggers, seeking to understand why people blog.
Most of these folks were writing personal journals. A few were writing subject-oriented blogs.
She didn’t find a clear-cut answer to the question. But her research made me wonder, not for the first time: is this a technology or a medium?
Printing presses are technology; a newspaper (output) is a communcation medium.
A case could be made that blogs are a technology (think Movable Type, GeekLog, Livejournal.com). Thinking back to newspapers, the computer would be the printing press and the blog software the technology use to “create” what the press will print.
However, the term “blog” is used to primarily to represent the output of the software technology (when it’s not being used as a verb!).
Adding to the lexicon challenge, that output is generic: it’s more like “printed matter” than “historical fiction” or even like “magzine” or “tabloid.” In other words, we have not developed genres. And we need some way to clearly distinguish between the technology (software) and its output (personal journals, news, tips, political opinion, etc.)
Just because I’m a contrarian doesn’t mean that I have an answer! But I do believe we need to consciously refrain from talking about specifics (details that Nardi saw in her small study, for example) as though they were generalities. That pail just doesn’t hold water.