by: danah boyd
I'm not very good at reading blogs. Let me clarify... i'm not particularly good at reading blogs that are good for me.
I check in on Brangelina is the new pink gossip daily, consume cute imagery until i'm overloaded, depress myself with what happens post secret, and read the living journals of close friends who share juicy stories. But when i think about reading blogs about tech industry, my research area or other arenas that would actually be helpful, i go into anaphylactic shock. There's too many, it's too overwhelming, i can't cope, eek! I can't even stomach blogs written by dear friends who i will talk with for hours about professional or intellectual ideas (unless they embed the nutritious material in the sugary gossip stuff). I don't even think i'd read my blog given its content if i weren't the one writing it.
It's not that i don't want to be engaged with meaningful conversations, but somehow, the popularity of blogging and the amount of content that people produce flips the all or nothing bit in my head. And then i started talking to some of my friends who maintain big blogs... I was startled at how few of them actually read blogs these days. They too had hit some wall; apparently, i'm not alone. They also rely on people to email things that are of particular interest. They also use things like Technorati to ego-surf not for validation, but to keep abreast of what conversations they're supposed to be engaging in. There's something reassuring about realizing that my peculiar blogging consumption practices these days are not unique. Of course, it doesn't alleviate all of the guilt that i feel about being a blogger who doesn't read many blogs.
But then i started thinking... Here i am producing random ass content for god knows who to read. Most of my close friends don't read me so i can bet that most of my readers are relative strangers. So when i post questions to readers, mostly i'm posting them to strangers. More interesting though is who sends me links. For the most part, it clusters around two groups - close friends who don't blog and strangers. My blogging non-consuming friends aren't reading enough to inform me of things and if it's particularly interesting, they'll blog about it and assume that i'll read it. (This brings back the guilt.)
Is what i'm hearing from my friends a larger trend amongst a particular population? If so, what does it mean for blogging discourse if there's a consumption/production divide in blogging? Are (non-professional) bloggers with more readers less likely to read blogs than bloggers with fewer readers? What kind of peculiar power hierarchy emerges if bloggers who are read more read less and depend on readers more? Are those who read less less involved in the dialogue or are they simply bridges dependent on sharing? How might this relate to the fact that such bloggers are constantly getting pressure to blog about XYZ? Does lack of reading affect posting patterns? Does it signal a de-involvement with blogging culturally? (Any more than WoW addiction?)
I still haven't seen a good study on the dynamics of massively public blogging, the cycles that bigger bloggers go through and the power implications involved, but i'm very curious about how consumption and production interconnect and affect the networked public nature of mass blogging. I'd also really love to understand the role that psychological, social and cultural factors play in prompting many of the bigger bloggers to stop (or drastically reduce) their blogging production. Selfishly, i'd also love someone to explain what's going on so that i can stop reflexively blogging about reduced blogging. Of course, if someone does blog such a thing in the digital forest, would i even hear the sound?