When is a blog not a blog?

A blog is not a blog when “the people who use it do things with it that the designer never imagined”.

Norman, 2011

Studying social media is like turning a dentist’s magnifying spotlight onto your lover’s face, suddenly the beautiful warm glow from candlelit evenings vanishes and things don’t look so rosy. Please. Give me simulations of reality any day.

And no, it is not that I cannot distinguish between realities, but perhaps I don’t want to see more clearly. I don’t want to acknowledge that my personal use of social media is being manipulated by huge corporations interested in expanding their consumer base. (Why else have social network sites encouraged such a public level of self-exposure over these last three decades, if not to sell a product?)

Hyperreality could still be a good thing. I could continue to live in a cosy corner of cyberspace and hang on to the illusion that I am becoming my online identity. Could I actually morph into the person I present as my social identity in online communities? As Wilken and McCosker (2014) state, we must self-reflectively and continuously ‘invent’ ourselves with these tools of self-formation. Isn’t this the new reality? That “I share therefore I am”. (Turkle 2013) My concept of self becomes regulated through a collection of bots compiled from all the platforms where I am publicly available. An iMe or an eMe, the electronic version of me.

In studying social media, we are questioning the forms of sociality. The percentage of social interactions within digital environments has increased exponentially. In May 2019 Social Media News, for example, puts Australian Facebook users at 15 million with 50% of the country’s population logging in daily. The ‘public sphere’ as described by Habermas has gone. (Bruns and Highfield 2016) News broadcasters now cannot claim influence over the nation. Their audience has dispersed. Even early paradigms of social media have changed. The rapid connection and dissemination of news on the diverse platforms now available has changed our concept of social media. A blog is no longer a weblog, no longer the Captain’s log, recording what’s happening on our mission. Its story is woven into our network experience.

We have transitioned from using digital media as profile-based self-expression only, into a space where digital dualism is being disintegrated, as Jurgenson says (cited by Herrman 2019). Virtual and physical realities are merging. No longer is digital media a form of virtual communication, it has become the experience of living in a world where being networked to people is assumed. As danah boyd has described, our social networking means we are ‘always on’ (boyd 2012), we are constantly online and offline, constantly accessible if and when we choose to be.

“Confused yet?”
Credit: Manu Cornet, Cartoonist

The affordances of social media, that is, those things that make it obvious what it is, have also blurred. In the early paradigm of social media, a blog was basically a personal journal made public. Blogs have transitioned. They are now interactive and an integral part of the social media jigsaw. WordPress began as a personal publishing system and evolved into a content management system with its own ecosystem. (Kinsta 2019). Like a child that only becomes interesting when it learns to think for itself, WordPress developed into a single system that works on all devices, incorporates multiple platforms, and connects the wider, broader global publishing community with its followers. It connects you and me.

There is no turning back. Think of social media as a huge ocean liner, like the Queen Mary. Aboard are many activities and it is for you to choose your level of participation. Some activities are cosy corners to share secrets with friends onboard, and other spaces are public song and dance shows. To understand where the WordPress blog platform fits in, think of it as the magic show. The magician calls for audience participation and the audience becomes the show. There is interaction and connection. To answer the question: ‘Is WordPress a blog or a social network site?’ the answer must be that it is both.


MDA20009 Assignment 1A Is WordPress a blog or a social network site?

References

boyd, d 2012, ‘Participating in the always-on lifestyle’, in M Mandiberg (ed) The Social Media Reader, NYU Press, pp. 71-76.

Bruns, A & Highfield, T 2016 ‘Is Habermas on Twitter? Social media and the public sphere‘. In A Bruns, G Enli, E Skogerbø, AO Larsson, & Christensen, C (ed) The Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics. Routledge, New York, pp. 56-73.

Cornet, Manu, Twitter post, https://mobile.twitter.com/lmanul

Cowling, D 2019, Social media statistics Australia – May 2019, 1 May, viewed 22 July 2019, https://www.socialmedianews.com.au/social-media-statistics-australia-may-2019/

Herrman, 2014, ‘Meet The Man Who Got Inside Snapchat’s Head’, BuzzFeedNews, viewed 16 July 2019 https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/jwherrman/meet-the-unlikely-academic-behind-snapchats-new-pitch#3dlvjg2

Kinsta Inc, 2019, ‘The History of WordPress, its Ecosystem and Community’, viewed 22 July 2019 https://kinsta.com/learn/wordpress-history/

Norman, D 2011, Affordances, YouTube, 2011 <http://bit.ly/1BA7sEE&gt;

Turkle, S 2013, ‘Connected, but alone?- Sherry Turkle‘, April, TED, viewed 21 July 2019, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv0g8TsnA6c&gt;.

Wilken, R & McCosker, A 2014, ‘Social Selves’, in Cunningham & Turnbull (eds), The Media & Communications in Australia, Allen and Unwin pp. 291-295.

2 thoughts on “When is a blog not a blog?

  1. Hi Wendy,
    I like your blog, the layout is very professional. There are a lot of ideas in this post – I’ll have to read it again! One point I did fix on was: ‘The ‘public sphere’ as described by Habermas has gone’.

    I was introduced to Habermas in the unit Innovation Cultures. Fascinating; one question that i attempted to answer was whether the internet had re-introduced Habermas’ idea of the public sphere. Hard question to answer, but I thought ‘Yes – a bit – the democratic idea of the Internet might replicate that public sphere.

    From some recent reading:
    Habermas’ idea of ‘the public sphere’ is brought to life by digital communities. However, he, and others, have argued that the ‘industrialized and commercialized media have…eliminated the public sphere’ (John Street, 2001, Mass Media, Politics and Democracy, Palgrave NY).

    I think the ‘industrialized and commercialized media’ he is talking about is the ‘traditional media’, which is controlled by media corporations and ‘gate-keepers’ like editors,who choose what will and will not be published, and by extension, control the content to which citizens have access to.

    Digital platforms like WordPress allow people to by-pass the ‘gatekeepers’; ‘digital citizens’ (like bloggers) can publish and disseminate content with very little oversight from the gatekeepers. So perhaps, digital media offers an opportunity to revive the public sphere?

    Liked by 1 person

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