Aimee Morrison’s article on blogs and blogging in the Blackwell Companion to Digital Literary Studies is a very informative read, particularly for those with little or no previous knowledge of the topic. She begins with a short history of the blog, which started as a series of links of interest to a webpage’s author and went on to become a writing genre. I found her definitions to be simple but detailed, and easy to absorb. She describes the concepts of archiving and keywords, and the use of blogs as “online diary services”, a hugely popular phenomenon. I think one of the most likeable aspects of Morrison’s writing is her use of digital terminology, for example “blogosphere”, throughout her article. She also backs up her statements well, continuously referring to research on the subject, such as that carried out by Herring et al.
Morrison’s informative introduction leads seamlessly on to her hypothesis on the cultural and technological forces “driving the increases in readership and authorship of blogs”. She cites the 2004 presidential election in America as a major factor in the increase in blog readership and general awareness of the blogosphere itself. Morrison also points out that a significant proportion of bloggers are students, particularly young male students. While many of these are using their blogs as online personal diaries, the fact that blogs are being so regularly accessed by students points toward their potential as learning tools. Morrison illustrates Daniel W. Drezner‘s blog as an example of a blog that “both reflects his academic work in political science and departs from the academic standards that govern his peer-reviewed work”.
As with Liu, Morrison also refers to the significance of software tools being structured in a way that can be widely used, thus lowering the “technical barrier to entry” into the blogosphere. She also represents the other side of blogging – reading: “Reading a blog, of course, requires nothing more than an internet connection and a web browser”. She describes the role of RSS and Atom in increasing blog readership across “the internet population”. In the past decade blogs have become very accessible. Even newspapers now often have a “blogwatch” feature, and there are search engines that are dedicated specifically to finding blogs (e.g. blogsearch).
One aspect of Morrison’s article which I found very enlightening was her description of the blogging community. As well as an overview of the blogroll tool – “[c]ommunities of interest are formed in the intersection of blogs in the blogroll” – Morrison also gives an account of blog “carnivals”. Blog carnivals are a type of circulating online magazine, something which I had never heard of before reading Morrison’s article. She cites a website, blogcarnival.com, which keeps a list of editions belonging to 290 different carnivals.
I also particularly enjoyed Morrison’s paragraph on the genres of blogs, especially the opening in which she describes blogging as a rapidly changing “landscape”. It appears that the blogosphere is indeed a broad landscape encompassing a variety of blogs from the personal-style diary blog to the academic library logs (“LibLogs”). She also notes that the power of blogs lies in their immediacy.
Overall, a light but informative read which tracks the progress of the blog from a total of 23 community based blogs in 1997 to today’s ever-increasing diversity of blogs created every second.