Tag Archive | invisible audiences

currency exchange: let’s pay in comments

With the British Pound being at a pitiful low rate against the Euro – it’s near parity – I think it’s a good moment to bridge finance and blogging. Comments count as currency in the blogosphere. Given the comments are useful and the reader has taken the time to read through the post, beyond the first two sentences.
In a world where time is a very scarce good, it seems commenting on someone else’s blogpost is not exactly the most rewarding thing to do. So why bother? Why engage in the tiresome – and often also emotional – labour of producing content?
Chrysten Dybenko argued in June this year that only 1% of the active population would ever produce content, no matter if blog, wiki or comments on a site. Now, in January 2008 there were 59 million Facebook users which have more than doubled within the year: according to Facebook there are currently 140 million active users. All these people (individual or collective agents) produce content and demand attention. In my online sphere I see more than 1 in 100 Facebook users commenting on each others’ activities with status updates being the easiest to spot. On Twitter the rate is certainly even higher – but on blogs? That’s indeed a different story. Because the content and comment production is also more time consuming and less spontaneous?

Comments are the one core ingredient that make blogging a lot more of a dialogical activity. There is no point in telling the invisible or imagined audiences what wonderful things you think without getting any feedback. Yet, it’s exactly what many corporations still do on their top-down style websites but if you are not one of the anxious producers you are keen on hearing what readers think.

Or what your readers ‘out there’ produce on their sites. That’s what trackbacks and pingbacks are good for. That’s what produces social capital. But the one thing I am truly keen on is cultural capital. It’s the critical question that indicates someone has thought through and beyond the stuff you offered. And spotted the weaknesses. Or the strengths. And gave you food for thought. Something to come back to and make it better. That’s the material that you take with you from your online world into the offline world. That makes you post something like an answer. Online. Or talk back, offline – and to someone who does not even know you are a blogger. Bring the thoughts and comments back into different contexts. Generate new ideas.

The hybrid places where online and offline merge and we notice that what we give and get online may have an impact on our identities much bigger than many are willing to admit. And it seems, our identities are rather merged phenomenon than fragmentations…

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censorship in the blogosphere

Censorship in the blogosphere may trigger instant associations to China, Syria etc and policing the internet. But censorship may not only occur on the national or the macro level but also on the micro level. The extent of control exercised when readers comment on postings may say more about the individual/s running the blog than any statements made by them in their profile or postings.
Under the umbrella of an individual’s anxieties, i.e. the need to feel in control in the virtual world where many perceive themselves not in command but rather controlled by the invisible audiences – and other unknown forces – , the only way to restore order and a sense of power is to censor comments to a degree that may disencourage readers to comment at all. This resulting lack of feedback and interaction in a rapidly growing universe of blogs, online social networks, and microblogging tools such as twitter may contribute to a sense that ‘those out there’ are indeed powerful invisible audiences who consume but remain emotionally unavailable. A desired outcome of the regulatory mechanisms at the micro level in the blogosphere?

the shooting of Kauhajoki, youtube and audiences

Ever been to Kauhajoki or met any of its 15,000 inhabitants? Me neither. But I spent quite some time in Finland and loved the country – although it is hard to remain as anonymous as one can be in London – or Berlin. A good thing? Rather not. The social control I encountered – to varying degrees – in Helsinki, Tampere and Kuopio
a few years back was rather unsettling. Everybody seemed to know each other, less than 5.5 million people in a country as large as crowded Germany – no way to evade into individualism, except in the online sphere perhaps. But that’s escapism as we all live it in these days, nothing special about that either – and who is really listening in these multi-million user online social networks anyway?
So Matti Saari may have been bored, a psychopath or eaten up with hatred as his comment on YouTube suggested but obviously, he was very keen on getting his message – and plan – out to a large community. ‘Guns, computers, sex and beer’ as he listed them are probably the hobbies shared by millions, nothing uncommon – and horror movies as well as heavy metal music are not just most popular in Finland. Whether the shooting was inspired by the 1999 Columbine school massacre is questionable – hatred is probably less fuelled by the desire to copycat but the bloodboths may have in common the shooters’ outsider status, the perceived powerlessness and their mental states.
The symptoms of deeply felt anger, despise and the desire to change things in a most destructive manner rather than the rationale itself seem to be focus of the media coverage. This raises the question why in the age of publicly made and widely accessible –online- announcements consumed by in-/visible audiences and those being tipped off, i.e. the police, the reaction is unchanged: paralysed in learned helplessness, waiting for the fatal moves before the blame game takes its toll. New media – old practices?
The number of concerning messages is rapidly increasing, think of status updates in Twitter or Facebook which provide visible glimpses into an individual’s mind, their mental state and their expression of hate, disgust, anger and all forms of depression. Commenting, warning, advising – or ignoring, how do we respond? How do YOU deal with messages of that kind?

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fleeting encounters and absent-mindedly gazing audiences

I got stuck in the Northern Line this morning, 8am, on the way to work. So the conductor from within his separate space got in touch with the crowd: [tired voice] ‘would the person leaning against the door please move away…otherwise I will have to check all doors, and that’s going to take ages’. How was he imagining his audience, I wondered. If he was imagining us at all that is…
In front of me a lady in pink – applying make up, lots of make up to be fair. She managed to do that with a very quiet hand in the totally crowded tube, standing in move-with-the-speed mode. Impressive. Obviously, she was either used to audience, desiring ‘us’ as onlookers – or totally ignorant of all those around her attractive self.
Last night I discussed with a friend who wants to write a travel guide – and my own blogging experience came up. Again, audiences sprang to mind. Who are ‘they’ – are they groups, individuals, no names, blurred or simply a grey invisible mass?

Finally, I saw a tap show with friends on stage at the white cabaret [Inn on the Green, London], sitting on cushions in touching distance to the stage, and again: audiences. How did the performers visualise/imagine and perceive the audience/s – blurred in the shadows of a 1920s style purple/black ambience? Or did they ignore us in order to concentrate? Audiences – who are you? Frequently also of importance, perhaps even more so: where are you?

lurkers, surfers and the politics of blogging

Apart from posting links I haven’t managed to write anything over the past few weeks since I set up this blog, my 3rd one. Partly due to lack of time and problems with reliable networks/access but mainly driven by the desire to post a bit of quality [the dichotomy of random thought vs cohesive conceptual structure?] and take the time to think first about content, then about structure and style – and finally the oh so powerful but mainly silent, passive and invisible audience. Who are you guys? Lurkers, ignorant surfers, bored office workers…? Politics of idenity and politics of representation are at stake.

As research student in the social sciences with focus on online social networks (OSNs such as facebook) blogging is not really easy, it seemed… why I am writing myself into being [echoing danah boyd’s claim] or is ‘cogito, ergo sum’ still valid – I think, therefore I am?

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