Weblog Geography

I’m still grading papers, and I’m trying to fight off illness with massive doses of orange juice.

It’s occurred to me that while a lot of people have talked in passing about the geography of weblogging, not many people have really talked about mapping weblogs in any sort of sophisticated way. There have been the various left/right and political compass chartings, but I find them rather one-dimensional and uninteresting. So, too, people have pointed to Web tools that let you give your weblog a geographical identifier tag, so your perspective can show up as a red pin on a world map somewhere — again, not very interesting.

I’m more interested in the way people set up boundaries and communities of inclusion and exclusion in weblogging, and how the liminal spaces get constructed. Some people sort their blogrolls into categories, so there are academic weblogs, political weblogs, design weblogs, tech weblogs, and so on. (Are there personal weblogs, as a category? Or is every weblog somehow personal? What about group weblogs?) And there are groups of New York weblogs, Indonesian weblogs, and so on. There are weblogs that allow comments, and there are weblogs that don’t. But most weblogs I’ve seen, in their linking practices, don’t restrict themselves to a single focus, although there often seems to be a sort of limited constellation of interests. How do those constellations intersect? How many different methodologies could one come up with for mapping weblogs, and what would happen if one superimposed one methodology over another over another, like those anatomical transparencies in old encyclopedias?

I’m interested, in part, because of the economic globalization angle, and the way that the internet was supposed to foster the breakdown of borders and the movement of footloose and transcendent transnational capital. As I’ve noted here in the past, I don’t much believe in that perspective — the economic critiques of the discourses of globalization offered by Porter and others are compelling — and, in fact, I think we’re starting to see the solidification of nascent weblogging communities. Now, “communities” is a word I take care in using, since it’s rarely if ever deployed in anything other than a vague and positive sense, but there’s a point I want to make here: communities have borders, and communities have members and nonmembers and even sometime members. I think the Web is already a local space, and is becoming even more local via the way people construct their webs of links.

And the more I think about this, the more it seems obvious, and the more I’m certain I should have done some more careful Googling before putting this entry together. Jill or Anne or someone similarly brilliant has probably already written something incredibly smart about it.

Back to grading and orange juice.

Weblog Geography

4 thoughts on “Weblog Geography

  • December 9, 2003 at 12:33 am

    >:( I hope you kick it and feel better soon. This is a bad time of year to be yucky.

  • December 9, 2003 at 1:37 am

    I wish I were savvy enough to construct my blogroll as a Venn Diagram. That, I think, would come nearest to how I think of the blogs I read regularly.

  • December 11, 2003 at 5:58 pm

    I like the notion that the web is a local space. My first online community was The WELL (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic ‘Link), which had a list of 200 conferences/communities. You didn’t have a blogroll, but you had a list of the conferences you read regularly. That was my first experience in coming to know people first through their prose style and their common rhetorical stances. One year, when one member of the media conference was coming to Stanford for the year, we held a party for about 15 people who only knew each other online. About a dozen showed up, and we’d keep guessing who was who, since no one knew what anyone looked like. When we’d give our screen name, eyes would light up. One of the people who came lived half a block away. I knew she was in Palo Alto, but had no idea she was around the corner. So it’s local, but a new kind of local, I think.

    We might have an experience like that at CCCC in San Antonio if a number of the blogger rhetors figure out a time to meet up.

    Hope the crud is running its course and you feel better soon, Mike.

  • December 15, 2003 at 4:00 pm

    “A new kind of local”, yes, one that depends not only on the Venn-diagram ‘net relations MRBS imagines (perhaps a Venn diagram with blurry lines, MRBS?), but a local that also depends on the way those ‘net relations intersect with geographic relations (consider your community-college connection to Cindy, John, and the synchronicity Cindy and I have recently shown in our posts about New England weather — and of course also the way the ideas exchanged have effects not only in this space, but out in the world).

    And, yes, I’m hoping we might get something together in San Antonio. Time to start doing some Googling for possible places to meet, maybe.

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