Of Blogosphere


New form of media publishing

One trend in blogosphere that has fueled the popularity of blogging is a citizen-based form of journalism.

This is a rather prevalent trend in Malaysia. Due to media ownership problems and various restrictions from publication laws (such as Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, Defamation Act 1957, Sedition Act 1948, Official Secret Act 1972, etc), some of the self-obliged citizens have resorted to using new media (including blogs) to publish the uncovered news stories.

These bloggers are seen actively involved in exposing misdeeds and corruption in the government. Now this might sound like a joke, but in actuality it is not. As Trippi (2004, cited in Allan 2006, p. 172) confides, “the little-known secret in newsrooms is that right now reporters are beginning every day by reading the blogs. They’re looking for the pulse of the people, for political fallout, for stories they might have missed.”

Yet, sometimes, in so doing, bloggers carry it insofar as resorting to name-calling, spreading unsubstantiated rumors, conspiracy theory (Cooper 2007). This has led to some serious debates on whether bloggers should be subjected to the traditional journalistic codes of ethics (Webb 2003). Others have even attempted in creating exclusive ethical codes for bloggers only (Kuhn 2007; A blogger’s code of ethics 2008).

Raja Petra inside poblic lock-up (The Star 2008)

Raja Petra inside poblic lock-up (The Star 2008)

Of course, not all bloggers are in the same line, and most who blog for such purposes are often working on an assumption that publishing online can afford them the impunity from the aforementioned publication laws and journalism ethics (‘Danger of misusing blogs’ 2008). But one has only to look at the recent detention of Raja Petra and Jeff Ooi’s trial to know that these laws and ethics still actually apply in the cyberspace (Puah 2008; ‘Malaysia blogger held for dissent’ 2008).

References:

‘A blogger’s code of ethics’ 2008, cyberjournalist.net. Retrieved 12 November, 2008, from

http://www.cyberjournalist.net/news/000215.php

Allan, S 2006, Online news, Open University Press, London.

Cooper, SD 2007, ‘A concise history of the fauxtography blogstorm in the 2006 Lebanon War’, American Communication Journal, vol. 9, no.2.

‘Danger of misusing blogs’ 2008, Sun2Surf, 12 November. Retrieved 12 November, 2008, from

http://www.sun2surf.com/article.cfm?id=16789

Kuhn, M 2007, ‘Interactivity and prioritizing the human: a code of blogging ethics’, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, vol. 22, no.1, pp. 18-36.

‘Malaysia blogger held for dissent’ 2008’, BBC. Retrieved 12 November, 2008, from

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7612666.stm

Puah, P 2008, ‘NST sues Jeff Ooi, Rocky for defamation’, Sun2Surf, 12 November. Retrieved 12 November 2008, from

http://www.sun2surf.com/article.cfm?id=16857

Webb, CL 2003, ‘The great blogging ethics debate’, Washington Post, 9 April. Retrieved 12 November, 2008, from

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A63407-2003Apr9.html

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Designing for online vs. print

The natures of both online and print media have cultivated different habits of consumption in the audiences, and thus different expectations have been formed of the design in both media.

As Parker (2003, p. 270) contends, online reading is usually more exhausting, because of high foreground/background contrast caused by the projected light on the computer screen. Therefore, especially in arranging texts in a screen-based environment, designers should always treat them like visuals, making them look visually appealing and comforting (Bernhardt 1986). This can be done by grouping up related text, and carefully placing the texts so that they can generate a sense of balance (Parker 2003).

Youtube

Visually appealing layout (Youtube 2008)

Magazine layout (Design Firm 2008)

Magazine layout (Design Firm 2008)

This design approach is also supplemented by online media’s multimodality and hyperlinking feature (Walsh 2006, p. 30). Designers can cut down a lot of texts by supplementing or replacing them with appropriate images and video clips. As well, by linking audiences to different pages, a page can avoid having overflowing texts, and making reading an overly daunting task. For the same reason, designers should also avoid building a multicolumn layout, which is often used in magazine to save space. Just take a look at the two pictures above, and you will know what I mean.

However, as in the case of print media, providing information about the author in online media can boast trust and confidence in the audiences (Nielsen 2005).

References:

Bernhardt, SA 1986, ‘Seeing the text’, College composition and communication, vol. 37, no.1, pp. 66-78.

Nielsen, J 2005, Weblog usability: the top ten design mistakes. Retrieved 12 November, 2008, from

http://www.useit.com/alertbox/weblogs.html

Parker, RC 2003, ‘Designing document for web distribution’, Looking good in print, Paraglygh Press, Scottsdale.

Walsh, M 2006, ‘The textual shift: examining the reading process with print, visual, and multimodal text, Australian Journal of Languages and Literacy, vol. 29, no. 1, pp.24-37.

Classification of blogs

The existing blogs are just as diverse as books in a library. They can simply be classified in the same way, that is, according to the subjects they are dealing with, such as:

  • Art
  • Economics
  • Fashion
  • History
  • Literature
  • Music
  • Philosophy

Immediacy, interactivity and depth inherent in blogs (Allan 2006, p. 23-26) allow classification in terms of purpose like what Simons (2008) suggested. For example:

  • Pamphleteering Blogs allow people to “argue a case or push a cause” by providing readers a means to leave their comment.
  • News Blogs are used to cover news stories.

Furthermore, blogs’ multimodal environment has also led to another kind of classification that is determined by the dominant mode of communication within a blog. For instance:

  • Photoblog
  • Sketchblog
  • Vlog
  • Artlog

(Wikipedia 2008).

Most blogs, however, have intermingled intrinsic elements from different classifications, making them harder to be distinguished by types. Ultimately, what work best is determined by the users, and the diversity of classifications is certainly a positive sign.

Blogging communities

A blogging or online community is simply “a community who interacted online within some bounded set of technologies” (White 2006). It is maintained and expanded when bloggers hyperlink to other bloggers, refer to them in their entries, and post comments on each other’s blogs (Herring et al 2005; Gumbrecht 2004).

White (2006) notices three types of online communities prevalent in the blogosphere:

  • One Blog Centric Community focuses on a single prominent blog.
  • Topic Centric Community is united by a shared topic.
  • Boundaried Communities are “collections of blogs and blog readers hosted on a single site or platform”.

Multiply

(Multiply 2008)

(Multiply 2008)

Multiply is an example of boundaried communities. In order to post a comment in a blog hosted by Multiply, one has to first be a member of the site. A Multiply member’s network is made up of their direct contact, and they are constantly being kept up-to-date to any ongoing activities of those in their direct contact. Also, Multiply enables one to view the contact list of their friends. When one meets with their friend’s friend, Multiply will notify them of their indirect relationship.

References:

Allan, S 2006, Online News, Open University Press, London.

Gumbrecht, M 2004, ‘Blog as “protected space”’, ACM Press, New York.

Simons, M 2008, ‘Towards a taxonomy of blogs’, Creative Economy. Viewed 10 November, 2008, at

http://www.creative.org.au/webboard/results.chtml?filename_num=229836

White, N 2006, ‘Blogs and community: launching a new paradigm for online community’, The Knowledge Tree. Viewed 10 November, 2008, at

http://kt.flexiblelearning.net.au/tkt2006/edition-11-editorial/blogs-and-community-%E2%80%93-launching-a-new-paradigm-for-online-community

Wikipedia 2008, ‘Blog’. Viewed, 10 November, 2008, at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog

Blogosphere as current phenomenon

“One need not pass his threshold to comprehend all that is under Heaven.”

Laozi, Tao Te Ching

The Taoist adage that has puzzled many folks in the past has finally come to a more pragmatic disclosure—one such that would only be possible, through the passage of over two thousand years from when the adage was penned in the Chinese classical text to when it now receives the boon of blogosphere, the Internet’s fastest-growing phenomenon (Masson 2004).

State of blogosphere

State of blogosphere (Technorati 2008)

That blogosphere has made such thing happens is not an exaggeration: since 2002, Technorati (2008) alone has tracked over 133 million blog records in 81 languages, and the study it conducted has seen responses from 66 countries across 6 continents. Just in the last 24 hours, Technorati’s estimated number of blogs that have posted is as high as 900,000. What all these suggest can be translated into this way: Everyday you have 900,000 watchers from almost everywhere in the world informing you of what is happening in this world, and the accumulation of their information is so huge that the possibility of conquering all the information, despite their high accessibility, will simply elude you the moment it arises. This information can range from something as well-known as the 2008 U.S. election to something as private as Mu Zimei’s sex life. In other words, it can be just about anything that is under Heaven.

Trends of blogosphere in different parts of the world

Blogger Highlight (Technorati 2008)

Blogger Highlight (Technorati 2008)

In Europe, most bloggers are of the ages above 35. This is in stark contrast with the trend in Asia, particularly in Malaysia, in which 74% of the bloggers are below 25 years old, most of whom are female (Microsoft Press Pass 2006; PR Newswire). If age could have an implication in styles the bloggers adopt, here is possibly the affirmation: most blogs in Asia are noted to be more motivational and confessional, whereas in Europe, the blogging style is more confrontational (Technorati 2008). But in both continents, music has consistently been the top favourite blog topic, and most bloggers are college graduates.

Benefits of blogging

Why do you blog? (Technorati 2008)

Why do you blog? (Technorati 2008)

According to Technorati’s State of Blogosphere report, 24% of the bloggers in Asia are currently making money by posting product reviews on their blogs. Still, 74% of the Asian bloggers are drawn to blogs by friends and family, and this represents one way to bring them closer to the circle of friends and family members (Technorati 2008). For 60% of the bloggers in Europe, the benefit comes from the fun of blogging itself. However, to different individual bloggers, the answers are probably more complex than these, as are shown in the chart above. In Malaysia, due to restrictions from many publication laws, blogs have been an alternative media for information that is not provided by the mainstream media (Mahathir defends bloggers 2007).

References:

‘Mahathir defends bloggers’ 2008, AustralianIT, 19 April. Retrieved, 10 November, 2008, from

http://www.australianit.news.com.au/story/0,24897,21583726-15322,00.html

Microsoft Press Pass 2006, ‘Women rule in Malaysia blogosphere’. Viewed, 10 November, 2008, at

http://www.microsoft.com/malaysia/press/archive2006/linkpage4337.mspx

PR Newswire, ‘Blogging phenomenon sweeps Asia’. Viewed, 10 November, 2008, at

http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/11-28-2006/0004480819&EDATE

Technorati 2008, ‘State of blogosphere’. Viewed, 10 November, 2008, at

http://www.technorati.com/blogging/state-of-the-blogosphere