Panic and a sense of detachment among readers? Many didn’t know where to look for their daily news. Others felt isolated and disconnected from, again, others. And because the basic human communication need is to know about the other, isolation and panic are two possible outcomes.
What missing the newspaper means
This is yet another reference to Berelson’s groundbreaking study from 1949 (Berelson, B. (1949). What „missing the newspaper“ means. In PF Lazarfeld & FN Stanton (Eds.), Communications Research, 1948-1949, pp. 111-128.), which looked specifically at the New York newspaper delivery strike in 1945. Of course, back then, the two key news sources were radio and word of mouth, so the lack of such an important medium had a larger impact than one would assume today. Albeit, there has been no conclusive answer to what it really means when readers say, „I miss the newspaper.“
Weblog consumption and absence
From a blogging perspective then, there are some parallels towards what happened in this web space from November 22, 2004 until January 3, 2005. Only this time it wasn’t the newspaper delivery boys and girls on strike, but rather technology. And because blogging has become an integral part of my daily routine, the impact of its disappearance has a few social and psychological affects.
Few have experimented with stepping back from this dated web publishing format, focus has been on consumption habits and less on the absence of user blogging, the weblog itself, and a no-blog reading diet.
The issue of blog abandonment has been noted in a study by Perseus. It discovered that the churn rate among bloggers is relatively high. Even prominent bloggers, such as Andrew Sullivan wonder if their production output is simply too much. In the case of my personal blog, chance allowed re-evaluation of purpose, as opposed to throttling content creation or concious abandonment.
Value of Blogging?
Clyde Bentley’s paper from 1998, at the University of Oregon, refers to the value of newspapers and their absence, quite similar to a departure from blogging,
This study, like Berelson, employs the folk axiom absence makes the heart grow fonder in examining why people read a newspaper. More specifically, it lets people who have been denied their regular daily newspaper explain the societal and personal values that make this common medium important to their lives.
Blogging is not yet common, so why has this medium become important to readers and producers?
For starters, the speed information travels in the blogosphere and how it relates to eachother is much faster than pre-1999, the birth year of weblogs, not to mention the sheer number of bloggers growing worldwide. Iran itself is reaching the 100,000 mark, if not already more than that.
In countries where the freedom of voice is curtailed or where news organizations fail to provide a closer account of the truth, the need for understanding what news is rises. During the Iraq War, the blogosphere’s modes of knowledge were leveraged into the mediasphere, notably via Salam Pax, who at times provided a closer account than the media behemoths.
Even academia is learning about the value of these dated websites. To some extent, a few are already breaking the knowledge control cycle common in universities, as thoughts move beyond geo-political coordinates, allowing others to take part in their cycle. Friends learn six degrees of seperation anew, first they read a few personal weblogs, only then discover others to learn from and exchange with. CEOs are posting letter order into the blogosphere and other firms use these sites for internal communication or project specific purposes.
Weblogs on involuntary strike
That all sounds wonderful, but what does missing the blog mean? If people engaged in routine acts of reading and producing blogs suddenly suffer an unexpected disappearance, how does this affect them socially and psychologically? It would be interesting to hear from others about such experiences, let me first share some experiences in the time frame between November 22, 2004 and January 3, 2005.
The act of blogging has been an integral part of daily and weekly routines; since 2002 on three different web spaces, one of which remains my own blog. It all started with the inability to post: the essence of blog content. During the first hours of reality check, discovery that solving the problem would require patience, brief panic was a prevalent sentiment.
Problems to solve
After some sweat and scream, few questions needed resolve:
What will happen to the blog? Will I be able to recover the database data? What technical blog skills do I need to improve? Does the site need a conceptual re-launch? How will readers react? Who will help solve the problem?
Help came from unexpected places, which is nice to know, a community of bloggers exists in physical spaces too; not only at conferences, but when the situation calls for it. This then lead to another eye opener: database knowledge helps when noodling with weblogs, as do Perl scripts or time efficient css styling.
Return from isolation
Similar to Berelson’s isolation finding, missing the blog meant isolation in the context of the blog community itself too. Once you stop taking part in the blogosphere of ideas, you become a stand alone reader with less to share. Similar to shoving your book back into the shelf with broken hyperlinks and letters of ink.
Another aspect worth pointing out is that without the blog, I realized how much of the network is being built around people who blog. So, to shut down my blog seems unrealistic for now. Albeit, distance from blogolonia was like a vacation from all the speed and noise. It actually felt somewhat relaxing at some point. Imagine leaving a clogged busy highway with everyone zipping by, honking, crossing layered bridges with flying cars in one urban metropolis of 2017, only now to return with the signal blinking: beep beep.
Some final thoughts
1.) It remains in many parts a mini-media with public awareness challenges and purposes.
2.) Self importance of many bloggers polarizes late adoptors. „Been blogging for five years!“
3.) Bridging the digital with physical will determine its ability to move content.
4.) Talk about or link content to your location and less about weblog tools and why you’re blogging.
5.) Delete your dynamic database once a year and start fresh with your search juice.
6.) To realize how much inconsequential old content exists for post-to-post reasons.
7.) Blog writing is the process of understanding your understanding.
I still can’t answer what missing the blog means.