Sunday, July 23, 2006

There is no Blogosphere There Are Only Blogs and the Bloggers who Blog Them

Howard Kurtz has written on that Pew poll of actual, real, live, bloggers, the phone poll that managed to snare, count 'em, 233 "self-identified" bloggers over an eight months period. I wonder if "self-identified bloggers" are like "admitted homosexuals" as the quaint phrase used to go. Is there such a thing as a latent blogger? Since people aren't drafted into blogging the to say they are "self-identified" is more than a bit tautological, unless you want to stress it for purposes of accusation.

Why even a puff artist like Kurtz regards this poll as anything but a joke is more interesting that anything the poll says. The only intelligent comments I've seen were made by Roger Ailes (the good one) who asked why it took them eight months to poll 233 bloggers.

But why would anyone do the poll at all? Doesn't a quick look at the various things called blogs tell you that a blog isn't any one kind of thing? What does Juan Cole's blog have in common with the pigeon droppings found at just about any Republican blog? One is a highly informed discussion of the Middle East, the others include Jonah Goldberg, his dam, Michelle Malkin and any number of other bilge pumps. But the poll didn't stop with that. It included non-political blogs and even blogs that didn't use any text at all. Again Roger Ailes asked if the comments on those blogs were done by rebus. Why didn't the Pew include reviewers while they were at it? Some people, for reasons unfathomable, seem addicted to that activity. There are even reviewer profiles. Those people seem to be the type who would jump at the chance to be polled.

It would be good to know more about the origin and motivation of the poll and why it was released just as the strange wars between the leftist blogs and the corporate media has heated up again. Certainly the Pew has the ability to tabulate the results from 233 people a lot faster than it did. Or have they no computers? Which would explain the apparent cluelessness about the blogs. Since they said that the results are already out of date you wonder why they would release the shoddy thing at all. It doesn't do much for their reputation for professionalism or regard for accuracy. Not that that's going to keep them off NPR.

When you start with a stupid premise the results are likely to be even stupider. Blogging is not even a genre of communication. It is a medium that people choose to use in different ways. Some worth serious consideration, some experimental to various levels of success and of lot of it just silly. Blogs are like paper. Paper can be used to print something as excellent as Harpers or as deranged as Spotlight or it can be used to Xerox your buttocks to send to someone you love, or not as the case may be. But an analysis of publishing that conflates the best and worst isn't going to reveal much. Other than how much pulp is consumed or the effects of postal rate changes, lumping them together is absurd.

Call me suspicious but this poll doesn't sit right with me. The attempt by the commercial media to get hold of blogging, to exclude us, the great unwashed isn't a surprise. They want it all for themselves just as they do everything else. It must really get their goat that an emerging and influential form of information dispersal is free, there for the using of anyone who chooses. It is so unlike the electronic media they are so invested in which they can control due to its high cost and which has licensing and contractual requirements for beginning. It's their public domain. Blogs are like paper to be used and even cheaper and more convenient. Political blogs are like samizdat was during the Brezhnev era of the Soviet Union only it's here and it's easier to distribute. Paper copied by hand and passed around, sounds a lot like blogs without computers, doesn't it?

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