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Response to Rettberg, Chapters 2 and 3

My Intro to Computer Science course and my Intro to Digital Communications courses are linked a whole lot more than I would have thought. We were just reading about Milgram’s Small World experiments in computer science, and it’s shown up again in digicom. In this week’s response, I read Jill Walker Rettberg’s book on Blogging. More specifically, chapters 2 and 3 of the book.

Rettberg starts out by quoting Plato on his problems with the written word. To Plato, if you ask text a question it will “preserve a solemn silence.” These days with blogs, you’re encouraged to talk back and ask questions, and the writer will usually respond. If not, someone else probably will. When you ask a question, everyone around will see it, and anyone can respond, creating the dialogue that Plato spoke so highly of.

Radio, as Rettberg pointed out, could have become interactive, having transmitters as well as receivers, it was too expensive and thus only the elite owned their own long-range transmitters. In place of ham radio, talk shows allowed the same ability to respond to what you hear, but they are moderated and not as open as ham radio was.

The biggest gains in the introduction of the Internet to communication are the vast dissemination powers it contains. Rettberg examined the blogosphere as a few vastly popular sites and a very long tail of less popular sites, but “Despite each of these blogs having only a few readers, all of them put together have more than the New York Times has readers or the BBC has viewers.” The blogosphere has many small communities which link to each other, and having in-links is power. Someone on Facebook with over a thousand friends will get their message out there way more easily since they have a lot of connections.

On the other hand, since everything you publish on a blog usually sticks around, you need to be careful about your content and linking to friends. Rettberg highlighted a few examples of people who posted something stupid online and got fired or got into hot water for linking with inappropriate friends. An out-of-context post can stick around for many years, and might be seen by people who don’t know the context and might be off-putting.

That said, I can see the advantage to having this long-term retention on blogs. I got a comment a while ago on a post I’d written months earlier. You don’t know who your readers will be.

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