Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, December 03, 2021

The online world was all abuzz yesterday when publisher Merriam-Webster announced the inclusion of the much-requested word “blog” in their next-edition dictionary. Many bloggers pointed with pride at this development as another example of the mainstreamization of blogs, and the inevitable blog conquest of the world (or, at least, dead-tree media).

I wonder if any of those crowing bothered to pay close heed to the definition Merriam-Webster is currently using on some online properties:

But in face of demand, the company quickly added an early definition to some of its online sites, defining “blog” as “a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer”.

This is pretty close to what dictionary.com’s listing for “blog” says; that site is powered by Merriam-Webster.

Is this an accurate default description of a blog? By extension, is there such a thing as a blanket definition of “blog”?

It depends on what we’re describing: The medium or the genre.

At root, a blog doesn’t necessarily refer to the content or the author; it refers to the method by which information is presented on a website. Regardless of what’s being written, blogs tend to have a similar layout and structure, thanks to the widespread use of a small handful of blogging software and services. Indeed, it’s those software and services that triggered the growth of blogging, transforming what was a cumbersome process of maintaining a website/webpage through cumbersome HTML editing to a more elegant backend solution.

(Even this isn’t wholly true, as I’m sure there are some hardy souls out there who reject any fancied-up program and do all their web-logging the old-fashioned Notepad-edited way.)

That is the technical definition. Yet, undoubtedly, that definition is being obscured by what’s most apparent: What’s on the blog’s front page and archives. And that’s what’s being referred to in the hyped-up dictionary definition.

But not all blog content is alike. Nearly a year ago, I pondered this subject:

Count me among those who have a dim view of the teenage angst blogs… There’s nothing wrong with them per se, but I don’t really like to lump them in with sites that are more structured and focused on things other than people and events that mean absolutely nothing to the world outside of a clique of friends. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making distinctions in the blogosphere based on substance. In fact, it’s a little ridiculous to group Blog A and Blog B together only because they’re both created and maintained through Blogger, yet their content and purpose are completely different; frankly, I don’t want my site to be associated with some 12-year-old kid’s journal of daily rants.

Regarding my desire to not have my work here compared directly to blogs that are more journal-based, I’ll add that the converse is true: I’m sure many people who produce deeply personal, introspective blogs would resent being equated with what I do here. In both cases, no one wants to announce to a friend or acquaintence, “I’ve got a blog”, and get a response along the lines of, “Oh yeah, my 12-year-old niece has one of those she shares with her friends”, or “Well, I have a lawyer friend who does a lot of networking that way”, or any other assumption that would come with what’s perceived to be the “typical” blog.

The word “personal” is pretty loaded in this context. A lot of professional organizations, like Jupiter Research and The Poynter Institute, utilize blogs as a way to communicate their message. It’d be a stretch to call them “personal”, and, again, hard to compare them to a typical LiveJournal site (generalizing, sure, but probably on the mark).

Mixing up the medium — a specialized and fairly easily-identifiable website — with the genre — personal diary, photoblog, punditry space, or any other writing focus — is to be expected. It happens in other areas too, and conveys just as false an impression: Comic books, for instance, are considered to be synonymous with children’s reading material regardless of content; that’s the equivalent of assuming all paperback books must be mystery novels, or all movies must be documentaries. The risk run is in enshrining these attitudes, and unintentionally limiting the medium purely through public perception.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/03/2021 06:00:55 PM
Category: Bloggin', Media | Permalink |


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