Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Blogging, social networking and other thoughts

I have been really sick for the past three weeks, but as soon as my health improved I wanted to get online and publish a few things that I had been mulling over while I was out. One of them was a (hopefully) short self-reflection on blogging and the responsibility that it brings with it.

As a researcher, I am naturally inclined to ask questions and to inquire about things. I have an investigative nature and thus it is only natural that I do what I do for a living. I have always been fascinated by the use of new technologies, particularly when younger generations adopt them. Recently, the broad themes of social networking and social software became part of an interesting conversation I had with H on blogs and social networking spaces. We were commenting on how different people use them as data (researchers), as a forum to express emotions/feelings and thoughts (the general public), and as places and spaces to meet.

All these discussions arose from much earlier discussions on how people adopt new practices for socializing and creating networks. I, for example, have been invited to join Facebook just about a hundred times. Friends, students, colleagues, everybody wants me to get on Facebook. The story is the same for MySpace ('why don't you have a MySpace?'). So people keep asking me "don't you want to re-connect with old friends, keep in touch with your students and former students, colleagues and former colleagues?". Truth is, I do. But I am not 100% sure I want to join these sites just yet. I am happy to have a blog, and I am happy if my blog's readership increases. Sometimes, I even think about putting up some witty title that people will be Googling so that they come to my website. But I don't think I want to increase my presence in the online sphere much further than blogging.

Do I want to read about the research that is being conducted on MySpace, Friendster, Facebook? For sure. Do I want to do the research myself? No, most definitely not. Do I want to be part of their dataset? Not really. Am I excited that people are learning the patterns of adoption of Facebook, MySpace, blogging, etc.? For sure! If there is something I'm naturally inclined to is research. I know of the work of danah boyd at University of California Berkeley who has studied MySpace, Facebook and Friendster for some time now, and I also know of the work of Fred Stutzman at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and his study of adoption patterns of Facebook. Since I do have a fairly solid understanding of ethnographic research, and have learned some statistical analysis, I can understand pretty well what danah and Fred are doing (I am sure there are other researchers studying social software, but these two stuck on my head). Their findings are important particularly for an increased understanding of the impact of technology on society. But then again, I don't want to be part of a dataset just yet (although I am sure I am part of a dataset in kind of a warped way).

Lastly, I have a blog for several reasons. The first is that a friend of mine got me hooked up on it. I read her blog (she has closed it since long time ago) and her writing was passionate, exciting, mature. So I thought "heck, why not". I started blogging about my random thoughts (hence the title of my blog). Then it evolved to become more of a repository of restaurant/music/bar/coffee shop reviews. I have lived in Vancouver long enough that I think I have some understanding of the comings and goings in this city. So that's why I kept blogging. Lately, I also blog to keep my writing skills sharp. And, since my readership has increased thanks to some good friends who link my restaurant reviews or my blog URL, I keep writing because I like to provide commentary on what I enjoy the most (music, restaurants, coffee shops, environmental issues).

I have seriously considered to ask to be linked to some local Vancouver blogs to increase the readership and try and reach more people. But truth be told, I don't blog often enough to warrant this type of linking. I am grateful to my friends who've linked me to their blogs, but I will not make much of an effort to increase my readership other than say "hey have you checked my blog lately?". So, to those of you who grace my blog with your online presence, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

2 comments:

Marcela said...

I think that one main reason to have a blogg should be to have fun. I mean, you look at things in a different way, you laugh about things and the share with them, you learn something and put it in ways that you can pass this information... you do it to communicate, no? And for fun, of course.

Raul said...

Marcela,

I do have lots of fun with my blog, that's for sure :)