Friday, April 11, 2008

Of blogfolios and metaphors

Be the online anthropologist
Some worry about their blog traffic. I say don't worry- just be an anthropologist. Then no matter what happens, it is always interesting, always revealing about people and how they connect. What I love about blogging is that we reveal who we are in such fascinating ways.

Early online community studies
From 1988 to 1994 I conducted an assessment of an online conferencing community as an anthropologist might. The conferencing software was text-based (by the way, try telling a young person that there was a time when there was "nothing to click on" and watch them stare back in disbelief). My study started before the Internet was around, and ended just as it was coming on board. Many interesting findings emerged in this study, including:
  • The main reason people entered the conferencing system and stayed was to meet new people, make new friends and sustain the new relationships they created.
  • Successful online conferencing was largely a matter of metaphor. Pick the metaphor that works for your conference and refer to it within the course of conversation.
Blogfolios and metaphors
A blog can be anything from a debating venue to a newspaper name it. They are incredibly flexible. For instance, my distance graduate education students create a blog as a portfolio- a blogfolio. The portfolio is their metaphor. They post media on YouTube and SlideShare, documents on Google Docs, and then link to these within their blogfolio reflections. I leave it up to them how much conversation they want on their portfolios. You can get to their blogs through our class blog.

So, if the metaphor for your blog is a party at your house, and you expect a lot of people, then low traffic might concern you. If it is a drop-in center, where people come and go, then there is no reason for concern. The important thing is having the party!


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