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Blogtalk Downunder » Blogs: definitions

Blogtalk Downunder
   May 19-22, Sydney

Blogtalk Downunder

Blogs: definitions

Dave Winer offers a technical definition of a blog, where “[a] weblog is a hierarchy of text, images, media objects and data, arranged chronologically, that can be viewed in an HTML browser” (Winer, 2003). This is a patently poor definition, at it successfully includes the home page of most major news organisations, and probably any auction in ebay! While Winer also recognises the importance of a personal voice in blogs, that is “writing about their own experience” (Winer 2003) - which goes some way to possibly removing ebay from potential best fits - I’d argue that any compelling definition of blogs requires a combination of technical characteristics, embeddedness in a life world, and emergence.

The technical elements are reasonably clear (though subject to change as our systems continue to evolve), and involve the use of a Content Management System (CMS) to manage the administration and automate several key aspects of a blog. This includes the management of a blogroll, permalinks, date and time stamps, archives and categories. It also recognises that a blog consists of multiple posts that are displayed in reverse chronological order (most recent at the top), and that these posts are the basic, or primary, structural unit of a blog.

Embeddedness refers to the manner in which a blog is situated within the life world of its author (or authors). This is a stronger statement than emphasising personal experience, only because it moves it away from the presumption that personal may equal the subjective and intimate. Embeddedness, on the other hand, recognises that a blog is about what its author finds relevant in the world, that such relevance may have a very fine focus, (for example documenting an experimental practice or exploring parenthood), and that such embeddedness has consequences for the sorts of truth claims and discursive engagement that is common to blogs (Miles, 2005).

Finally, emergence (which in the context of this essay will not receive the attention it deserves) describes the patterns of connection that are produced, in situ, through the activities of blogging. These are the relations formed by the interconnections of blogrolls and the lattice of links between individual blog posts (something that the development of trackbacks have responded to as they are a simple way to make visible these interconnections). These form patterns of relations that build and vary over time which are unfixed, fluid and reflect vectors of interest. They are, in a nutshell, how blogs are small world networks (Watts 2003) where such networks express discursive communities of interest.

As a consequence of these features blogs exhibit very high granularity, and while we could argue forever as to whether such fine granularity constructed the medium, or if the medium occasioned the development of tools to support this piecemeal structure, it is obvious that it is these structures that allows blogs to be a networked writing rather than writing on the network, a writing that is porous to the network.

note: This page forms a part of a hypertext essay by Adrian Miles. The homepage for this essay is located at:
A long version of this paper (containing some but not all of the text contained in the hypertext version) is available at:

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