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Blogtalk Downunder » Granular Blogs

Blogtalk Downunder
   May 19-22, Sydney

Blogtalk Downunder

Granular Blogs

Granularity is a common term in hypertext theory that is used to describe the level of detail that a particular object or element may have. Detail, in this instance, is if you like, a level of focus. When something is very granular it means it consists of small units (the literature refers to these units in various ways, including ‘chunks’, ‘lexias’, and ‘nodes’), and conversely something with little granularity tends to be a larger discursive object.

Hence, granularity does not refer simply to the size or scale of a unit but more significantly describes the minimal size or scale of a unit that retains discursive integrity. A clumsy term, but one that shows that the degree of granularity is not a measurement of quantity but of quality - a blog post retains this integrity, half a blog post doesn’t.

While it could be argued that our ability to reference individual pages in a book are also an instance of such granularity, this misses the specific nature of what is intended by the term. It is not that something may consist of smaller parts that can be identified, but that these smaller parts are suitably or wholly meaningful in themselves. In other words I may refer to a specific page in a book or essay, but there is a recognition that that reference is primarily to find the mentioned material, and to understand it appropriately its surrounding material (possibly the rest of the book) needs to be read. Certainly at least recognised as a more significant whole than the part which I have quoted or alluded to. This is not the case with blogs (and with web pages in general). The individual entry is written and designed to be a self sufficient utterance, by and large.

In relation to many other written forms, and here I have in mind particularly academic genres, blogs exhibit a very high degree of granularity. They are, to use the extremely apt and popular phrase of David Weinberger, ’small pieces loosely joined’ (Weinberger, 2003).

Blogs, as generally recognised, consist of short entries that are displayed in reverse chronological order. The blog is regarded as more or less the ongoing sum of these smaller parts. However, each of these parts is largely self contained, so that a reader can read any individual blog entry and in most circumstances understand what it is about.

This makes the blog highly granular because it is possible to link to individual entries within any particular blog. This is why permalinks as a convention developed - a permanent address was needed for an entry at the time of publication as the URL of the homepage of the blog is not the permanent URL of any individual post, yet it is posts, not blogs that need to be linked to.

It is this granularity that has been instrumental in defining blogs as a medium, and has enabled the development of technologies and practices specific to blogging. This includes the development of trackback, comment systems but also the rise of the convention of having named posts which are date and time stamped in some manner, as well as the application of categories to individual entries. Without such granularity, our blogs would merely be essays, diaries, or journals.

It is also this granularity that has allowed blogs to be woven by the network. A blog consists of multiple posts but also multiple links in and out. These links point to parts, not wholes (individual entries, not entire sites) and it is the presence and density of these links that are fundamental to blogs as emergent systems (Miles 2005b). The issue for a video blogging practice is to try to conceive of video as being similarly granular.


note: This page forms a part of a hypertext essay by Adrian Miles. The homepage for this essay is located at:
http://incsub.org/blogtalk/?page_id=74
A long version of this paper (containing some but not all of the text contained in the hypertext version) is available at:
http://incsub.org/blogtalk/?page_id=76

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