Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Observing the Blogosphere

For my fourth essay, my assignment was to explore the blogoshere. “The blogosphere is a collective term encompassing all blogs and their interconnections. It is the perception that blogs exist together as a connected community, or as a social network.”

After looking around this ‘blogosphere’ for a while I chose the blog called This is an unofficial Manchester United Team blog created by loyal Manchester United fans. It is a highly active blog which generates hundreds of responses to each article written by the main contributor who’s user handle is ‘red ranter’. This blog allows fans of the team to come together and interact from all over the world. Fans typically go on rants reacting to the articles posted, voice team frustrations, predict lineups, and almost anything else you can possibly think of. I chose this section of the online community because like everyone else belonging to this blog, I too, am an avid Manchester United supporter. I observed the interactions on this blog for over a week and also posted a few comments as well. (User name: cr7boywonder) After reading every article and user post for over a week, I saw one main theme that Aaron Barlow discusses in his book, Blogging America, occurring over and over again. The theme that Barlow spoke about that was constantly jumping out at me was the new ‘horizontal’ structure of journalism. (Barlow, 2008)

Blogs have a ‘horizontal structure’ because it is democratic and anyone who chooses to participate in the conversation can actively do so. (Barlow, 2008) Traditional journalism, which tends to follow a ‘vertical structure’ is far different from that of blogs. This type of structure tends to have a hierarchy where only trained journalists or elite write about a specific topic. (Barlow, 2008) There are gatekeepers who regulate what types and forms of information are put out to the public. This is where blogs differ from this vertical structure. Anyone can post to a blog, without being a trained journalist. These people who decide to openly post or write about a topic who are not professional journalists can be called a ‘citizen journalist’. (Barlow, 2008) There are no ‘gatekeepers’ to regulate or say what information can be posted for internet users to instantly access and read.(Barlow, 2008)

This theme is represented many times through interactions and posts that I read while I was observing and participating on the redrants blog. The first way this ‘horizontal structure’ was demonstrated on the blog was by the pre-match lineup predictions. Before every game, hundreds on users log on to this blog and guess which lineup the Manchester United manager will send out to the pitch. There are all different views and opinions of the lineups and tactics that will be used by hundreds of fans. This interaction and conversation shows that blogs are democratic, and anyone who chooses to participate in a conversation can do so without being part of the upper end of the hierarchy. (referring to the vertical structure) (Barlow, 2008) A second way that I learned this new ‘horizontal structure’ was in effect for blogs was through my own post. Early Tuesday, November 11th, Owen Hargreaves, an important midfield player for the United club was ruled out for the rest of the season due to injury. Once I found out about this I immediately post to the blog, “hargreaves is out for the rest of the season. he played a vital role down the stretch last year to help united with the double, with scholes out and nani struggling in the midfield fergie better get something together before we fall too far behind.” This post stirred up a small conversation as frustrated fans then preceded to voice their frustrations and ongoing worries about the team. Now, I have never taken a journalism class in my life and was not trying to be professional, yet I was still allowed to post this comment. This shows that there are no gatekeepers in the structure to regulate who or what type of information is put up on the site. (Barlow, 2008) It also furthers the point that anyone can take part in the new form of ‘horizontal’ journalism and write whatever they choose to a blog.

After observing and actively participating on a blog for over a week, I now truly understand what this new type of ‘horizontal’ journalism is. It is truly democratic, as it allows anyone, professional or unprofessional, to write whatever they want without any regulation. It also shows that journalism does not have to follow a ‘vertical structure’ in order to be successful and that this new form of ‘horizontal’ journalism may catch on quicker than we think. (Barlow, 2008)

Barlow, Aaron. (2008). Blogging America. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

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