Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The latest revision:


Abstract. There are three categories of public blogging: commentary blogging, referral blogging, and verification blogging.

A) Commentary Blogging

Function. In a liberal constitutional democracy* the supreme political act is not to vote but to persuade. In a post-industrial society the principle means of persuasion are the various media platforms that generate and distribute commentary. Blogs are uniquely valuable insofar as they offer unprecedented individual access to a means of mass persuasion.

Type 1: Formal. Formal blogging immediately derives from the current op-ed format, but its broader form can be traced back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Formal commentary appeals exlusively to reason and empirical fact in order to convince the reader that its argument is the most legitimate. Formal blog commentary is typically less structured than traditional literary commentary, but is still considered formal insofar as its argument is self-contained and logically consistent.

Type 2: Conversational. Conversational commentary first appeared with the advent of radio in the early 1900s. It expanded dramatically with the introduction of television at mid-century and then grew further following the proliferation of cable television in the 1990s. Conversational commentary is innately unstructured, appeals to emotion as readily as reason, and lacks any deliberate illocutionary axis. Significantly, the emergence of blogging marks the first time that conversational commentary has become viable in literary form.

B) Referral Blogging

Function. The democratic value of a free press is determined by the means with which news-content* is produced and disseminated. At present corporate entities alone have the resources necessary to generate and distribute news-content on a mass scale**. For the print and broadcast media this means that those entities themselves determine which news-content is disseminated most broadly. However, the on-line news marketplace is currently so oversaturated that corporations cannot retain full control over the electronic distribution of their news-content. In the absence of full corporate control blogging has come to serve as an independent distributor of on-line news-content.

Type 1: Non-Intentional. The defining characteristic of a non-intentional referral is that its primary purpose is not to introduce the news-content to which it refers. Rather, a non-intentional referral is introduced only to defend an argument or present a subject for debate or verification. As a result non-intentional referral blogging operates solely according to the implied importance of its news-content. Critically, non-intentional referral blogging constitutes the vast majority of referral blogging overall and is responsible for the bulk of independent news-content dissemination.

Type 2: Intentional. Predictably, the defining characteristic of an intentional referral is that its primary purpose is to introduce the news-content to which it refers. Intentional referral blogging operates solely according to the credibility of the blog in which it appears, and constitutes the only means of both direct and independent news-content dissemination.

C) Verification Blogging

Function. For a liberal constitutional democracy news items are valuable only insofar as they are accurate. For a media corporation news items are valuable only insofar as they are profitable. Verification blogging serves to correct any resultant conflicts between democratic imperative and commercial incentive.

Type 1: Positive. Positive verification confirms or disproves the veracity of a news item that has already been published or aired. Although there is no set pattern for when it will occur, positive verification typically reviews news items only when there is an antecendent conflict of interest between the story or data the item contains and the media corporation that is disseminating it.

Type 2: Negative. Negative verification occurs when a news item has been produced but not disseminated. Since the concern is not that the veracity of a news item has been distorted but that it has been withheld, negative verification tends to take a disputational rather than empirical form. Although this form is similar to that of commentary blogging, negative verification blogging is not a type of commentary blogging because its primary purpose is to verify the legitimacy of the press rather than to be politically persuasive.


Abstract. The more authors a blog has, the greater its degree of stylistic and topical dissonance. This dissonance can only be resolved by a corresponding shift from a linear structural mode to an elastic one.

A) Single-Author Blogs

Form. The overall style and subject-matter of a single-author blog typically remains consistent. Consequently it can adopt a strictly linear structure while also retaining a high degree of stylistic and topical consonance. Although an elastic structure would only increase the degree of that consonance, a linear structure is clearly sufficient for a single-author blog.

B) Collective Blogs

. Collective blogs typically consist of between two and twelve authors. They are also typically self-selecting insofar as authors tend to join only those blogs with which they are familiar and whose style and content they appreciate. Consequently the degree of dissonance is rarely proportional to what one would numerically expect. For this reason a linear structure is at least sufficient for a collective blog. Yet in no way is it preferable: an elastic organizational structure would provide far greater exposure for each individual thread.

C) 'Super' Blogs

Form. Each additional blog author increases the number of possible internal conversational pairs by a factor of n+1. For a collective blog of 20 authors this means that there are 400 internal possibilities while for one of 200 there are 40,000. When you add in the possibility of both internal and external group dialogue the conversational possibilities begin to approach infinity. A linear organizational structure is not capable of coherently ordering the stylistic and topical dissonance that would result. In order to be viable, 'super' blogs need to evolve an elastic structure capable of introducing the full breadth of their dialogic content in an immediately accessible way. At present the only software able to accomplish this is Google's email software, but it is not currently available for use in a blogging format.


I.A. *Liberal here does not derive from partisan politics but political philosophy. Liberal constitutional democracies exist in contradistinction to mere majoritarian democracies which lack the constitutional safeguards that protect minority rights.

I.B. *News-content should not be confused with a news item. Although news-content can refer to a news item, it can also refer to news commentary or news analysis.

I.B. **1) This could change in the near future. Currently commentary and referral blogging alone are viable on a mass scale. If the more popular blogs continue to merge, they may begin to generate enough revenue to conduct their own reporting as well.

I.B. **2) As noted, it is currently possible for one form of news-content to be both generated and distributed without corporate resources. But that form -- news commentary -- is dependent on news items produced by corporate media.


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