Thursday, June 5, 2014

Blogs as social technological spaces

I have been searching for ethnographic studies of blogs in lieu of locating sources to inform my methodology for my own doctoral research. To keep you up to speed on my research ideas, I have narrowed down my research to doing an ethnographic analysis of blogs and tweets for the narratives they present on the identity, work and profile of library consultants and library consulting. My new direction has therefore sparked my interest in ethnographic methodologies on online social worlds. As a result, in this blog post, I wish to share on one of the readings about this methodology as it relates to the environments of blogs. This reading I want to report on is Amanda Lenhart's (2005) Masters thesis.

Since my comprehensive examination I have been following some of the work of Lenhart, whose name I am acquainted with from Pew Internet Research Centre. Lenhart is one of the authors of Pew Internet Research's reports around blogging (See Lenhart & Fox, 2006).

Apart from her literature review defines blogs identifying blogs as having headers, side bars and posts among other technical features, in the methods section, Lenhart articulates that blogs are both technology and spaces that both reflects culture and around which culture is built. It is this concept that I feel is very important, that blogs are not only technology with specific features, but also social technology around which culture develops.

A second important idea that I derived from Lenhart's thesis is the idea that institutions are encroaching on this once personal and individual technological and social space. In the introductory chapter of her Masters thesis, Lenhart mentions that institutions are co-opting blogs and in their attempt to 'engage with the universe of blogs, their instinct is to regulate and to control, to bring blogs in line with the values embodied within the institution' (p. 4). She continues:

Still, bloggers themselves relish their location outside of institutions—free of
gatekeepers deciding what is important or meaningful enough to publish, but also free
of people and organizations whose livelihoods are based on the accuracy and
compelling nature of the information they present. In the next few years it will be
interesting to see how blogging and institutions negotiate with each other. Will blogs
become an institution of their own, complete with codes and ethics of their own
creations? Will they be subsumed into another institution? Or will blogs fragment and
be absorbed by all types of institutions based on content, gathered as a tool to forward
and foster certain public goals of any given institution? Or will blogs successfully
remain completely outside of institutions? Or all of these things at the same time?
Later, Lenhart (2005) stated that blogs allow "those who are traditionally silenced by institutions to have their voices...heard..." (p. 156). This jibes with an earlier popular post that I published on how institutions have been entering the blogosphere in order to curtail individual's freedom of expression in these spaces (See Threats to the freedom to blog).


Lenhart, A. B. (2005). Unstable texts: An ethnographic look at how bloggers and their audience negotiate self-presentation, authenticity and norm formation(Doctoral dissertation, Georgetown University).

Lenhart, A., & Fox, S. (2006). Bloggers: A portrait of the internet’s new storytellers. pew internet & American life project. ( No. 2012). Retrieved from

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