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Uses of Blogs

Editor: Axel Bruns, Joanne Jacobs
Publisher: New York: Peter Lang, 2006
Review Published: February 2008

 REVIEW 1: Tricia Farwell
 REVIEW 2: Tama Leaver
 REVIEW 3: Damien Pfister
 REVIEW 4: Daniel C. Smith
 AUTHOR RESPONSE: Axel Bruns & Joanne Jacobs

Uses of Blogs was always intended as an opening, not a closing statement in a conversation about blogs and blogging -- or indeed, as a collection of many opening statements which would serve to kickstart the discussion of how blogging technologies and approaches may be appropriated for a variety of purposes across public and private, professional and social domains. It's very gratifying to see the four reviewers of this collection pick up the threads of this discussion -- and we hope that many readers of the book will do so as well, by publishing (on blogs or elsewhere) their own responses and their own research into the uses of blogs.

Among the reviews for the book, Farwell's desire for a more robust methodology for identifying how blogs are used in various contexts is acknowledged. Unfortunately, at the time of writing and even today, there are as many different concepts and frameworks of using blogs as there were measurement mechanisms for defining blog success. In the future we would like to include more raw data and interpretative analysis of that data for various uses of social networking technologies. We feel that a quantitative analysis will further help to frame the conceptual insights offered by many authors. Smith and Lever's advice for a better index, is also well heeded: it has become increasingly clear to us that both an index and a more extensive glossary may be required to ensure all authors are consistent in their use of terms. We will also look to address Pfister's desire for a more international focus. We began our work on the book by focussing on those noted scholars -- mainly in the Anglosphere -- already writing about blogging, but now that perceptions of blogging either as a maverick activity that requires authoritarian control, or one which doesn't require a scholarly approach (both disappointing responses) are fading, we have seen many more eminent blog scholars emerge throughout the world, and they are a knowledge resource that still remains underrecognised. As a corollary, more critical discussions of blogging have necessarily also emerged -- but we remain nonetheless fundamentally optimistic about the further potential of this publishing form: because our collection focusses specifically on uses of blogs, rather than abuses, we continue to seek out scholarly work especially about the constructive, positive appropriation of blogging technologies (as well as on the strategies for militating against their abuses). That said, as editors, we have both written highly critical pieces about blogging, and we were acutely aware that there is much to explore about the social effects of blogging (Jacobs, for instance, has previously invoked Christopher Lasch in describing the blogosphere as a culture of narcissism).

In preparing Uses of Blogs, at any rate, we were responding to a need from both an academic and a business perspective, to deliver evidence of how blogs were infiltrating and augmenting professional contexts. This dual purpose is one which does not sit easily for publishers, but we felt that the approach was necessary, as blogging itself facilitates deeper exploration of ideas presented, whether the context is naturally polemical, or purely commercial. Of course there are many contexts we were not able, for one reason or another, to explore. In particular, we believe there is a need to explore uses of blogs in science and innovation, as well as in open source communities for problem solving, as we feel these contexts vary from those presented in our collection for their challenges to dominant thinking in their domains. But the objective in creating Uses of Blogs was always to be able to present in an accessible manner the means by which blogging can be deployed to encourage stakeholder engagement, and to overcome barriers to understanding. As the reviewers have kindly stated, we hoped the collection acts as the beginning of a conversation about the application of blogging in professional contexts, as a means of growing knowledge. We agree that in spite of our contributors' efforts, so many uses of blogs, so many questions about blogs and their role in the networked society, still remain unexamined. We're thankful for our reviewers' suggestions of what further avenues could have been explored in Uses of Blogs -- we'll be revisiting many such suggestions if and when the time comes to produce a second edition of the book; and we're also looking forward to other forthcoming collections, like Adrienne Russell and Nabil Echchaibi's International Blogging, which will add to our collective knowledge about how blogging has been taken up in diverse national and cultural contexts.

In fact, beyond Uses of Blogs, International Blogging, and Jill Walker Rettberg's forthcoming monograph Blogging, there's still plenty of room for further work; Blogging for Dummies-style books continue to dominate the scene. Where is the standard work on research methodologies for scholarly work in the blogosphere, where is the critical investigation, beyond the hype, into what impact on public opinion bloggers actually do have? We hope that Uses of Blogs proves a stepping-stone towards such work, by raising awareness amongst scholars, students, and the general public of the extent to which Weblogs have established themselves throughout society, and by pointing the way towards the crucial questions which must now be asked of blogs and bloggers.

Most particularly we would like to thank the Resource Centre for Cyberculture Studies for taking the time to explore our collection. The importance of cybercultural analysis can only grow: this is a time when the need for skilled graduates with an understanding of the impact of social networking as well as the pragmatics of deployment is becoming urgent. We feel privileged to be profiled as book of the month for February 2008, and hope that Uses of Blogs will galvanize interest in more extensive research on blogging within the cybercultural studies community.

Axel Bruns & Joanne Jacobs

<a.bruns@qut.edu.au, joanne@joannejacobs.net>

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