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Issue 6 (March 2008)


Peter Mechant & Katrien Berte: Culture2.0: Making Human Culture, Past and Present, Accessible Online

Introduction

The internet has become an important part of our lives. Instant messaging, weblogs or other websites facilitating true user participation, one-to-many or many-to-many asynchronous or synchronous communication are on the rise and appeal to millions of internet users worldwide. This recent shift in terms of content and services available online, is referred to by phrases such as web2.0 or social software.

In this article we want to look at how cultural and art institutions can enhance or enrich participation in culture through the use of these web2.0 or social software websites. Because user participation can be considered as a key notion of digital culture (Deuze, 2006) we focus on the use of folksonomies, a web2.0 technology that enables users to interact with (online) resources.

In the first chapter we briefly sketch the origins of web2.0 and social software and discuss their conceptual differences. We argue that in scholarly sciences social software is more appropriate than web2.0 and provide a functional definition for social software. The chapter ends with a description of the strengths of social software.

In the second chapter, we explore the relationship between a visitor and an arts exhibit. This relation can be described as a reactive consumption, proactive consumption, private production or public production relationship. Public production entails that the visitor shares his ideas or experiences with others. We suggest that the use of folksonomies opens up new opportunities for this public production relationship between a visitor and a cultural institute. The article concludes with a description of the theoretical framework behind folksonomies.

1. A Closer Look at Web2.0 and Social Software

1.1 Three perspectives on web2.0

In 2004 the O'Reilly Media group introduced the phrase web2.0. By analogy with the release numbers assigned to software packages, web2.0 refers to a newer, better version of the world wide web. This new generation of websites places emphasis on interactivity, co-creation and the active role of the website users. Tim O' Reilly describes web2.0 as a platform:
"... delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an ‘architecture of participation', and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.' " (O'Reilly, 2005). However, not everybody adopts the term web2.0 with the same enthusiasm. There is a lot of disagreement about the actual meaning of the phrase (Alexander, 2006) and its meaning changes constantly. Still, three main perspectives are often taken on the matter.

From a sociological perspective web2.0 can be traced back to the ideas of Tim Berners-Lee who saw the world wide web as a two-way channel, as a read/write web where users are empowered. In this perspective, web2.0 is all about people and the relations they create through the use of software. Tim O'Reilly talked about an architecture of participation: a grassroots user base creates a self-regulating collaborative network (O'Reilly, 2003). From a technological viewpoint web2.0 is a combination of old programming frameworks and languages which have already proven their value and robustness. Javascript, the Document Object Model, CSS, XML and other techniques are combined in order to create a rich user experience, delivering applications entirely through a web browser. From an economic viewpoint, web2.0 is characterised by the use of consumer generated content and the revenue generated by the so-called long-tail, the economical logic of selling ‘more of less'. Distribution of content online does not require any physical carriers, so web 2.0 applications can distribute a vast amount of niche content to a targeted audience with negligible distribution costs. The aggregated revenue derived from the sales of niche content is considerably higher than revenue derived from the sales of single mass products (Anderson, 2006).

1. 2 Social software: enabling (personal) goals in a bottom-up social fashion

In his detailed account of the origins of social software, Christopher Allen (2004) states that the terminology has moved through a life cycle. He sees social software as the successor to computer supported cooperative work (CSCW) and groupware. Stove Boyd (2005) even argues that social software will come to mean the opposite of what groupware and CSCW-tools were intended to mean. Boyd states that social software departs from a bottom-up approach, supporting the desire of individuals. Social software differs from CSCW because: "Social software is based on supporting the desire of individuals to affiliate, their desire to be pulled into groups to achieve their personal goals. Contrast that with the groupware approach to things where people are placed into groups defined organizationally or functionally". Although the term was already in use, the word social software gained general attention thanks to the Social Software Summit held in November 2002 by Clay Shirky. Most definitions for social software seem to have a common ground. They all subscribe the importance of creating networks and relations between people. In addition, most of them acknowledge the bottom-up approach as described by Boyd. Clay Shirky and Tom Coates provided significant definitions for social software. Shirky describes social software as "software that supports group interaction" (Shirky, 2003). Coates defines it as "software which supports, extends, or derives added value from, human social behaviour - message-boards, musical taste-sharing, photo-sharing, instant messaging, mailing lists, social networking." (Coates, 2005) For the purpose of this article we define social software as: "software that enables communication through digital technologies during which people connect, converse, collaborate, manage content and form online networks in a social and bottom-up fashion."

1.3 Web2.0 or social software: a semantic discussion?

The biggest advantage of the phrase web2.0 is that it emphasizes a turning point for the web by using the postfix 2.0. However, this postfix is also its major downfall: it assumes a drastic break with the past but does not explain were this breakpoint is situated. In addition ‘2.0' is more and more used to describe innovation as a whole even when there are limited connections to the world wide web (Glassey, 2007).
Web-developers, venture capitalists and analysts use the term web2.0 to underline the technological ‘back-end' aspects of web2.0 models, such as data-aggregation, content syndication and the use of lightweight programming models, often excluding or disregarding the social features. Moreover, the expression web2.0 delimits its range to internet services using the world wide web (a collection of interconnected documents and other resources) and does not take into account other services mediated by the internet (a collection of interconnected computer networks).
The phrase social software is not laden with these restrictions and describes interactive or participative internet models just as well. Another advantage is its scholarly roots in the study of groupware and CSCW and the emphasis on the social processes involved.
Based on these arguments one can look at social software as the discourse of innovators and researchers, while web2.0 has become too popular to be useful as a research concept. Several authors created typologies which can provide further insight into the concept of social software. In the next section, we will summarize the frameworks created by Gorissen, Mayfield, Bydwad and Smith.

1.4 A brief exploration into some typologies for social software

Pierre Gorissen (2006) uses three main criteria to place social software in a typology: the amount of (supposed) interaction, the amount of (explicit) hierarchical structure and the focus on groups or individuals. He also distinguishes between social software services using the world wide web or another internet protocol. Ross Mayfield (2003) has built a typology based on how personal connections are made and fostered. He distinguished social software that fosters connections in different ways and targets explicit, physical, conversational or private networks. We added social software that supports virtual networks through the use of avatars to this typology. An intuitive typology was created by Barb Bydwad (2005a). She used two axes where the horizontal axis represents the continuum between personal and social aspects of social software and the vertical axis relates to the continuum between what is familiar and what is not. A nice way of visualising social software was created by Gene Smith (2007) who expanded on the work of Butterfield (2003) and Webb (2004). He uses six building blocks centered on the concept of identity; presence, relationships, reputation, groups, conversations and sharing provide a functional definition for social software.



Fig. 1: typologies and visualisations for social software Fig. 1.a (top-left): adapted from Gorissen (2006), Fig. 1.b (top-right): adapted from Mayfield (2003),
Fig. 1.c (bottom-left): typology by Barb Dybwad (2005), Fig. 1.d (bottom-right): visualisation by Smith (2007)
1.5. The strength of social software

In the previous section we looked at the meaning of social software. But what is the explanation for its success and its adoption by millions of internet users world wide? Two important drivers come to mind: social software uses ‘weak ties' and social software operates in an ‘open environment'.
Most social software applications target foremost individualistic or personal motivations and goals (f.e. they allow users to store their pictures, bookmarks or video's). They facilitate one-to-one or one-to-many communication and the publishing of ideas. As opposed to earlier community trends the community ideal is less explicitly present here. It rarely happens that a person starts using social software with the aim or idea of voluntary or organised cooperation. But social software, while it enables personal motivations, creates a new sort of almost effortless cooperation ‘ex post'. It creates weak ties between people who did not have a cooperative action plan or altruistic intention in advance: "The success of web2.0 services reveals the user's hybrid motivation where the individualization of the user's goals meets the opportunity of sharing personal expression in a public sphere." (Aguiton and Cardon, 2007: 52).
The second driver is the open nature of social software. Social software and social computing in general, does not require the strong involvement of all its users. Most social software services facilitate participation from ‘the edges'. One can participate from the fringes of the group or not participate at all and merely observe (often these people are called ‘leechers' or ‘lurkers'). Nevertheless, becoming a member of a social software website often means getting access to a stock of social capital. Social capital is a broad term encompassing the "resources embedded in a social structure that are accessed and/or mobilised in purposive actions." (Lin, 2001: 29). Social capital can thus widen the experience of community (by helping people to connect with others who have different beliefs or backgrounds) or it can deepen the experience (by reinforcing and strengthening existing social networks).

2. Folksonomies and Cultural Content

2.1. The relation between an arts exhibit and a visitor...

In a blogpost titled ‘On museums and the web2.0' Ulla-Maaria Mutanen (2006) tried to classify different kind of relations between a visitor of a museum (or more general, an arts centre) and the actual exhibits (or performances). She distinguishes: a reactive consumption, a proactive consumption, a private production and a public production relationship. The first three tracks are private and focussed on the experience of a visitor. In a consumption-relationship a visitor simply consumes the ‘arts' although in the proactive consumption-relationship he/she acts beforehand, for example by doing a web search or reading an art book before visiting an arts centre. In a private production relationship a visitor actually produces something (f.e. a diary note or a photo) in order to use it to reflect on things. A public production relationship entails that a visitor shares his/her ideas or experiences with others. For instance, by writing a review, posting some photos online or ‘tagging' digital content.

2.2 ... strengthened through the use of folksonomies

Although users are increasingly more involved in tagging, creating and commenting on digital content, the opportunities to do so in a cultural (online) setting are still not wide spread. Most cultural institutions in Flanders have a website offering basic information such as contact data, opening hours and ticket prices (Nulens et al., 2005).
A more recent study (Berte and Hauttekeete, 2007) shows that most institutions are equipped with the necessary infrastructure and are able to offer advanced web 2.0-applications. However, they remain focussed on the distribution of information and offer few opportunities for (inter)personal communication. Most cultural websites allow visitors to consult pictures or other file types. Almost half of the websites studied contain an online ticketing and ordering system. Despite the presence of these rather advanced applications, only a small percentage has a blog, chatroom or other interactive application. Cultural institutions do not express the need for interactive web 2.0-applications. Institutions are mostly interested in offering digital files online, opening up digital archives, implementing online payment systems and supplying audiovisual content to their website users. Flemish art lovers on the other hand express an interest for a large cultural website with different information flows and interactive applications (Berte et al., 2007). Visitors are willing to contribute by uploading their own cultural video or audio material to websites. Moreover, some social software websites such as Flickr or YouTube, already contain a vast amount of (digitalised) cultural and patrimonial content.

A straightforward way to involve a visitor in a public production relationship with a cultural institute is facilitating the online custom of ‘tagging'. Websites of cultural institutes could give their visitors the opportunity to describe and classify online content that appeals to him or her. This idea of a socially constructed classification scheme for the content of a website is called folksonomy. The term folksonomy is generally attributed to Thomas Vander Wal (Smith, 2004) and refers to online tagging systems intended to make information increasingly easy to search and navigate over time. A combination of the words folk and taxonomy, it literally means ‘people's classification management'. Users file digital content through tagging: the association of particular keywords with related content. Folksonomies thus use almost the weakest form of information architecture conceivable: free association. Sinha points out that this is the strength of tagging: it taps into an existing cognitive process (free association) without adding much cognitive cost (Sinha, 2005).
Folksonomies move us from a 'binary' in-or-out classification system to an 'analogue' one that only requires a conceptual association with a resource (Shirky, 2005). Folksonomy users can usually also discover who created a tag, and see the other tags that this person created. Thus, folksonomy users can discover tag sets of other users who tend to interpret and tag content in a similar way.
Creating tags or associations is at the same time a solitary act (involving a process of sense making) as well as a social one; it is a compromise between personal filing and the collective production of a taxonomy (Aguiton and Cardon, 2007). The user files digital content by assigning it one or several labels, identifying what (or who) it is about, what it is, who owns it. He/she can identify the qualities or characteristics or use the tags to organise his/her cultural agenda (f.e. saw-this, must-see, toread, ...) (Golder and Huberman, 2005). Tagging makes the solitary process of web browsing a social experience because the ‘tagger' suddenly belongs to a group of people with whom he/she has at least one thing in common (they used the same tag to give meaning). In this way, the process of tagging creates ‘ad hoc' social networks.
The Flemish arts centre Vooruit is currently experimenting with folksonomies and the support for online social networks. They recently launched a new version of their website containing several web2.0 applications allowing the user to have a personalised cultural experience. In a separate personal area, visitors can create a cultural profile containing their personal cultural agenda including their favourite pictures, audio and video files imported from websites such as Flickr or YouTube. This personal profile can be used to interact with ‘cultural neighbours'; Vooruit visitors with the same interest in arts and culture.
‘Relevant' others or relevant information can be found through the use of tags. Interaction is possible through the use of a blog and a friends list (Berte et al., 2007).

Conclusion
"[] content does not make the internet. It's the social architecture, it's the living environment that counts, the live interaction and communication, not just the storage and retrieval procedures." (Lovink, 2005: 11).
In order to realize a ‘public production' relationship with its visitors, the online representation of an arts centre has to exceed the typical brochure, or folder-like static website. Using social software makes this possible. Implementing social software and folksonomies allows for new ways of presentation. It creates new opportunities and new forms of collective and personal cultural experiences because cultural content gets enriched with social information.
A recent report of the Pew Internet and American Life Project (Rainie, 2007) found that 28% of (American) internet users have tagged or categorized content online and there are several indications that this custom is taking foot in Europe. Unfortunately, most arts centres lack the spirit of web 2.0 and miss out on opportunities for interacting with their audience. In order to attain a better relationship with their ‘virtual' or online visitors, arts centres have much to gain and little to lose in trying to reach out for these active internet users by means of adding social software services such as tagging to their online presence.

Bibliography


PETER J. SOS: A NEW FOLK ART

A NEW FOLK ART OR NARROWING THE GAP BETWEEN THE PRIVATE AND PROFESSIONAL PUBLISHING ON THE NET

Thesis:
In the last ten years a new type of Folk Art has been born. The gap started to narrow between the so called ‘professional' and so called ‘private' communication in the on-line world. The spirit of Web 2.0, which is simply the original idea of the on-line communications, made us content provider and content receiver at the same time. The technical, economical and social changes created a good environment for the revival of the Folk Art on a new level.

Easy Content Providing

The content providing was a ‘professional' job in the first decades of on-line communication. The changes of the environment came from:

Technically:

  • the commercialization of cheap writable an re-writable CD-ROM and DVD
  • mid-range priced digital cameras, even in the mobile phones
  • digital sound recording, mp3
  • USB and FireWire plug-ins (everything to everything)


Economically:

  • cheap tools - accessible for the middle classes and lower, as well


Infrastructural:

  • blog space and video sharing service for free
  • cheap on-line storage capacity (or for free)
  • cheap web site builder software
  • easy-to-use picture and video editing software (e.g. PhotoShop, etc.)


The Easy Content Providing has changed the old systems of the publishing industry. This became the most important change in the communication industry of the twenty-first century. The entire publishing industry had to face the following challenges:

Former: separate creating and publishing

  • Author - Publisher - Reception
  • oLimited or zero feed-back possibility (‘professional' critical opinions, published in ‘official' or ‘professional' media) Today: the creator can publish immediately
  • Author, publishing on-line - Reception
  • Instant feed-back, interactivity
  • Changeable content
  • If the content is "on", it remains there (or recordable). Nobody can erase a content once it was uploaded
  • If the content is "on", it can be modified
  • Several variations can exist on the Net at the same time - nobody knows which one is the "original"



The New Folk Art

The classic Folk Art required some key elements:

  • a common cultural background
  • a creative person with a good expression capacity
  • a community as receptor and medium for others (other communities, or next generations)


In the good old times the community sat around the fire, or in the spinning room, and people told fairy tales and sang songs, etc. Nowadays, the virtual community sits at the displays, and people give and take the stories, pictures, drawings, and songs. Or they are simply chatting. The possibilities give the chance for everybody to express himself/herself

  • This fulfills the ancient urge of mankind to create and to disseminate - just as in the "good old times"
  • This is nothing else but a new dawn of Folk Art
  • The urge is the old one, only the tools are new: story telling on-line, fine art and music with cameras, picture and music software, etc.
  • The old Folk Art was performed to an immediate audience, the local community
  • The New Folk Art is performed to the Net Communities across borders, and time zones
  • In both cases you get instant feed-back
  • The New Folk Art created its own genres, as well. Instead of the old-fashioned fairy tales, folk songs, and wooden sculptures we find in the on-line world new genres, and new arts. Maybe the most popular among the new genres is Fan Fiction. The number of participants is inestimable, but it must be over millions. What is Fan Fiction?
  • On the fan sites of popular novels, movies, etc.:
  • creative variations, new "parts", fantasy-games, drawings, and music, etc.
  • authors' circles
  • instant feed-back
  • variations of variations

It created of course several new sub cultural virtual communities.

The other very popular genre is the .pps compilations. This is the world of .pps fantasy:

  • PowerPoint slide shows
  • Photos
  • Fine arts
  • Thematic compilations (from cars to hard porn)
  • Interesting and weird things
  • Nobody knows if the author was amateur or professional


The .pps world enhanced the activity of tourism marketing. The compilations of beautiful landmarks, sites, etc. serve the state or regional promotion. It is disseminated via viral marketing, and nobody knows whether the author is an enthusiastic amateur, or a professional hired by a local tourism agency. But as we see it, it is not too important - in the on-line world it has no relevance.

A very attractive example of the narrowing gap between the professional and non-professional communications is the primary news service. Today the world is full of pictures and videos of happenings, which were recorded by amateurs. But those records are not controlled. In the case of the ‘London bombing' the news portals and small TV stations have shown records coming from the tube. Only BBC hesitated to broadcast those pictures, since those were not confirmed by other independent sources. BBC lost this battle in the news competition. Since this affair BBC has become less scrupulous against ‘amateur' sources.

The most well known new genre is the blog (coming from the word weblog). There are bloggers who are professionals, and many others who are not. But where is the difference between them? It makes no sense to create a limit, since the basic philosophy of the on-line world is that every user can be content provider and receiver at the same time.

The bloggers are ‘almost' journalists. Why almost? Because their posts are actual, and mostly periodical - but not neutral. While the general culture requires the neutrality from the newspapers, news services - the blogs are mostly a mixture of news and opinions. In Hungary Prime Minister Gyurcsany used his ‘personal' blog as a political promotional tool. Sometimes he used it as an original news source. The first bird flu in Hungary was published on his blog one hour earlier than by the Hungarian News Agency.

The creativity of the New Folk Art artist is shown in a very spectacular way in the PhotoShop world. This is the art of free fantasy, but it is used by the professionals, as well. In Hungary in the last two election campaigns and referenda PhotoShop was used as a promotional tool. Party professionals created falsified documents for a negative campaign. Later the PhotoShop games became a popular movement: pictures served as caricatures about politicians of the opposite side, and about actual political issues. These were sometimes arrogant, sometimes sexy. The authors were of course unknown - they were folk artists.

The Meeting Points of Professional and Private Creativity: the Video-Sharing Portals E.g. YouTube, bought by Google. What does a video sharing portal give to its users?

  • Breakout from the 2-3 MB file size limit
  • Almost unlimited number of uploads
  • Instant feed-back, opinions
  • And what can give it to professionals?
  • Dedicated viral marketing: contents over 2-3 MByte
  • Ads among the private content
  • Media buyers can follow the downloads of their videos
  • Viewers' profiles for sale



Open questions

The possibilities of on-line communication raise a variety of new legal and ethical questions. The legislation is mostly backward and not up-to-date with reality. We have simply do not have the right answer to a lot of questions. Some of those questions are:

Copyrights

  • Nobody knows, which contents are copyrighted, and which are not
  • Copyrighted contents can be downloaded without any information for the copyright holder
  • Nobody knows, which content is original, and which is modified or falsified
  • You cannot follow the spread of your content (except if you pay it for)


Personal rights

  • Lack of responsibility
  • No author, no risk, no responsibility
  • Easy to hurt the personal rights
  • Everybody can upload false or stolen documents, pictures, videos, etc.
  • If once a false content is on the Net, you cannot remove it any more (you do not know if somebody has downloaded and stored, and will reload again)


Cross-border racism:

  • A "Hungarian" web site gives strong anti-Semitic and anti-Gypsy content...
  • ...but the authorities cannot stop it, since the server is in the USA

  • Political offences
  • In Hungary it is forbidden to publish opinion surveys eight days prior to voting. But if you ask for a personal info, you will get it in e-mail. Afterwards these infos are sent in chain mails.
  • In Hungary there is advertising stop 24 hours prior to voting. But you will get chain mails, info, etc. on-line, and the servers from abroad give you an actual political content.

JAK BOUMANS: Blogging as journalistic tool

Abstract
The information age started roughly in the forties with the first computers. It took some forty years to move from administrative machines to all round machines. But once internet was there, the culture started to change. This phenomenon was dubbed Web 2.0. Its major feature was the influence of the user. Also the pendulum in print and broadcast journalism is swinging from printed paper to digipaper and from analogue television to the mobile phone. One of the new Web 2.0 features is blogging, reports of people about their cats and guinea pigs, opinions about politics and professional reviews of conferences, books and movies. Blogs are incorporated in the media policies of newspapers and television and radio stations. BBC for example is riding the waves with applications like blogs, but the company is repressively tolerant; the company guards its name. Blogging can help editors pick up early signals of opinions and problems in society; it can stimulate public debate. Presently the media is still too arrogant to recognise the professional bloggers. But with better tools like blog search engines and micro-chunking, journalists would be able to pick up signals from professional bloggers earlier. Media companies on the other hand could feed the bloggers by forwarding texts and transcripts of articles and programs.

1. Culture of the Information Age
In 1970 I returned from the USA to the Netherlands to start a career in publishing. I got a job with a publishing company which was just setting up a new general encyclopaedia. The project remotely introduced me to the computer. In the next ten years I remained in the encyclopaedia domain and saw computing as a production improvement and perhaps as a new way of publishing. By the end of the decade there were roughly 100 people in the Netherlands who could spell the word online and most of them had a library or a publishing background.

In 1980 I moved into digital media setting up a studio which produced videotext pages. Without knowing, we were busy with e-commerce, producing pages with advertisements and job vacancies.

By 1990 internet transferred from the academic to the business and consumer environments. The personal computer became a household product, and e-mail was the main trigger. But from 2004 internet started to change from a social point of view. For the first time a link was laid between culture and technology. The French sociologist Dominique Wolton remarked that the greatest renewal of digital media was the two-way communication which worked from a clear cultural identity. "Communication is not only a technical phenomenon", he said, "it is an anthropological phenomenon. Communication is more than an exchange of messages. It is also the ability to listen to and understand the sender of the message. No message makes any sense in itself, but the sense comes only within a context, a cultural identity within which the message can be understood." (NRC Handelsblad, Nov. 20, 1998)

And information changed, from a one way information, from a sender to a receiver to e-content: "E-Content is digital information delivered over network-based electronic devices, i.e. symbols that can be utilised and interpreted by human actors during communication processes, which allow them to share visions and influence each other's knowledge, attitudes or behaviour. E-Content allows for user involvement and may change dynamically according to the user's behaviour.
It is a subcategory both of digital and electronic content, marked by the involvement of a network, which leads to a constant renewal of content (contrary to the fixed set of content stored on a carrier such as a CD-ROM, or the content broad-cast via TV and Radio). This constant renewal of content in tie with its dynamic change allows for a qualitative difference, thus making it E-Content." (Bruck, Peter A. et al. (2005), E-Content: Technologies and Perspectives for the European Market. Berlin, New York: 8)

And not only internet started to change, but professional publishing and broadcasting in general started to change. Private publishing, called fancy publishing up to that time, became en vogue with user generated content such as blogs, Flick, YouTube and social networks such as Linkedin, MySpace, and Facebook started to show up. (A cynical colleague of mine groups Facebook, Twitter and Jaiku under the denominator of digital exhibitionism).

2. Journalism
In journalism a similar movement happened. In the eighties newspapers were very busy changing their production system from lead typesetting to photo typesetting. By the nineties the transformation was complete, just in time to start experimenting with internet. The printed newspaper received its digital counterpart from SMS to pdf files.

This leads also to the pendulum swing. The newspaper business is declining rapidly. It still has a 46 billion Euro turn-over worldwide. The newspaper business now invests in online editions and social media and experiments with digipapers like mobile, e-readers and hopes for electronic tabloid newspapers by manufacturers like Plastic Logic. The advantages are seen as a lightweight newspaper, updates with wifi, to be printed anywhere with dynamic, customised content and advertisements. A similar pendulum swing can be seen on television and radio broadcast from the analogue television screen to the smart mobile screen and from the smart mobile screen to the streetcast screens which can be seen in the metro of Vienna or at the Rembrandtsplein in Amsterdam.

Another trend is that content is no longer bound to a carrier. Users have newspapers, radio, television and internet at their disposal to consume news; in fact news has become a commodity for which people hardly want to pay. And it is not only consuming news, but also producing news. Newspapers and broadcast companies jump on the band wagon of social media. Recently, I listened to a presentation of Tin Radovani, the BBC strategy analist. He was looking at a shift in pattern in news. He cited the speed of news which yielded news for the BBC in the first 6 hours of the day of his presentation: 1000 photographs, 4000 sms, 20.000 e-mails and 20 videoclips. He compared this with the speed of content increase of Technorati, YouTube, MySpace and Facebook. He also touched the trends of citizen's journalism and user generated content and granted that the BBC could not ignore these trends. He admitted that BBC was riding on these waves and not initiating trends themselves, except the video plug-in. BBC accepted and integrates the trends. But it sounded almost like citizen's journalism and user generated content is tolerated by the BBC, as long as the name of BBC is not affected.

3. Blogging
Blogging officially goes back to 1994, when Swarthmore student Justin Hall started his first blog on Links.net. But the term webblog was only coined in 1997 by Jorn Barger for logging the web. In April 1999 Peter Merholz shortened the term from webblog to blog. In August 1999 Google launched Blogger, a tool and a site for blogs. In August 2006 there were more than 50 million blogs with 175.000 new blogs being created every day and 18.6 postings per second.

The subjects of blogs can range from blogging about the cat or the guinea pig to technical and political subjects. But there is also a technical range of blog: blog, micro-blog, shock blogs and photoblogs. The population of independent professional bloggers and professional company bloggers launch regularly or even daily postings, using Blogger or Wordpress as content management systems for texts, photographs, audio fragments and videos.

Blogs take many forms and shapes. It can be compared to a column in a newspaper or magazine. But readers can react to a blog either directly or by moderation. Blogs can be written by one person or by a blog collective. A collective blog is usually maintained by a group of professionals, for example people working in marketing. A Blog maintained by a collective may become a community. In this community several groups can be detected: passers-by, lurkers, participants and evangelists. These groups follow the 10 percent rule. A site which attracts 100.000 visitors a month will have 10.000 visitors come back regularly. In turn 1.000 visitors become participants, who like to take part in the discussions on the blog. Roughly 100 visitors become evangelists and start writing for the blog.

A blog has characteristics which differ from columns in print and newsletters. Columns in print and newsletters are usually rather formal. Bloggers talk to their audience as if they were sitting at the other end of the table.

I have been blogging since May 1, 2005, using Blogger (http://www.buziaulane.blogger.com). I deliver every day an A4 on an item in the field of digital media and media. This can be a trend, but also an item on e-readers, for example. Besides the daily postings, I have some mini-series in my blog dealing with the history of digital media and retro gadgets (http://www.weblogmuseum.blogspot.com. The advantage I have is that I can report about developments in the Netherlands in the English language, which sometimes gives me an advantage. Contrary to a community, I do not have a faithful flock which check in daily to lap up my words. In fact, people from 130 countries are irregularly searching for particular information. The searchers are not journalists, but mainly researchers for venture capital countries or research institutes.

4. Blogging a Journalistic Tool
Blogging is skirting journalism. Bloggers have been in court and have claimed journalistic immunity. Bloggers have requested access to the US presidential press conferences. So blogging is a related journalistic activity. The question can be posed, whether blogs are derivatives, reflecting the opinions of newspapers, magazines or television or radio programmes or whether they are sources and tools for journalists.

Journalists are not blog lovers; in fact they look with a certain dedain to blogs. The bloggers express opinions which in their opinion are based on their articles. They might have added a different aspect, but basically in the opinion of journalists they build on the articles of newspapers and magazines or on broadcasts.

On the other hand, bloggers can feed information to the official media. In my opinion, editors are using blogs too little to pick up information from the ground swells. However, it is true that blogs are not fully accessible with search engines.

Some newspapers have integrated a blogroll with text fragments from blogs into their publications. But this is mostly a cost saving feature as the bloggers are not paid.

Another feature is providing bloggers with texts of articles and broadcasts. The official media does this in order to be cited properly. The Slovenian television has started a site representing the texts in videos. A news broadcast has been cut up into small chunks (micro-chunking), a photograph is selected, the text of the item is represented and the link to the video applied. In the text links are automatically added to the item and the item is automatically distributed to a series of bloggers.

5. Conclusion
Blogging has become part of the culture of the information age. It is not a column as in the printed media, but in successful cases a major news and reaction forum or site for niche information on a particular subject. Blogs can be used by journalists as a feeder of subjects and news, a source for text and photographs (but with respect for copyright) and as a gauge to read reactions to an item. Media can work together with bloggers for journalistic and promotion purpose by feeding the bloggers with customised feeds.


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