I was listening to CBC this morning on my drive in, and I heard Dr. Keren (who is giving a talk on Friday on the Blogosphere) discuss about his new book. He is doing a reading at a bookstore in Feb, so I am going to try and catch him then.
This is the release for his talk:
This journey through blogosphere highlights major forces operating in today’s politics: apathy toward political affairs,
resistance to globalization, a quest for redemption through religious
fundamentalism and terrorism. Michael Keren compares bloggers to terrorists,
arguing that while the methods advocated by the two groups are obviously
very different, they both represent a similar trend, one of diversion by
respected but disenchanted citizens from the norms of civil society to a
fantasy world in which the excessive use of words-or bombs-would make
Day: Friday, February 2, 2007
Time: 12:00 Noon
The main debate for sociologists studying online culture has been whether or not we can call online social aggregates “communities” in the “true” sense of the word, and whether or not people are using this form of communication as a “replacement” for face to face communication. There are many academics who say “no,” and we need to start mourning the loss of “real” communities, and that people participating in online culture (whether it be through blogs, games, or other forms of online communications) are doing so at the expense of making “real” connections.
This is, from listening to Dr. Keren, is one of his main arguments. He talks about this woman who blogs about her cats, and how when one of the cats died, that her “blogging community” (i.e. the people who read and respond to her blog), were in mourning. He noted that at this time there were “important” political events going on in the world at that time, and notes how he checked the newspaper that day and found that it occurred on the same day as the big SARS outbreak…
I think Keren, and other academics who are studying online communities, blogs, etc. have a point – it cannot be denied, that when looking at a woman blogging about her cats, and the community going into mourning when one of them dies, seems, you know, kind of weird.
Yet, on the other hand, my thinking on this is that it isn’t my job as sociologist to make these kind of statements about the people I am studying; it is not my place to impose a moral code of what “should” give someone a sense of community, how they connect, what they “should” be paying attention to in the world, what they should be blogging about… etc. etc. etc. Is this my place to say to this woman and her readers that they are being “silly” because there are “important” things going on in the world? After all, its just a cat right? Further – a cat most of these people have never even seen in real life.
Or can we look at it from the opposite angle: that this woman, who felt a great deal of affection for her cats, would have been in solitary mourning over her loss… after all, it’s just a cat! Yet, here she has this dense community of people who are providing support, giving their sympathy, etc.