Over at his blog, Denis Colombi has an interesting post on reasons for blogging, with a sociological twist. It’s in French, so, if you’re francophone (why isn’t everyone?), head over there for the whole post. Otherwise, here is the English digest version, and the points I thought were the most important. Denis breaks down the various reasons for blogging into different categories:
Bloggers blog because they like to write and share their opinions. And doing so via blogging is a faster way of sharing said opinions with a larger public than the limited audience of a typical sociologist writing for a peer-reviewed publication (that would not be interested in opinions anyway). Moreover, there is a low threshold to blogging. Blogging also pushes one to keep up with the field (especially for those of us who do not do research but teach a lot). We, socbloggers, read a lot and share our reading and submit ourselves to societal and peer judgment and we can get feedback fairly rapidly. And areas where we lack knowledge can be pointed out to us, prompting further investigation on our part.
Blogging is a form of social action, understood as in Max Weber’s typology. Blogging – as a form of public sociology – is directed at others in a variety of ways that Colombi delineates. All of us socbloggers think that sociology has an important perspective to provide on social issues and we’d like to see that more prominently displayed in a way that valorize the discipline. Blogging is one small way of doing that. Blogging is an extension of teaching beyond the classroom.
Back to Weber’s typology of actions
Affective action: does socblogging fall into that category? Yes, most definitely since most of us blog about things we care about. Colombi states that he started blogging with the events of the 2005 riots because of their deplorable media coverage. The media and politicians displayed nothing but contempt for scientific analysis and existing research, when they did not blame them for the riots.
Traditional action: Colombi is stumped on that one. And there is indeed a good case to be made that since blogging uses new technologies, Web2.0 stuff, it does not refer back to traditional action. However, those of us who blog about social affairs (as opposed to academia), especially if we treat socblogging as a form of vulgarization/valorization: bringing the questioning of taken-for-granted categories outside of the ivory tower, into the public sphere. With this, moving right along to…
Goal-Oriented Rational action: now we’re back in business. Our goal is definitely to promote public sociology and we have chosen blogging as a tool to do just that. Make sociology visible, show its relevance and analytical rigor. There are other ways of doing this, of course: write op-ed pieces or books, build websites (hint hint) or any other way to contribute to the public discourse (although we already know that we’re getting beat by economists and psychologists on that front).
Value-Oriented Rational action: this goes back to Weber’s definition of the scientific ethos, characterized by objectivity, the search for truth and explanations, independence, etc. Blogging fits into that category as a disinterested act, done for its own merits and independent (we’re not getting paid), and geared towards the general interest. In this sense, it is not a big surprise to find that a lot of (natural and social) scientists are also bloggers.
Bring in Bourdieu and the concept of social capital: we link to each other, we increase our networks and connections beyond borders, we criticize each other. In other words, we increase each other’s social capital. It remains to be seen if we can convert and use said capital in other fields and generate other forms of capitals, but there is definitely something there. Networking is indeed one of the most satisfactory part of blogging.
Colombi also associates social capital with Mark Granovetter‘s idea of strength of weak ties. Blogrolls and connections through blogging certainly qualify as weak ties. Growing and maintaining a lot of weak ties within one’s network is certainly a major activity for socbloggers, governed by norms of reciprocity.
Speaking of social capital and reciprocity, I guess, because we’re talking weak ties, I’m not going to be miffed to NOT have been tagged for this meme!