Blogging Beyond Yourself…

Now that the Singapore Youth & Media Conference 2005 has concluded, I discovered (literally to my horror) how youths in Singapore view blogs as simply a way for people to keep online (very public) diaries or journals. Even more interesting was how factual such blogs are, complete with the young blogger’s name, location (e.g. school), age and even contact, instead of using a moniker! I asked weblog presenter Masturah Ismail from the National Institute of Education whether this was an “Asian thing”. She remarked that she doesn’t view blogging as having geographical distinction, but I seriously beg to differ. I think this is a cultural issue that might be worth investigating… that is, do youths use blogs differently depending on culture?

While personal blogs are very popular, political blogs truly are an excellent example of how blogs can really be effective towards communicative action. It is a form of activism which I see as not only healthy, but essential. While political blogs exist in Singapore, they are not the only way in which blogs can be used. There are research blogs, which mine tries to be but tends to be personal in nature too. As my professor says, personality adds a sense of authenticity to your work… your signature. Just what other kinds of blogs do we have? I’m sure much more, but to end for now, consider the potential of educational blogs. While not new, deploying it on a mass scale to all students in a particular school can be a daunting undertaking. Just read this news article from BBC today…

On a number of campuses in the United Kingdom, blogs have begun to migrate from the technology fringes to the mainstream of educational tools. At the University of Warwick, more than 2,500 students and staff have signed up for the university’s blog service, making it one of the largest academic blogging operations. John Dale, head of IT services at Warwick, said, “We believe that blogging may open new opportunities for students and staff.” Robert O’Toole, a Ph.D. student at Warwick, said his blog has allowed him “to speak to academic communities across the U.K. and [to gain] knowledge from strangers. Blog[ging] has allowed me to write in a single place almost daily and develop things in fairly cohesive fashion.” Esther Maccallum-Stewart, a history researcher at Sussex University, uses a blog in her research and her teaching. She said her blog has become an invaluable part of her work and argued that academic institutions need to avoid becoming “too insular, constructing their own language and cliques which do nothing to promote the getting of knowledge.” On the other hand, David Supple, Web strategy manager at Birmingham University, cautions universities not to rush into new technologies. He advises considering how best to implement tools such as blogs “without creating legal and reputational issues for the institution.”

Source: BBC, 23 January 2005

In the US and European countries, I’ve seen how blogs are used as a “swiss-army knife” communication platform. How a blogger uses it depends very much on his imagination. Perhaps Singaporean youths have not realized the potential democratic/equalizing power blogs have to offer as an alternative media to the mainstream. Perhaps this is due to the diffusion of innovation issue of blogs being invented in the US and has not been fully realized in Singapore?

5 thoughts on “Blogging Beyond Yourself…

  1. I think the way you blog depends a lot on what the people around you are doing. You see a lot of Blogs in Korea and India tend to be about politics, because that is the most common thing people talk about – like when you are in a train and you are looking at starting a conversation with the guy next to you. In Singapore and China, you find more personal discussion as politics is not something that you would converse about with someone you don’t know well. I think the blog world is just a reflection of the real world.

    Having said that, there is certainly interesting blogging in Singapore and I am sure younger blogger would at some point start looking at more serious issues. You might want to check out The author is outside singapore, but a lot of discussion that happens there sees participation from within Singapore.

  2. I don’t think it’s a cultural thing. It seems that a lot of students in our cyberporn class already had blogs before class started, and having looked at some of them, they are very personal journal entries. What’s more surprising to me is that they even put that online. I’ve always had a journal but I hesitate sharing that content with intimate friends let alone the general public!

  3. According to the Wikipedia, the word “culture” comes from the Latin root colere (to inhabit, to cultivate, or to honor). In general, it refers to human activity. In a wide ethnographic sense, I see common human activity as likened to a culture. Do both of you see the difference in the way people blog as being too general to be distinguished as a culture?

  4. Kevin, you mentioned about the potential of educational blogs. Might want to check out this blog post by Susan Herzog. She has included references to why Harvard is studying blogs and how scholars are using blogs as teaching and research tools, as well as for collaboration and academic publishing.

    I’m looking into how public libraries are using blogs as a way to enhance their services as well as a kind of advocacy and user-education tool. I found this recently, from Omro Public Library in Wisconsin USA. They are using a blog to provide timely updates on new arrivals. Simple but effective, and precisely the kind of things that users want. Of course the challenge is how to get users to learn about RSS to fully optimise the blogs.

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