Geert Lovink (2007: 28) argues that: “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”.
Blogs are capable of being many different things. For Terry Flew, it is the fact that blogs are able to be “A collaborative space, a political soapbox, [and] a breaking news outlet”, which allows them to “have a positive impact on reinvigorating the democratic public sphere” (2008, 157). However, others, such as Geert Lovink, argue against this, and claim that blogs do not necessarily rival the mass media (2007: 8). Instead, Lovink claims that, rather than being concerned with adhering to the ideals of Habermas’ public sphere (Flew, 2008: 164), they are primarily used to “structure one’s life, to clear up the mess, [and] to master the immense flows of information” (2007: 28).
For example, we can look at popular music blog Idolator, which is considered the 35th best entertainment blog by Technorati, a site that helps users browse blogs. Idolator provides a different example to personal blogs for examining Lovink’s theory that blogging is for “master[ing] the immense flows of information” (2007: 28). For example, on the 5th of May, 2011, blog posts on a new song from Beyonce, American singer Lady Gaga’s latest music video, and Justin Bieber’s run-in with an egg hurler at one of his concerts in Australia were published.
The article on Justin Bieber, written by Becky Bain, adds limited light-hearted commentary to an article published by Yahoo! News, while the post on the release of Beyonce’s cover version of “God Bless the USA” reiterates details of the song, posted originally by entertainment blog Just Jared.
Both of these posts support Lovink’s theory that blogs are primarily about managing information, and that they have not significantly changed the state of democracy in the public sphere as they do not “create autonomy and overcome the dominance of media corporations and state control” (2007: 36); Rather than challenging the media or contributing something original, the majority of the content posted on Idolator is information that has been organised together, on the basis of their relevance to pop culture music, from various news sources.
However, Bain’s blogpost on Lady Gaga’s latest music video offering presents us with something different. Bain collects and compares seven reviews of the American singer’s visual accompaniment to her song “Judas” and contributes her own (or Idolator’s) opinion of the piece. Obviously, there is a reliance on the media released by Lady Gaga, as well as the seven other news and blog sources, however the information received from these sources has been compared and critiqued; there has been an encouragement of media scrutiny, which has led to discussion and argument amongst the comments of the blogpost. The contribution of users in this way disagrees with Lovink’s belief that blogs do not prioritise critical views and an active, participatory community (2007: 28). Rather, it is an example of the “sheer proliferation of voices and opinions” that Flew discusses (2008: 166), which, for Brian McNair, generate “a significant augmentation of the degree of diversity of viewpoints available to users of the globalised public sphere” (McNair cited in Flew, 2008: 166). Though the content’s social importance is to be questioned when discussing it in relation to the public sphere, it does prove that blogs do not only manage information, but they are able to promote critical debate and discussion.
Flew, T. 2008, ‘Citizen Journalism’, in New Media: An Introduction, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
Lovink, G. 2007, ‘Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, Routledge, London.