My good friend a_libellule wrote an article about the transformative nature of Twitter over at Altair & Vega. Twitter, in his reckoning, has made the anisphere a more interactive, collaborative place. With Twitter being the site of informal banter and impromptu discussions, one has to wonder— what’s the role of the blog in today’s anisphere?
Colonizing the Anisphere
In my view, a blog is a colony. If colony seems too grand a word, fief will suffice. In any case, the purpose of a blog is to eke out one small portion of the anisphere and claim it for one’s own. To start a blog is to write with one’s own voice, sound off one’s own opinions to the world. Assuming that most blogs care somewhat about readership, each blog will endeavor to have a different “spin” on roughly the same issues. This allows blogs to differentiate themselves. Differentiation allows blogs to cater to different niches. Naturally, there is competition. In some sectors (episodic summary blogs), competition is fierce, though I’d argue that space is dominated by one or two huge, well-known blogs. In some other spaces (team-based editorial blogs), competition is not so fierce, with the relatively few blogs occupying that space existing in a fairly stable configuration. In any case, one a blog has settled in its own niche and readership has stopped growing exponentially, the process of colonization is complete.
One might be fairly comfortable looking at his own blog-fief. After all, it’s comforting to amass a readership. These are people who will listen to your every word and debate you on issues (hopefully, you’ll have critical readers). You might even become the authority on a specific subject within the anisphere.
This is all well and good, but I argue that this “fiefdom” model of carving out chunks of the anisphere leads to problems. I think it’s rather rare that we see entire blog posts responding to other blog posts. The process of writing a blog post begins with a spark of inspiration within us, an “aha!” moment that we feel within ourselves when watching anime or observing a phenomenon in the anisphere. I find that direct responses to other people’s ideas comprise a relatively small portion of the total number of blog posts written in the aniblogosphere.
I claim that this comes as an inevitable result of a “colonizing” mentality. If one becomes the expert on a certain sub-discipline within the anisphere, it becomes difficult to write about anything else. Readers come to your blog to read specifically about one’s specialty. Stepping too far outside one’s established niche comes with certain risks. Readers may become confused, or, even worse, disinterested. Without readers and commenters, it’s very easy to abandon blogs altogether. Therefore, it’s only logical that blogs do not step outside their niches. It’s a natural consequence, and I’m fairly certain that none of these issues are even at the forefront of most bloggers’ minds. Nobody conscientiously thinks, “Wow, am I stepping outside of my niche?” when they write an article. One’s niche is dictated by one’s interest, so as long as a blog follows its writer’s personal interests, it inevitably falls into a niche.
Twitter, the Great Decolonizer
I’ll open this section with a quote from a_libellule’s article:
Through connections on Twitter, one need not necessarily read others’ extended treatise found on their respective blogs; nor is it impossible that one might find new blogs of interest amongst the ‘Twitter-sphere’. With an increased degree of informal communications between bloggers, commenters, and the occasional ‘lurker’ thrown in for good measure, we begin to see an increased level of communication and collaboration.
Continuing with the “colonization” metaphor, the increased amount of informal interactions facilitated by Twitter has turned Twitter into a decolonizer. It is possible for us to simply rail off our ideas on Twitter and receive responses of equivalent length. In this way, we begin impromptu debates and conversations. The great advantage of Twitter discussions is that they are organic. They arise spontaneously and subside spontaneously. It’s very hard to force a discussion on Twitter, and nigh-impossible to curate and moderate discussions.
Twitter has given the anisphere an appetite for communication and collaboration, something which I argue the anisphere was sorely lacking pre-Twitter. Innovations such as the Standing Committee for the Coordination of Simultaneous Anime Viewing has brought communication to the forefront of the anisphere. Nowadays, I’d say that the vast majority of the aniblogosphere (that is, people who own anime blogs) are on Twitter, conversing with each other, reading each other’s short, pithy thoughts.
It only seems natural, then, that blogs should follow suit. Again, we see Altair & Vega at the forefront of the collaboration revolution, with its colloquia model. However, a guest post is very different from a repsonse. A repsonse offers many distinct advantages, primarily that it encourages a greater amount of dialogue. Guest posts are only exposed to one set of readers, whereas responses allow the readers of both blogs to get in on the conversation.
The anisphere can only benefit from this great increase in dialogue. It’s astonishing, the areas of expertise represented in the anisphere. Some of us are philosophers, some others linguists, artists, historians and economists. Engaging each other in extended discourse will broaden our horizons and further enlighten our respective readership. Twitter has become the proverbial coffeehouse of ideas, a virtual meeting-place to engage in casual conversation and incubate new ideas. Blogs will most likely lag behind Twitter, but I don’t think it’s implausible to suggest that blogs will directly engage with each other more and more from now on. Perhaps it’s a necessity that blogs do so sooner or later.
Come find me at our coffeehouse. @Akirascuro on Twitter.