Decolonizing the Anisphere

Okay, not THAT kind of decolonization.

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.

This is basically what we do on Twitter. Now we just have to take our ideas and take them to our virtual printing presses!

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. 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.

25 responses to “Decolonizing the Anisphere

  1. Umm, isn’t that what the comment section is for? Unless you have something much longer to say, in which case I do tend to see people write blog posts instead of comments

    • That’s interesting that you say people generally tend to write blog posts. I feel like that’s actually pretty rare. It’s probably a difference of perspective.

      I’m saying that we should perhaps move away from writing comments into forcing ourselves to think of insightful responses in the form of blog posts, if at all possible. I’m not railing against commenting, obviously— commenting is clearly useful and a good way to start conversations, but I think people should take greater initiative in responding to things they find interesting.

      • Isn’t that really circle-jerky though? To write a post that is merely a response to another post. I mean sure, if you can construct it in such a way that means its approachable to someone not up to date with the discussion, but the cases I’ve seen of this with Lolikit and Author are impenetrabe circle-jerk/self-referential sniping.

        Then again, if you only care about other people in the aniblogosphere, then by all means go for it

        • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. There needs to be a balance between responding to other people while making the discussion relevant to everyone else. It can’t simply devolve into inside jokes and small-circle masturbation. I think the way I’ve constructed this post as a response to a_libellule’s isn’t too circle-jerky. Hopefully.

          I don’t just care about people in the aniblogosphere, I care about anyone and everyone who’s familiar with the source material. I think the aniblogosphere should be expanding and improving, and the worst thing that we can do is cloister ourselves into ivory towers. We need to become better readers and better communicators. (I think the aniblog tourney is a fine example of a move in the right direction.)

  2. First, this post is about 4 years late, but…

    I think it’s rather rare that we see entire blog posts responding to other blog posts.

    Animeblogs, perhaps. Ani-nouto has been doing this for years, lolikit as well, and I have also written comment responses to other posts as a regular style of blogging; commenting is easier at times. I think the issue is this colonization, which appears to manifest as a desire to maintain article format with no room for letters to the editor or external writing fuel. But in retrospect, I believe the style is a trend inherited from early bloggers in the community and has not been highlighted enough to take hold as a popular format.

    The value of commenting through an entry rather than on the blog has been unapparent, but I have my doubts that will change because of Twitter, which many of the bloggers I know have been using for 4-5 years. Also you have overlooked one realm which, for a long time, served the purpose of Twitter: IRC. Before twitter and still today, there were hives of users who held very fluid conversations on varied topics, stimulating discourse and food for blogging thought. Twitter bridges these hives, so the community is one large cluster, but the principles have not changed.

    Instead, I feel what has been apparent to many of us is now being realized in a more finite lens.

    • Perhaps it’s not Twitter, but SCCSAV that will ultimately change the way we look at blogging. What I’ve laid out here is probably more a blueprint for what I consider to be steps in the right direction. I, too, have used IRC for around seven years now, and it’s probably one of the greatest sources of inspiration for my writings. I will say that Twitter is much more public than IRC. You can’t moderate Twitter, but you sure as hell can moderate IRC.

      Perhaps the solutions I’ve offered aren’t particularly new or innovative, but I do think that colonization is a real problem. There has to be some way to push through these norms to something better, no? Then again, there are always those who opt to not engage in conversation. I think that’s absolutely fine. I just think that form, format and tradition shouldn’t be barriers for those wishing to engage in discourse.

      • An interesting aside, that I also told Adam (a_libuelle) when he was composing his post. I follow primarily anime bloggers and sports enthusiasts on Twitter, since they cater to my two primary interests/hobbies. Over a year ago I watched as the SCCSAV was born, and thought to myself, “Ah…that’s interesting.” Even more interesting (and this was before joining the SCCSAV) was that I began to see some of the sports people I followed (mostly Red Sox fans from around the world) start group hangouts and group watches over Skype. They haven’t “named” themselves, but I still see them often watching Red Sox games together or hopping on after a game to rant about whatever happened.

        My point: that Twitter begat SCCSAV, just as Twitter begat this little unnamed sports watching group.

        Just an indirect thought.

        • The brilliance of Twitter is that you can curate your own communities. You choose who you follow, and thus, it’s very easy to get together a bunch of people together who care about a certain thing and bring them together. It’s no surprise that Twitter begat SCCSAV, sports groups, and much more.

    • Hives are great, they shoot down stupid ideas before they get turned into blog posts, either as a venting mechanism or as a feedback platform. Now we only have to find a way to cut down on posts about the anime blogosphere.

      • Why? Because you don’t think it’s important? I think it’s interesting, from a sociological perspective. If you’re not into meta-commentary, don’t read meta-commentary. Duh.

        • Meta commentary is disposable enough to be part of Twitter, IRC, Google Reader, etc. Maybe it’s because I don’t follow blogs that much anymore and I don’t know better, but the narrative in this comment section wants to convince me the anime blogosphere isn’t a frequent circle-jerking offender. But why wouldn’t it be, as meta commentary usually gets the biggest response from the community. Yet the same community pigeonholes Author and Lolikit as “impenetrabe circle-jerk/self-referential sniping.” Community, take a page from Colony Drop, please.

          Yet I’m here, responding to this type of post. Shame on me!

        • The comment section of a blog is, inevitably, a circle-jerk. What’s important to note is that blogs should primarily focus on writing content accessible for everyone. I certainly don’t plan to spend any more time on meta-issues, but I do think that a long post as a response to something else is justifiable every once in a while.

  3. The great majority of blogs write opinion pieces about specific anime, which lends poorly to linked discussion, for what else is there but a post fronting your own opinion, which might as well be linked to every other opinion post on said anime. Thus this decolonization can only come in the presence of the- for lack of a better term -editorial style post.

    As for how comments affect cross blog linking: paging Author.

    (just noting here that ‘on narrative’ got a whopping two response posts, by ghostlightning and 8c, though both were well thought out and executed, and much appreciated)

    • Yeah, I’d have to agree with you about de-colonization only coming in a context of editorial blogs. I consider episodic blogs as one type of blog, which is completely oversaturated and overdone. I do think that analyses and opinions ON episodes of anime can be cross-referenced and engaged, though.

      Also, a secret that I’ve never told anyone: “On Narrative” was the inspiration behind this blog. I quit reviewing at The Nihon Review and started pursuing my own path after I read it.

  4. Pingback: Akira on Decolonizing the Anisphere – aloe, dream·

  5. Metablogs lack a certain broad appeal. Consider: the set of readers of anime blogs is known to be a very small subset of the set of anime viewers (several hundred out of several million); the set of readers of anime blogs who view metablogs and carry on discussions is a smaller subset of that very small subset.

    The Moritheil Review is almost nothing but responses to articles (and tweets.) While fun, it’s not exactly drawing in the readership of DarkMirage or RandomC. That fundamental preference in readers would have to change for metablogs to come to the fore.

    • I disagree with the idea of a meta-blog, but I do support the occasional article on meta-issues. I still think that, fundamentally, anime blogging should be about anime, and not the aniblogosphere.

  6. This post is very timely for me, as I was actively thinking about two of your main points in the article last night. First, yes, it’s rare that aniblogs respond to other aniblogs, which is peculiar in the blogosphere. Unfortunately, what Scamp infers is right – such posts could be worthless and, in fact, I think most posts would be far from creative or discussion-oriented. I think such posts would need to be purposeful. Here are a couple of examples of such posts – one is from my own blog and a recent one from another’s. The one from my blog is a actually a response TO a response:

    http://beneaththetangles.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/more-like-a-tin-roof-sundae/

    http://numbersandspace.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/them-be-fighting-words/

    Secondly, I’ve thought a lot about involving readers in the “discussion.” I’m planning to run with a “reader’s discussion” series of posts, though I’m not yet sure how 100% I’ll go about it. The first will be coming up in a week or two.

    • I’ve taken a quick glance at your Aniblogger Testimony series. I thought they were pretty interesting— perhaps you’re thinking of something like that?

      • Well, that’s definitely part of my work to engage my readers (and to learn more about some of them). We’ll have to see what comes of this upcoming post, though…

  7. Two things:

    1. People are unlikely to read a response post if they didn’t read the original post in the first place. So, unless the response is from a blog that has far higher readership than the original blogger, then it’s more than likely that the response post is neglected. In most cases, the bloggers would tend to publish posts on more popular topics. If they feel like writing a response post to a topic that’s not really very interesting to the average reader, then they’ll just comment and leave it at that. Writing a full post disagreeing (under the assumption that only strong disagreement forces someone to write an entire post) could also cause unnecessary resentment on both sides.

    2. There does exist a huge system similar to post responses: Aniblogger projects. These have been increasing as of late, but they are prey to what Scamp referred to as “circle-jerks”. For instance, the recent “50 questions” posts are response posts of sorts. It’s grown into a monstrous meme, spanning over 20 posts, each from a different blog. There have been several of these posts, such as Blog Carnivals, Time Management posts etc lately. I’d consider them response posts and plus, they knit the community together, if only within their own circle.

    • On your first point: I’m skeptical about writing full posts disagreeing leads to resentment. Dissent and contempt are two completely different things. I do agree with your other point about people being unlikely to read responses, which limits readership. The point of a “response” is not to respond directly, but to respond and contribute to a larger debate, thus making the response itself a jumping-off point for discussion and further debate by the community at large.

      On your second point: Yes, I agree that aniblogger projects are great, but we have to prevent them from being an “in-or-out-” thing. “50 questions” is innocuous because there’s no sense of “Aha! I participated, so I’m better than you who didn’t participate.” Projects should have low barriers to entry. This makes them seem less circle-jerky. The more curated an aniblogger project is, the more masturbatory it becomes.

  8. I am aware that this reply is obscenely late. For this I can only apologise. The end of the second term is always so lovingly filled with deadlines for absurdly large projects. But I digress.

    Upon reading your post, its comments, and responses, I had originally intended to respond with a comment as long as the post itself. Indeed, I still have the draft for it. But, I now feel this a little out of place considering how much time has passed, and how much has already been said.

    Firstly, I should like to thank you for your response; I always find it interesting to hear others’ perspectives on a topic.

    On your views of decolonizing the anisphere I would agree with most of your commenters, albeit perhaps not unreservedly, and some of your responses. Scamp’s point of ‘circle-jerking’, along with Ryan’s comments on egoism, being most pertinent in my mind. I would, however, add my own thoughts if I may.

    I like your idea in principle. Yet I feel it should be noted that the anisphere should not necessarily default to the posts-as-responses approach. I would not wish to see the ‘sphere and its inhabitants becoming, if you will excuse the expression, jacks of all trades.

    As you say, the ‘sphere is made up of a myriad of different people from a kaleidoscope of backgrounds and disciplines. This is its strength. Through members becoming experts in their respective ‘fields’ the ‘sphere and her readership may benefit greatly from deep, thoughtful analysis. Insularity and a narrowing of focus should most likely be considered a problem, certainly. And with the occasional response to an affecting post, we find the advantages you speak of. Yet, were response-posts to become the de facto standard, through less time spent on personal growth, I would fear a weakening of expertise and a reduction in the ability for others to become said experts. A reduction to homogeneity of the most offensive kind.

    Perhaps these fears are unfounded, however; that response-posts would be made only to those most affecting, with genial discussion and comment found in other forms, elsewhere. This would ensure that any time spent away from developing one’s position would be beneficial.

    I could probably argue in circles and come to the same conclusions time and time again, so I shall cease my rambling here. Yet, I should like to leave on the following note.

    An expert ascends, and retains, his ivory tower only because he continues to move forward. Others may try to usurp his position, and inevitably, there are those that will succeed. This heralds new ideas, and fresh perspectives. Allowing others to see what was once overlooked. Competition is occasionally ugly, but if held with decorum and civility, has the ability bring out the very best in people, and aid in producing some stunning work. A model based on academia is not flawless, but it is perhaps the best model considering our subject.

  9. Pingback: Baka-Raptor and the Filler of Big | Baka-Raptor·

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