No one will argue that over the last ten or fifteen years, much has changed in the society, first of all due to the massive penetration of Internet in the culture and consciousness. Today, the influence of Internet and new information technologies on public increases so rapidly that it makes necessary to review its role and importance in public life and social activities.
The desire to build an open information society based on human interests, in which individuals and communities can realize their potential, is a major global trend. Widespread use of the Internet as a mean of social and political communication at all levels of interaction between people makes it necessary to consider the Internet as an innovation factor of socialization. Increasing amounts of information in the communication process in the network, as well as free access to data, in turn, promote socialization, increases participation of individuals in the life of the society. (Hassan 2007)Because information in modern life is very important, as it enables individuals to orient in the complex social, economic, political and cultural processes taking place in the society. Internet allows to increase the amount of information and various types of communication, build an information resource and expand the communicative space. (Hassan 2008; McChesney 2007)
In this paper it is necessary to consider the new media and their role in the society, with special attention to blogs. It is necessary to speak about the essence of the blogosphere, its significance and role both individuals and the society.
The impact of Internet and digital media on the social life of every person and society as a whole
In the beginning of the 21 century Internet is the modern communicative space that affects lives of individuals and the whole society. As the technical mean of mass communication, the Internet greatly expands the types of communication channels and alters the interaction of individuals and social groups. (McChesney 2007) Internet networking is used for different types of communication: interpersonal, intragroup, group, mass, to express and protect the interests of individuals and social groups. Dialogue between the government and society in the network promotes the involvement of citizens in decision-making process, their participation in management, thereby contributing to the democratization process. (Hassan 2008; McChesney 2007)
Global Information Network offers great opportunities not only in different areas, but also becomes the basis of life of many individuals who today can not imagine their lives without the use of the Internet in the work, political and economic spheres and in everyday life. All this shows not only fundamentally new type of public communication, but also transition to a new level of social development. (McChesney 2007)
To understand the essence of this new kind of communication and social interaction with the help internet, let’s consider the essence of blogs (and blogosphere), which have become one of the most popular ways of online communication. It is therefore necessary to consider the nature of blogs and numerous online diaries. What is its purpose and function? What influence have blogs on the readers and on the society? Who needs them and why? And how they affect the culture and mass consciousness? Why do people have to write their thoughts in an open space? What they want to say and to whom? These questions are not easy to answer.
Blogs as a new area of mass communication and information exchange
Blogs are now referred to as the main alternative media in the 21st century, because of their immense popularity and a huge audience. And this concept appeared not so long ago: the word “blog” came into use about ten years ago, when the Internet was just gaining its momentum. In December 1997, Jorn Barger proposed the term ” weblog” for online diaries (from the phrase “logging the web”, which means “writing network events”). A little later the word was shortened to “we blog”, and since then has become an established definition of online journal. (Rettberg 2008)
In 2004, the most comprehensive English dictionary Merriam-Webster calledd “blog” – a network diary – the word of the year. Mass acceptance to the blog has come when everyone got the opportunity to start a personal blog, even not very experienced Internet user. In 1999 was opened the site “Blogger”, and then “Live journal” (Livejournal.com). The epithet “live” reflects the idea of good communication between many people who write the notes themselves, and can leave comments in other people’s diaries. This is the most important part of blogging – unlimited communication and exchange of information between any users. (Rettberg 2008)
Although the majority of blogs do not contain any fresh or interesting information, and often use somebody’s ideas and thoughts, anyway they bring mass dissemination of ideas and information. Thanks to wide use of Internet and digital media people have the opportunity to share any ideas, to be heard and also to hear other opinions and ideas, from any part of the world. It’s a new kind of freedom, a freedom of expression that digital media brings to our life.
Blogs and online magazines have a huge audience, which has no restrictions on gender, age or country. Everyday millions of people read, write and exchange their ideas. (Rettberg 2008) This is a new form of communication and social interaction for those who have access to the Internet, that are most people in Europe, America, Asia and elsewhere. Internet and digital media give us the opportunity of unlimited communication. Perhaps in this way the Internet makes it possible to correct what it has created: isolating people from each other, a sharp reduction in personal communication, face to face dialogue?
Blog is a very important form of communication. It differs from a static website and blog feeds primarily because it gives the visitor an opportunity to comment each message, weather to criticize or to give the approval. That is, everyone has the right to express their opinions, and it is comments make the blog or journal “live”. (Rettberg 2008)
Moreover, the blog is a community, as each blog sooner or later gets readers, and some of them have a desire to sign up to receive email messages about new blog entries. On the collective blog hosting such subscribers are called friends, and messages from all friends form friends tape. Friends read each other entries and exchange information. The authors publish stand-alone blogs called “blog roll”, featuring links to their favorite authors. (Rettberg 2008)
For 10 years blogs have become real alternative to the media, a kind of “shadow” media empire to rival in terms of social and political influence, which turns into an information channel for serious news and comments. Gradually disappears the line between political blogs and the “big journalism”, and it is still debatable whether to refer blogs to new media.
The volume of information transmitted through blogs can be comparable to the information, which comes through the media, but there is a significant difference. The media is subject to strict requirements as to form and content of the information: the level of journalistic material should be high, the media information must be accurate, conform to accepted standards (not to offend, to refrain from hasty conclusions and compromising, to not be illegally borrowed from other media (plagiarism), etc.), must conform to a particular genre, be relevant, etc. but these requirements are optional for blogs. In addition, in blogs information acquires specific features: it becomes mass not only because it is targeted at large audiences, but because it is produced by a mass audience. So, given the overall scope of the audience the blogosphere, one can calculate that the information in it is spread by hundreds and even thousands of independent and impartial writers. (Rettberg 2008)
It is also important to note that blog is a channel of free access to a mass audience. Due to the popularity and credibility of the audience blogs are used as a channel of free mass distribution of information that could enable the audience and provoke it into action. One the one hand, blogs provide certain content free of charge, on the one hand, they provide access to a mass audience. Blogs is also a space, for which the copyright law is sometimes violated: for example, many media, prohibiting the use of their content without prior written consent of the editors, give the on the site special codes “to place on blogs”, that is encourage illegal distribution of content through this channel. Probably, they perceive the blogosphere primarily as a source of an audience – and then only as a competitor. Blogs from the perspective of the media have the most valuable resource in the information space – the audience.
Therefore it is important to say about another side of blogging – their use to influence or encourage a mass audience to action or reaction. This is due to the fact that blogging is a mean to get to a mass audience due to the popularity and credibility of the audience. That is why blogs are used as a distribution channel of information that can activate and provoke its audience to action. The blogosphere has become one of the means of agitation and exposure to the audience. Types of exposure and promotion through the blogosphere to an audience are:
- motivation to specific physical actions – to a meeting, writing letters, and others;
- encourage to read the media, for example e-advertising of the newspaper, audio or video versions of the media;
- the use of access to audiences to change its opinion, the attempts to of public figures to excuse, restore its image;
- the use of access to the masses for advertising – direct use of blogs for promotional purposes.
The proof of this are numerous mass protests and civil speeches in many countries: the wave of civil protests in Canada and the UK, economic strikes in Europe and Israel, as well as the “Arab Spring 2011” – a wave of revolutions in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and several other African countries at the beginning of the year. An example is the more recent event in New York “Occupy Wall Street”, that was an attempt of people to express their social position. A common feature of the protests in the East, Europe and the Americas is a great role of social networks and blogs in organizing the protests. In all these events social media and blogs have played a huge role as means of disseminating ideas, bringing people to mass protest.
Mass protests in 2011 showed that digital media, such as blogs and social media, can be used to mobilize citizens to protests, to involve population in the epicenter of events. The role of social networks and blogs for the coordination of mass demonstrations is now the subject of public attention around the world.
Hassan, Robert. The information society. Wiley, 2008
Lister M., Dovey Jon, Grant I. New Media: A Critical Introduction. Routledge, 2008
McChesney, R. Communication Revolution: Critical Junctures and the Future of Media. New York: New Press, 2007.
Marshall, P.D. New Media Cultures. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Rettberg, Jill W. Blogging. Polity Press, 2008