Nuances of Participation

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A recent article in Newsweek, titled Take This Blog and Shove It! presents some interesting numbers on digital (non-)participation. For example:

“While professional bloggers are “a rising class,” according to Technorati, hobbyists are in retreat, and about 95 percent of blogs are launched and quickly abandoned. A recent Pew study found that blogging has withered as a pastime, with the number of 18- to 24-year-olds who identify themselves as bloggers declining by half between 2006 and 2009. A shift to Twitter—or microblogging, as it’s called—partly accounts for these numbers. But while Twitter carries more than 50 million tweets per day, its army of keystrokers may not be as large as it seems. As many as 90 percent of tweets come from 10 percent of users, according to a 2009 Harvard study. The others are primarily “lurkers”—people who don’t contribute but track the postings of others. Between 60 and 70 percent of people who sign up for the 140-character platform quit within a month, according to a recent Nielsen report.”

The article refreshingly indicates that digital participation is not as widespread or as monolithic as it is often portrayed to be: many people do not participate, users who do participate do so differently than one another, and participation changes over time.

The Machine is Us/ing Us

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Here is a video by anthropologist Michael Wesch which explains “Web 2.0 in under 5 minutes”.  It illustrates how text has evolved from paper text –> digital text –> html (in which form and context are intertwined) –> xml (in which form and content are separate, meaning that users can upload content without knowing code, etc.) and –> the role of users in tagging and categorizing all the data we are producing. I thought the video was interesting in terms of Participation and the Web because it defines participation not in a political or social sense, but in the more mundane sense of content creation and organization.  It also highlights the presence of machines in digital participation. Dr. Wesch is the keynote speaker at this year’s Open Video Conference in NYC, Oct. 1-2, 2010.