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Personal Bloggers' Perceptions of their Audiences

The final speaker in this ICA 2010 session is David Brake, who introduces a simple blogging communication model: the blogger is utilising their Weblog as a tool for reaching a global audience. However, this is likely to be too simplistic - especially for highly personal Weblogs -, and it is necessary to investigate more closely how bloggers themselves see their interaction with their readers. David conducted a range of surveys and interviews with some 150 bloggers in the UK to explore this.

In an interaction with others, we tend to be conscious of the effect of our communication on others so that we can refine it and enhance its effect. Bloggers could do so for example by looking at their site stats, but didn't appear to be very interested in doing so; indeed, bloggers in David's study tended to assume that nobody would read their posts anyway, and expressed surprise when they did receive reader responses.

Audience relationships as expressed by the bloggers could be categorised as self-directed (writing is a goal in itself), narrowcast (speaking to known friends), dialogic (speaking with known friends), and telelogic (speaking to or with anyone reading). Self-directed bloggers in particular seemed somewhat disinterested in responses, and even felt annoyed that they would now have to respond to their readers.

Self-directed bloggers engaged in a number of major activities: creative expression (an extension of personal diaries and creative activities), quasi-therapy (a way of letting off steam and expressing problems and frustrations - interestingly, the unseen audience here was seen as more or less benign), and the use of the blogging tool as an end in itself or as a habit (blogging because they could, because it was part of the Zeitgeist, or in order to develop new skills - which then created an obligation to keep the habit going).

Bloggers were not only variously attentive to their present audience, but there is also a temporal dimension: bloggers expressed surprise that anyone would read through their archival posts, but also resisted going back through earlier posts to edit them after the fact as this was seen to be inauthentic.

So, there is a kind of pyramid of awareness and attention here, with the blogger at the top, the Weblog below, followed (in declining order of awareness) by the perceived audience (the readers that the blogger is actually aware of), the intended audience, the current actual audience, and finally the potential future audience. For many bloggers, their awareness does not stretch far beyond the top few layers, however. It would be interesting to see whether a similar would also apply to social media spaces, even though readership and privacy controls are more prominent there.

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For your thoughts and updates. Helpful as I could not make it this year! Much appreciated. /ge