Monday, 26 April 2010

Blogs – Medium or Genre?

A few posts ago, in my discussion on the concept of a medium, I started out by mentioning a recent conversation with my friend Lazy. That conversation was all about the nature of blogs.

Lazy had stumbled upon references to a text on blogs and blogging by Swedish Academy member Horace Engdahl (without any luck in finding Engdahl's original text, at least not at that point), and had made the comment "why do 'old fogeys' think that blogging is a genre, not a format" (my translation from Swedish). To which I responded that it might, perchance, have something to do with the fact that there are format genres and content genres (as I have previously discussed in here). However, Lazy quickly responded that, as far as she could tell (from the secondary sources she had encountered), Engdahl's mistaken argument seemed to be that blogs were not just a genre, but a content genre; an assumption that would seem to border on the asinine, considering the variety of contents available in blogs.

However, what I found to be the really interesting question underlying this whole thing was this: what is a blog?

Whereas the suggestion that blogs are a content genre seems more than a little ridiculous, it is not beyond all reason that one could argue for their being a format genre (and, as such, a genre). Still, this notion did not fully satisfy me. While quite often reminiscent of genres such as the essay or the column, blogs clearly differ in their multi-medial capabilities (direct links to other pages, embedded video clips, etc). Thus I started questioning if blogs might not actually be a different medium (a question which in turn caused me to write that previous post on what a medium is).

So what is the answer? I honestly do not know and find myself torn. Maybe, as Lazy suggested, it is not so much a medium unto itself as it is an extension of the internet medium (call it WWW, web pages, or whatever). But then again, maybe it is not. Maybe it is an extension of the all but forgotten hypertext novel, albeit with the novel bit exchanged for other literary genres (such as the essay or the column). It is a tricky question and for all my delineations in my discussion on what constitutes a medium, I find myself unwilling to pin the nature of blogs down – at least as of yet.


  1. Gosh, I can has blog label! :)

    Also, blogs are evolving all the time and acquiring new apps and possibilities for customizing and variation - which backs up your unwillingness to pin them down "as of yet"... A lot of blogs now are in a sort of grey area between home page and blog, and that's probably just going to go on. Especially if one ignores the teen fashionista blogs that Engdahl (maybe) thinks are the typical example of a blog.

  2. I think you are right in part, lazy, but it would not seem to cover it entirely. After all, both different media and genres tend to evolve over time, and that in itself does not mean it would be hard to pin down which of the two categories the development occurs in.

    Maybe the easiest answer would be to say that it is an as-of-yet-medium-specific genre (i.e. at this point in time no other medium than an internet page could provide the specific conditions that define blogging), which nevertheless makes use of a variety of genres (definitely content genres, but possibly a few format genres as well); e.g. the essay, the column, the journal and reportage.

    And yes, you did seem to have earned a blog label. I'm sure it will be used again at some point or another. =)