Media advances include using blogs for news

In this tech-savvy world, diaries have become items of the past. When people want to vent their feelings, they no longer write in a bound journal and hide it under their pillow; people publish their thoughts for the world to see. This phenomenon, blogging, has revolutionized popular culture.

Blogging began as online diary entries, and the bloggers called themselves everything from diarists to escribitionists. Great corporations, too, used a similar format in their news sections. In 1997, Jorn Barger coined the term “weblog,” which later evolved to “blog.” Though blogging seems to be innocent, it was not always this way. The first major controversy began with mistaken political comments in 1997; allegations of anti-Semitism arose surrounding Barger’s comments, such as, “Is Judiasm simply a religion of lawless racists?” Since then, the online journal, or blog, has taken on a new identity as a form of communication, as a think tank for new ideas and issues.

Corporations have also adopted the blog. From Sweden to the U.S., CEOs and presidents of companies are finding it beneficial to utilize blogs in making themselves more personable to their customers and investors. The content management systems for several corporations have switched to blog form. Fredrik Waka, who created a site based solely for the promotion of corporate blogging, advocates the use of blogs for several reasons: building customer and media relations, facilitating internal collaboration, aiding recruitment, and attaining high rankings in search engines. However, Waka believes that blogging in corporate environments cannot be helter-skelter and that it relies on certain key aspects, such as using one’s own voice in blogging yet still maintaining a professional atmosphere. This way, he claims, blogs can be used as a tool to connect corporations around the world.

Colin Marks, a sophomore information systems major, does not view blogs as such a juggernaut. “It’s kind of just a waste of time to me,” he said. Marks occasionally reads his friends’ blogs, but only in cases of extreme boredom. “I don’t think that it’s an effective form of communication, because what you are reading is a stream of consciousness that isn’t well formulated and doesn’t convey emotion,” he said.

Another reason Marks gave for his distaste is the potential danger of the situation. “Whatever you’re putting up there is going to be read by somebody you don’t want to [read it],” he said. Marks gave an example from when he read something about his friend’s love life: “There’s certain things about relationships you don’t want to read online.” He claims the practice of blogging is not prudent for most American teenagers. “It’s character-threatening.”

However, blogging does have its beneficial points. On Wednesday, Ethan Zuckerman came to speak at the University of Pittsburgh as part of the university’s global studies program and International Week. Zuckerman is currently conducting research at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, studying information technology in developing countries. At the International Week event, Zuckerman spoke about blogging; he believes that weblogs can be used to close gaps in mainstream media coverage throughout the world.

Zuckerman founded Geekcorps in 1999. The program sends information technicians from more technologically adept countries to developing areas, including Africa, Eastern Europe, South Asia, and Central America, to teach basic software programming and other technology-focused skills. The idea is to enable residents of those areas to subsist off their own knowledge. For example, small businesses can be built on basic computing knowledge. The Geekcorps program has been so successful that it was recently announced as one of the Tech Museum Award winners.

Zuckerman, too, encourages his workers to keep blogs. He believes that they are useful forms of communication between the workers and the average citizen. Hopefully, the messages sent and the experiences described will have a lasting effect on the audience.

Some blogs do not carry a message so heavy in world change. Rather, some inadvertenly have a huge impact. For instance, the popular movie Snakes on a Plane was defined partially by blogging. The site www.snakesonablog.com helped influence different portions of the movie; it became a bulletin board for ideas for the movie. In fact, the site includes a link to “Snakes on a Forum,” from which people can post and collect ideas and thoughts. Now that the movie has been released to the public, Snakes on a Blog mostly carries humorous photographs, fan art, and random posts. The power of this site is incredible — it both promoted and shaped the movie.

While people like Zuckerman may advocate blogs as a tool to change the world, the typical teenager has other reasons for the addicting habit. First-year chemistry major Derek McQuade is one such teenager. Though he does not blog too frequently, he does encourage its use. McQuade said, “I don’t know why I do it. I just do.” Unlike of many bloggers, McQuade does not disclose personal information. He usually just allows a description of his day to suffice. “It’s really just for me. I mean if people read it, that’s great, but it really is just for me.”