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news and thoughts on and around the development of the iCite net
by Jay Fienberg

Blogs, autos, and other vehicles

posted: Dec 31, 2005 5:16:15 PM

For the last year or so, I've had a lot of doubts about the whole idea of the blogosphere, e.g., that there is such a thing / place. (Maybe there was something worth calling a blogosphere some years ago—I used to think there was, but I also used to read only a highly self-referential set of "industry" blogs.)

Anyway, I've come up with an analogy that helps me reconcile the idea that there is a blogosphere, the fact that blogs are something useful to people, and also my feeling that the "what's happening in the blogosphere" picture doesn't much represent what's happening with blogs.


Blogs are like cars. They are something useful to people because, like cars, blogs give people access to personal use vehicles (personal communication vehicles in the case of blogs, personal transportation vehicles in the case of cars).

Like with cars, some individuals have one blog, some have many; and some groups share a single blog. Some blogs are for work, or primarily for work. Some are for fun / recreation. Some are totally customized and some are totally stock.

This seems like a decent enough analogy. But, in particular, it helps me appreciate the blogosphere concept and its relationship to everyone blogging.

Because: some people talk about the autosphere just as some talk about the blogosphere (note: the word "autosphere" isn't in widespread use, but it helps me make this point). That is, there are people who are in the auto industry or who are car enthusiasts who see a "world of cars" and are interested in what's going on with it—"what's happening in the world of cars".

Since so many people use cars, it's natural that many people have at least some perception of, and even interest in, an autosphere, e.g., at the times when they are buying cars or see someone they know with a new car. Similarly, it seems natural that people who have a blog, or are around blogs, have some perception of / interest in a blogosphere.

But, as with cars, there is no actual "what's happening in the blogosphere" that can be summarized—what's happening is so widespread that the answer is always the same: life, more or less.

Of course, as with cars, there are images of "what's happening in the blogosphere" that are marketed by those in the blog industries and those enthusiastic about blogs who identify with and benefit from certain images of blogs being projected. (Disclosure: I've personally benefitted from certain images of blogs being projected—some of my elder relatives are proud of me because I've been blogging since before they even knew what a blog was, let alone came to believe that there was some positive status one might get from it.)


According to Wikipedia, there are 500 million cars worldwide. According to Technorati, there are 24.2 million blogs.

Next time you hop in a car and ride across town, remember that this is exactly the kind of thing that's happening in the true autosphere—and, likewise, someone is hopping on their blog and posting about their own ride across town. And, this is exactly the kind of thing that's happening in the true blogosphere.

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Comment by: Lucas ·
posted: Jan 23, 2006 6:42:54 PM

I really like your skeptical view of received wisdom and perception, Seth.

trackback from: J. LeRoy
posted: Jan 19, 2006 6:08:14 PM
title: Osphere of Influence

Jay Fienberg has a nice distinction between the definition of a space and our concept of participants in that defined space. This very much belongs in the discussion on the death of cyberspace. We, or at least I, have been

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