دوشنبه 8 شهریور 1389
Comments, The Personal Sphere of Expression
Exploration of Iranian Weblogs and Comments
Mass communication studies MA student
In this paper I will discuss the comments as a feedback of weblog readers to blogger of weblog. This article will answer the questions below: what’s the function of Iranian comments? And which issues are discussed in comment boxes? Do comment boxes function as an intimate and personal sphere for self expression and presentation or not?
All search engines can search all texts that are available for every one, but there are many contents that search engine can’t find like the topics and discussions which are in the comment boxes. The same podcasts can’t be searchable anyway.
Comment boxes, are hidden in most of Persian weblog services. As a result, comments of weblogs are the part that will be shown in case you click on comment box. So here is one of the safest places in blogging and exchanging the experience and some topics and words that if used in blog posts, it would be filtered. Comments are the most common feedback of viewers.
Comment, feed back, ritual communication
این مقاله در کنفرانس بین المللی رسانه های جدید، تکنولوژی های جدید منامه پذیرش گرفت.
The digital age arrives with a set of big communication challenges for traditional mainstream media: new relations with audiences (Interactivity), new languages (Multimedia) and a new grammar (Hypertext). “José Luis Orihuela”
Weblogs as a personal media can be expanded like broadcasting media. It also has the potential to gather personal community for each blogger and putting comment in other weblogs is basic form to make such personal community.
Weblogs are popular in part because they enable easy, inexpensive self-publication of content for a potentially vast audience on the World Wide Web, while being more flexible and interactive than previous publication formats, print or digital. (Herring, Scheidt, Bonus, & Wright, 2005)
Weblog was initially used to write daily content but gradually it became specialized and subject-oriented. Here we take a look at comments found in memoir weblogs. These are weblogs to which people enter accounts of their daily experiments or personal observations.
Because most subjects posted in these weblogs are ordinary daily incidents they could be viewed as windows which show social changes and happenings and show them in the way they are perceived by ordinary people.
Also weblogs could be viewed as sources from which an oral history of a specific culture could be compiled, weblogs which are written by a blogger mirror the blogger’s perspective and so are self egotistic weblogs. Unlike specialized religious, musical, political or cultural weblogs these individual perspective weblogs mirror the bloggers personality and through which it is possible to gain insight in to bloggers concept of his/her daily life and his or her identity.
There are many researches on weblog realm, but all of them focus on posts, links and blogger. Comment study is a missing part. Gilad Mishne and Natalie Glance have worked on comments and analyses the comments for evaluating the post and weblogs.
And they argued comments are missing text in blogging and they found out comments constitute a substantial part of the blogosphere, accounting for up to 30% of the volume of weblog posts themselves.
In Iran there is no working on comments. All of the existent studies are about posts.
The basic models of communication participate of sender, message and receiver.
The researchers just explain how the communicational systems perform in media especially in Weblogs. But no research explain how the audiences effect on blogger with just sending their feedback in Comment shape or another types like : catch the blogger online in Weblogs community, or keeping their online contact via chatting, or sending mail and so on.
Feedback: Weiner (1948) is the first person who mentioned feed back in communication studies.
He defines it as “the property of being able to adjust future conduct by past performance.”(Brooks et all, 1976:147)
In other hand, Feedback is a kind of reflection of communicational message that the receiver reflect to the message of sender intentionally or not intentionally. These messages of audience let the sender to evaluate his communication situation with his audience.
Healthy communicational system use feedback for correcting communicational system. (Shokrkhah, 2000:80)
Comment: To pay attention to the reasons of the evidences and evaluation of news or process that broadcast as this column name or paper. (Shokrkhah, 2000:44)
Comment means interpretation, explanation but in blogging it means the audience can put their idea on the specific box as their feedback to posts. (Shamshirgar, 2007)
Some unique features of comment boxes are:
1) Not being searchable therefore can t be filtered?
2) It is the place that the feedbacks of the viewers can easily be shown.
3) It makes it a private place for viewers.
4) Most of the important discussion between bloggers and viewers can be made there.
The same thing in all types of Weblogs in each position is need of being commented.
History of Persian blogging
To understand how the Iranian blog sphere looks like, it is necessary to review the blogging history and Iranian blog services. The first Persian weblog was inaugurated in September, 2001 by Salman Jariri.(Wikipedia)
A wave of blogging began by the time “a manual of generating weblogs” was published in Iran by Hossein Darakhshan. Weblogs appeared quickly and 100 were generated during the very first year.
During the first years the number of weblogs exceeded 10000 thanks to Persian Blog services.
Hossein Darakhshan , one of blogging harbingers in his Weblog titled: “Sardabir-e-khodam” writes about politics, culture and himself in English and Persian. (Wikipedia)
history of Iranian blog services and a study of comment box systems
Free Persian language blogging service provider named PersianBlog began it’s work in 2002.
Because most early Iranian bloggers held political views and biases blogging became known as a political expression. After 2003 this conception gradually changed by introduction of other types of weblog including video-blogs and photo-blogs and podcast .to gain an insight into Iranian blog services and their comment systems a history of their activity is given below:
Persianblog was the first Persian weblog service provider which began its activity in June 2002 and was the biggest Persian weblog service provider until 2007.
From then and as a result of competition with other providers, Blogfa has acquired the first place .In 2007 Persianblog lost many of its subscribers and his domain was hacked.
They have recently included a private commenting icon in their services.
At the beginning the commenting service of Persian blog was relatively secure because it included a coding image icon for registering comments. It was then removed and so the possibility of receiving spam has since increased.
Blogsky:On April 9th 2003 while many doubts still persisted regarding the first Iranian blogging service provider, the second such provider was inaugurated. Its simple but engaging appearance told of a fierce competitor. (shomaha,2009)
Better services and higher speeds have drawn many users to Blogsky in a way that 6000 bloggers registered in a span of 20 days.
Blogsky was hacked in the same year and many users backed off. In 2004 and as a result of invasive filtering of some blogs registered at Blogsky many users were disappointed with this provider.
Mihanblog : Mihanblog was the third Persian language weblog service provider which was inaugurated in November 2004.
A special feature of this provider’s services was that commentators could post their private comments on each post and also it was possible to group weblogs. Weblogs provided by Mihanblog are generally used by bloggers who post jokes, entertainment links and music downloads links. Some mishaps including deletion of archives and other glitches during 2005 and 2006 dispersed users.
The provided domain was bought by another group and after undergoing drastic changes it again entered service providing business. This time around with many additional services and trims, including a personal message inbox possibility of posting to the future ,9 commenting casts and password protected posts, each blog is a users identifier and a user can also post comments to one another and communication is thus made easier. Many interactions between users which was included in box comments (such as greetings and personal questions) were now included in personal message system.
Mihanblog currently holds second position among Iranian weblog service providers and 500th position in the world.
Parsiblog: Parsiblog was inaugurated in August 2004 and it provides special features included advanced commenting system and electronic signing of comments and a system for tracking comments after they are posted and registration of commentators I.Ps and possibility of posting answers to comments through directors panel. Such facilities however were accompanied by bugs and technical problems and so were not greatly popular.
Blogfa: it began in December 2004 and because at the time blogfa was backed it flourished unhindered without facing serious competition .In a span of 4 months 30000 active or semi active blogs were registered by it.
Apart from incidents which befell these blogs the provider was not seriously harassed and it now holds first position among weblog service providers. One shortcoming is it’s commenting service which is easily filled with spams. Each weblog could be targeted with spam engines while being updated and the problem won’t be mitigated even when an image coding icon in contrived. Increasing the rank of the page in particular in Google is the aims of these spam comments. (Azemati, 2005)
Wordpress is a foreign provider which has become popular with Iranian bloggers. What distinct this provider from Iranian providers is that the commentary page is not a separate web page and thus could be googled or otherwise searched. Also if a blogger uses strong language he or she could be barred by webmaster.
The in common parts in those mentioned blog services are: name, E-Mail, page Address, message and the option for saving the information in comment boxes. There is also a Smily box in near of all them.
In the early years of weblogs most interactions in the virtual world were through weblogs, commentary pages and more importantly emails and chartrooms. In recent years however other tools such as feed readers including Google reader, twitter and friend feed have brought in many more ways of interaction and have revolutionalized interactions in the virtual world. For example since feed reading was introduced in Persian weblogs users could express what they wanted to include in their comments through an alternative route namely by adding notes on share items. Comments have become smaller in this way and more people would be able to visit the post.. It is possible in twitter to express ones feeling in each instant using 140 characters and under the logo:
What are you doing?
Many regular bloggers now communicate with their audience through other ways. Participants in weblogs are usually called bloggers or commentators while they are referred to as followers and friends in twitter and friend feed respectively. They could offer feedbacks in each instant and drive a bilateral discourse in such a direction that it becomes a group interaction .Its in contrast to the conventional commentary page which was seldom visited simultaneously by the blogger and the commentator.
To avoid getting involved with these new and alternative tools of interaction in the virtual world we shall only considered posts posted during 2007 or earlier .when these alternative tools were not active yet and weblogs have a distinct identity.
In the initial research we have launched an on-line questionnaire to get a view of commenting habits of users. We asked those bloggers who posted comments in other bloggers weblogs to also attend the program .we were able to extract 304 answer sheets eventually.
In the second phase in order to put constraints on the sample we only contacted memoir weblogs .Because accessing all Persian memoir weblogs is not feasible we were driven to use a non-random sampling.
Our statistical population included Iranian memoir weblogs which were inaugurated before 2007. We have studied comments of three posts for each Weblog, these three being randomly selected from comments on that weblogs.
30 weblogs were selected through Purposive samples on different weblog service providers or from those who had personal domains.
Purposive samples comprised of subjects which are selected on the basis of specific characteristics .Those subjects which don’t meet the criteria are eliminated from the sample. (wimmer et al,2005:126)
We allocated a quota of the sample to each weblog service provider to incorporate them all in our study. Later we found out that most bloggers who blog their memoirs subscribe to Blogfa.
In most weblogs the forum is not used as a peripheral place of communication (93%).
38% of bloggers post under pseudonyms.
29% of bloggers set their comment boxes in a way that they would need the blogger’s confirmation before they are accessible .Another 66% don’t require a confirmation and 5% have barred commenting in their weblogs.
Commenting habits: 13% use different names when posting comments. 18% always post comments when surfing through weblogs. 40% posted comment most of time and 33% only occasionally considering the feedback, 11% always and 21.5% usually and 28% occasionally.
Considering feedbacks: One interesting result is that people give feedbacks to other person’s feedbacks given through comments and at times a feedback takes priority over a post and becomes the target of next comments.
23% of subjects read other peoples comments posted on other bloggers weblogs. 36% usually do that. 32% sometimes do that. 7% seldom do that and 2% never do that. 4% stated that they always answer comments posted on weblogs belonging to third parties. 10% stated they usually do this and 34% stated that they sometimes do this the statistics show that people not only read comments posted but also study feedbacks given to other peoples posts. This could affect the feedbacks given by themselves. Some stated that they even answer comments posted on weblogs belonging to third party bloggers.
Functions of comments
With observing 30 memoir blogs, we found the comment function below: getting feedback, communication in different levels with different aims including an overture to friendship or a means to a deeper friendship or strengthening an existing relationship, sharing experiences, announcing one’s presence or asking permission to be present, also ritual relationship or advertisement.
Comment boxes are suitable way to communicate and to send feedbacks. E-mailing may not be easy for bloggers but comment boxes have facilitated web communication on their own account.
A majority have said that they share experiences in comment boxes.7% states they always do this.40% stated they usually do this. 29% said they sometimes do this .16% said they seldom do this and 6% said they never do this.
It became apparent that another function of comment boxes is to increase the number of visitors to a weblog .To the question that whether bloggers increase their visitors through this method a majority gave a positive answer .5% stated that they always do that 21.5 stated that they usually do that and 28% said they sometimes do that.
To the question that I inform others of my weblog being updated through posting comments in comment boxes 22% stated that they always do that,35% said they sometimes do that .This shows that bloggers use commenting to announce their weblog is being updated and increase visitors feedback in this way .
Sometimes we communicate not to share information but just to keep a communication going and to communicate for its own sake.
According to James Carrey ritual communication is on the same level as sharing, participation, association, fellowship and adhering to a common belief.
Ritualistic concept of communication doesn’t deal with distributing a message in time or space but tries to keep the society in a given moment. It doesn’t intend to share information but to represent existence of a common belief. (Rothenbuhler, 1998)
In comments which convey greeting or valediction are seen galore. Sentences like hello? How are you? at first of comments and bye and take care at last of comments are so common. To the question that ‘I am accustomed to greeting when posting comments’. 18% stated that they always adhere to formalities.20% stated that usually do.
22% said they sometimes do. 21% said they seldom do and 16% said they never do.
These results confirm preponderance of ritual communications in comment boxes. Sometimes we don’t have any particulate opinion to convey and so we just announce our presence with a simple “hello” or by showing an icon. In such cases we are using ritual communication.
Subjects being discussed in comment boxes
Memoir weblogs are usually about daily events faced by the blogger and the blogger is the main subject of them.
Comments in such weblogs are not of a divisive and agitating nature. Comments could be divided into 4 categories on the basis of their contents. These are:
Individual –oriented comments, content –oriented comments, advertisements and spam, and expression of personal interests. Many comments however are individual –oriented and content-oriented .These latter comments only express the commentator’s opinion on the subject of discussion in the post.
In exclusively individual-oriented comments the subject of comment is the individual and is unrelated to the content of the post. Because the blogger him/her self is the subject in most posts in memoir weblogs most comments are simultaneously individual –oriented and content-oriented apart from that there are comments which express personal interests of those who post them as well as their opinions on the entirety of the weblog, including back ground music, colors, frame, pictures, java codes, etc.
Spams and advertisement are unwilling comments which are posted to increase the visitor to a website, also to advertise a website or selling online. (Like movie, music & CD)
These comments are usually among first comments of a post because most these comments are forwarded to all updated weblogs subscribed to a service provider through a smart engine. Such commonly observable comments are mostly found in weblogs provided by Blogfa.
Clash of ideas could be mostly seen in political weblogs in memoir weblogs on the contrary sustained communication and mutual support could be mostly observed. The reason could be the fact that we are mostly unchallenged when talking about quotidian.
Are comment boxes a private venue for negotiation in memoir weblogs?
comment boxes play a great part in sharing experiments and sympathizing and ritual communication Because bloggers usually divulge different angles of their lives in post the audience conceives of those with whom the blogger deals in his/ her daily life and also his/ her habits and ideas in such a way as perceived by the blogger him/her self. It is not rare that a blogger writes about most intimate matters in his or her weblogs matters which he/she won`t dare forward in an actual or official gathering it’s the anonymity of the blogger which encourages him/ her to write without inhibition and it has been seen that after a bloggers cover is busted then he/ she stops blogging or posting altogether to the question whether you think commenting webpage is a suitable place for exchanging ideas 1.8% totally confirmed this and 36% confirmed this as a general but not as an absolute fact. 23% didn’t comment on that question while 21% rejected this notion and 3% rejected it totally. Contrary to these opinions is the following: 21% always delete comments when they are too intimate. 20% sometimes delete and sometimes keep to intimate comments, 21% seldom delete such comments and 15% never delete them. The subjects were asked in another question whether they delete an insulting comment 32% always delete such comments. 20% usually delete them 16% sometimes delete them, 18% seldom and the remaining 12% never deleted such comments.
Bloggers usually react to both insults and intimate comments in incorporate other peoples comments in their post. Only 21.5% and 4.5% stated that they seldom or never (respectively) incorporate other peoples comments in their posts.
Comment function in a blog allows for the reader to become a part of the blogger’s script.
As a consequence in memoir weblogs the discussion in comments boxes are about blogger (person) or the subject of the post. and because of that many of comments are personal.
Commenting, on the other hand, takes a bit of the privacy away from the author and shares it with the audience, as was shown in the case of Jill's troll. (Nilsson: 2006:12)
But there are some more questiones: what is the definition of private message? Why do the authors delete private message as insulting message?
Comment and identity: 13% of bloggers are used to put their comments with different names and 61% of bloggers write with their nick name but 55% completely agreed that when they put comment they are their real identity.
As results showed even near one forth of bloggers, they use to use their nick name (which is not their real name: alias), but when they put comments in other blogs, they do as characteristics of their real identity. They hide themselves (the real self) behind the aliases.
On the question of whether one posts comments under his or her real name and identity or uses pseudonyms 55% said they use their real identity, another 36% lauded posting comments under real identity and no one was found who totally rejected this.
10% said they use pseudonyms when they post comment, and 6% totally agreed that they only used pseudonyms. 42% said their weblog character is the same with their real character and 40% reiterated this point. Only 7% rejected and 6% totally rejected this idea.
Khalili has worked on Iranian weblogs. She found out that: 57% of bloggers use the real name in writing weblog. This fact can prove that most of the bloggers don’t like the virtual character. (Khalili, 2005:116)
Otherwise 43% of bloggers write with nick name, but when they put comment they show their real identity.
In this paper, we gave a categorization of comments and we have discussed that comment is a common way to send feedback to the blogger. And comment boxes are safe place for expression but so private messages can be deleted by blogger. Maybe with these private messages some of the extents of blogger can be shown and it can take the privacy away from the blogger. In fact blogger prefer deleting the comment.
Acknowledgements: The author wish to thank Saeid Reza Ameli, Mahdi Bakhshaei and Ali Reza Shirazi for many useful discussions and for their assistance.
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