working through divides

The internet provides fantastic opportunities to stay connected to ones interests, regardless of location. I’ve been on the move recently, and I’ve been engaging anthropologists and academics I meet using my blog as a business card of sorts. I’m not sure how well it will work out, but hopefully I’ll successfully bring some new collaborators into the mix.

I’ve found it difficult to engage non-bloggers, at least in terms of getting them to respond on this blog. I’ve been piling up offline interviews to compliment this discussion, but it brings up a huge point that there are strategies for building interest and communication and it would certainly help to refine these blogging strategies.

A few things to think about:

  • How can we get non-bloggers to participate in online, public, discussions. What stops them from participating?


Mary discusses the way conservative and liberal political bloggers rarely interact online, and how this is also the case for climate change bloggers. Most of the time opposing sides ignore each others writing. She writes,

“In a recent Public Choice (sorry, it’s subscription) article Hargittai, Gallo, & Kane (2008) studied the way bloggers interact on political topics, focusing on the interactions between liberal and conservative bloggers.  The shortest explanation of their findings is that there isn’t much interaction at all, at least not much productive interaction that leads to topical debate.”

As people pick and chose what to read, it’s easy to ignore opinions one doesn’t care for. But is this divide what political bloggers are looking for? How should we approach our writing to emphasize discussion between biased parties?  Mary’s post reminded me of one of my early research papers in the masters program, where I looked into nationalism and the internet. In it I wrote:

“Kluver writes “By personalizing news portals, web search guides, etc., the user is able to completely isolate himself or herself from issues that require knowledge and experience outside his or her own” (Kluver, 2001:5). The internet, as a civic space, allows for new kinds of discourse, but this discourse can be controlled to support and vent national sentiment, and not necessarily to work against it.  In this way the internet facilitates the division of ideas and people into “culturally homogeneous units” that never need to interact – although it can be structured to do so. “

Using blogs as a space for ethnographic research, it is an important  thing to consider. Fabian promotes confrontation as a style of conversation and inquiry, arguing disagreement and honest engagement is important. But how can we modify our approach to engage the “other side?”

I’ll attach my nationalism and the internet paper too so that I can find it later, and for those interested who have a lot of reading time. Keeping it on my hard drive is a sure way to lose it forever.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by mktheberge on October 27, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Hi Owen,
    When I started my blog I had hoped to bridge existing divides. I didn’t realise how many I was facing, though. In one sense I am having the same problem as you–trying to get non-bloggers involved in my blog. One of my most faithful readers is not a blogger and she insists on emailing her comments to me. She just can’t get comfortable with the public aspects of blogging. I find it frustrating because her comments are interesting and insightful, yet they never lead to a discussion that reaches beyond the two of us. I am trying to convince her to let me post her comments as an intro to one of my posts…we’ll see how that works out. Let me know if you make any progress in engaging non-bloggers.

    Your post also made me reexamine what divides I actually intend to bridge. I wanted to connect with other anthropologists and other people who blogged about environmental sustainability. I wanted to be able to communicate with both these groups; to cross a topical divide I suppose, and see how anthropology and sustainability bloggers were able to engage each other.

    Within the broad group of sustainability bloggers, the divide I never intended to cross was engaging the group of people who deny that climate change is a problem. This didn’t seem strange for me and my project, and my post only arose as I noticed that the sustainability bloggers that I watched rarely tried to engage the people on the otherside of the debate. What I don’t understand is why they wouldn’t want to communicate across this divide. Why does it seem that more often than not bloggers aren’t capitalising on the latent potential of blogging to reach new groups and begin a dialogue?

    I’m still trying to get an answer. Good luck to you


  2. […] via working through divides « another anthro blog […]


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