I don't usually blog about blogging, I find it a little too self referential for my liking, but last weekend I was talking to a friend about blogs and he told me he didn't particularly like the idea. His explanation of why he didn't see blogs as a valuable social construct went along the lines that on one side of the spectrum you had articles in journals which had high peer review, but were extremely narrow in scope. Blogs were at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, extremely wide in scope, but absolutely no peer review.
This got me thinking, and caused me to re-read the article that got me into blogging in the first place. I find it strange that whenever I mention Joi Ito, or his paper "Emergent Democracy" even to active bloggers, I get blank looks. I think it's a must read for any serious blogger. In the paper Joi Ito argues for the emergent nature of blogging and related social technologies. By emergent it is taken to mean the "self organising ability of complex systems". In refutation to my friends objection to blogs, I'd like to quote directly from the paper.
"Noise in the system is suppressed, and signal amplified. Peers read the operational chatter at Mayfield's creative network layer. At the social network layer, bloggers scan the weblogs of their 150 acquaintances and pass the information they deem significant up to the political networks. The political networks have a variety of local maxima which represent yet another layer. Because of the six degrees phenomenon, it requires very few links before a globally significant item has made it to the top of the power curve. This allows a great deal of specialization and diversity to exist at the creative layer without causing disruptive noise at the political layer."
I concede that any individual blog article by any individual blogger in and of itself has not been peer reviewed, and this is the way it should be. However the blogsphere by its very nature will self organise in such a way that it will give the effect of peer review / critique. I don't think we have reached utopia yet (my entry in this years "understatement of the year competition"), and I believe that there is still a way to go, still new technologies that are required, different online social structures to be explored, but when I originally read "Emergent Democracy" I was captured by the vision.