statistical excursion OR lies, damned lies and statistics

I promised a good long while back that I would keep posting stuff related to my master's degree thesis. Here's a nugget that I delved into today:

Compare the "State of the Blogosphere" reports from David Sifry in March 2005 and February 2006. The 2005 report shows that Technorati is tracking 7.8 million blogs, and that that number doubles roughly every 5 months. 38.000 blogs are created every single day.

The 2006 report, on the other hand, shows 27.2 million blogs, with 75.000 new blogs being created every day. Blog growth is nearly exponential, despite the fact that many of these blogs are left inactive after only a short period of time, 13.7 million bloggers are still posting after three months.

A more useful figure is this: 50.000 new posts are created every single hour. That means that 526 billion individual posts are created every year.

According to the Book Industry Study Group, apprx. 2,22 billion books were sold in the US in 2003. If every single blog post is read only by one other person besides the person writing it, or even just half that number, that still means that the weblog has, over only a very short period of time, eaten up quite a sizeable percentage of what people read.

According to this report, Reading at Risk by the National Endowment for the Arts, the number of people reading literature in the United States is declining rapidly, decreasing from 56.9% in 1982 to 46.7% in 2002. The big problem with this report is that it (at first glance - I have not read it in its entirety yet) fails to take into account that readers of online material are also reading something. And most readers of most weblogs are reading something literary, every single day (because weblogs are specifically literary).

To put it more bluntly, more people are reading blogs regularly than novels.

Good thing or bad thing? Well, yes, probably. I think reading novels (or literature and fiction in general) is very important, but the fact that an enormous number of people are reading complex, ongoing, participatory texts with a complex literary form every day is a good thing. If only one could get people to read both. And newspapers.

(thanks, Jill, for the NEA link!)


Anonymous S said...

I am not convinced that blogs in general can be labelled "complex literary forms", particapatory or not.

February 21, 2006 3:04 pm  
Blogger MGL said...

I hear you. There certainly is a problem here, in that we don't really know what we're talking about when we say "blog." However, I think there are several things worth noting on blogging - not as a publication platform but as a culture of writing - namely:

1. The hyperlink, which creates an explicit intertextuality, and what George Landow describes as "a basic rhetoric of departure."

2. Commenting, which creates what Roland Barthes calls a "writerly" text, blurring the reader-writer distinction.

3. The temporal nature of blogging: "blog = ego + voice + time", as one wit put it at one point. Blogs are, by their nature, making one aware of time as a structuring principle, and also makes one aware of how thoughts change over time. In 10 years, if you were to read the entire archives of my blogs, you would see my opinions, ideas, life, thoughts, areas of interest, etc. changing over time.

All these things combine to create something which is specifically literary; something which makes one aware of how and what one reads and why one reads it.

Or, of course, you could just post pictures of your cat.

February 21, 2006 3:14 pm  
Anonymous katteøjet said...

... what's wrong with blogging les chats all of a sudden? Most I know of are extremely complex entities, highly interactive and even, from time to time, blurred, yes, in fact both lisible and fatalement scriptible in an almost uncanny, postmodernist way ...

February 21, 2006 4:28 pm  
Anonymous S said...

1. I agree that the hyperlink is an important factor in the "culture of writing" department, but complex literariness it is not. Not quite, anyway.
2. I'd say that commenting is not making the text "writerly". What Barthes would label "writerly" is, the way I see it, a text that invites the reader (usually by resisting automatic and straigthforward, "readerly" reading) to be active in shaping the text, along with the text itself. A bit vague, but something along those lines anyway. Commenting in itself is merely an extention of the text, a response, like in a conversation. This depends, of course, on how you define "text" in a blogging context. Is it the original post, the post + comments, all of the posts + comments or all of the posts + comments, hyperlinks to other blogs and, ultimately, all of the internet? This is where it gets interesting and complex. It is also where I find myself outta my depth.
3. Yeah.

February 21, 2006 5:05 pm  
Blogger MGL said...

Define "complex literariness" as you see it.

(word verification: ssmgl; or ss mgl. How about that?)

February 22, 2006 1:22 pm  

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