Lilia Efimova on her blog – http://blog.mathemagenic.com/ – seems also to be asking questions about how and why some relationships can be formed, developed and sustained in blogs. She asks the question: What exactly helps to establish and maintain personal relations via blogging? and suggests that one answer to this question might be in the frequency of communication and in the use of multi-channels of communication.
Some research that I’ve recently been involved in suggests that it’s a bit more than this – and that the strongest ties are formed between people who not only communicate frequently via different channels, but also are engaged in collaboration around a joint activity. My experience is that once this activity stops, then the ties weaken.
Lilia suggests that the relation between a pair of people includes three dimensions of connection: affinity, commitment and attention. I am intrigued at her point that affinity is achieved through activities of social bonding – touching, eating and drinking together. This has come at a time when I have increasingly noticed how many people on Facebook, in their blogs etc. tell us about their recent meal. But I wonder if this is a spill over from forum online socialisation activities (designed by tutors) which are often used to encourage participants to get to know each other through describing their favourite meal or retiring to the virtual cafe to socialise. It’s difficult to know whether this is really a characteristic of affinity or a norm of online socialisation.
Commitment is described by Lilia as being manifested through the effort of reading others’ weblogs, repeated interaction and maintaining your own presence via weblogs and other channels. I see commitment as something a bit larger than this – I prefer the word ‘reciprocity’, which also takes commitment, but requires some ‘giving back’. I’m not sure though whether most bloggers would agree. My feeling is that blogging can often be a one-way form of communication – from blogger to ‘out there’.
What I’m interested in is how blog relationships might be different to relationships formed through other media – how and why these blogging connections are made, and whether bloggers have specific characteristics that enable them to make these relationships via their blogs.
Thanks to Lilia for her post.