Blogs as Information Interfaces

There’s a discussion at Jeff Jarvis’ Buzzmachine about what term should be used to describe “blogs” (the assumption being, apparently, that “blogs” is too techie, or has a negative connotation, or something like that). Jeff has frequently used the term “citizens’ media,” but Bill Keller suggested perhaps “peoples’ media” is a better fit. Jeff’s current offering is Volksmedia: “I like that. It has a funky, retro, populist, Volkswagen feel, of course, with that buggy attitude.” An almost certain response was the connotation between “volks” and Hitler. So, toss that out.

I suggested in the comments that there’s no need to hold onto the “media” handle at all. Blogging doesn’t need to be defined as “something like the existing media, but of the people.” Naming it “citizens’ media” follows the common trend of naming a new technology in terms of the old (often by negating part of its original features): “horseless carraige” or “wireless.” Rather than thinking about how blogs can be related to traditional media, we should think about blogging’s unique formal features: connectivity, conversational, global, informational, and so on.

I would argue that blogs are information interfaces. Information interfaces are technologies for arranging, storing, displaying, retrieving and navigating information, ranging from scientific classification systems, encyclopedias, maps, library card catalogs, computer files sytems, graphical user interfaces, and web search engines. An information interface serves as a kind of translator, mediating between an information-space and the user, making one sensible to the other. An information interface is a necessary medium by which we gain knowledge. As such, an information interface plays a crucial role in not only the communication and representation of books in a collection, files on a hard drive or information on the web, but also in how we understand these information-spaces, and ultimately, the world around us.

While I typically equate information interfaces with file navigation systems, the idea can easily be extended to blogs. Blogs, especially when utilized in conjunction with tools such as RSS feeds and Technorati, represent a interface between users and information – bringing us into closer conversations, closer informational scrutiny, and closer apprehension of knowledge.

Blogs are an interface more than a medium; they bring people and ideas in contact with each other.


MORE: Do you want to define the tool, or that which it facilitates? The Internet is not called “people’s computers” or the “folks network”. Rather, it is talked about in terms of what it creates, the space it enables: “cyberspace”

Is this a blog, a folkmedia? Or is it something more than the sum of its parts: a conversation, a space where information is shared & critiqued? “Infospace” “Idea-space”

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