Yesterday we were exploring the nature of the social animal – as in man and blog and what happens when you mix them together. I wonder if Einstein in any of his experiments ever found any two ingredients that reacted differently every time he mixed them together like man and blog do? 😉
Growing up in Australia my Mum eventually married a local (you’re wondering how this is going to come back to blogging aren’t you). My Step Dad Neil has had a life long stuttering problem and when I interacted with him when I was younger he used to communicate with a pen and notepad with many solo words and abbreviated sentences and a lot of body english thrown in for emphasis. Neil would write a sentence and say something like “Too right Mate!” and add a chuckle. What’s my point? After some time I found that conversations were quite different with Neil. I realized that for everything I said to Neil, that he had to write at some length to answer and interact. Similarly, he didn’t seem to write or talk inanely. And he didn’t write/talk in short hand – he wrote everything out. Asking a simple question of Neil could mean a lot of effort for Neil. And you had to wait a while for an answer. At first this was a little frustrating but after a while you found a rhythm to it that seemed to change the nature of the conversation. Perhaps because of this I began to adjust how I communicated with him. I would think more carefully about what he was saying before responding. I didn’t ask him as many simple or chatty questions as I might have in a normal conversation. I took time to craft my verbal points and questions. After some time what was lost by the inefficiency of this communication method was replaced with an intangible that I perceived as more valuable conversation. Did I mention that Neil was a writer? He didn’t write in a short hand IM style either, he wrote with flair. I was reminded of this because Neil is here visiting right now with my Mum from Australia and he rarely uses the notepad anymore. He still struggles with stuttering but due to his never ending work to beat stuttering, and the most recent method he has tried, he’s been able to improve his speaking ability significantly. One of the things I’ve learned about stuttering is that people who stutter almost never make eye contact – it feels impossible for them too. In Neil’s more recent training one of the things they focus on is training the speaker to make eye contact when speaking. Maybe this seems a little off topic but I think it’s another example of the amazing array of subtleties of communication that are sign posts for why we need to learn more about blogs.
If pressed for our best guess, we would say that blog writing, how people interpret and value blogs, and therefore how blogs influence us are subtly but profoundly different in their nature from any writing and communication that we’ve known. One of the things that happened with Mehrabian’s research is that people began regurgitating it (like we are) and took it out of context, like we’re probably doing ;-). His research specifically measured feelings and attitudes. When you see the formula it makes you re-think things a little.
“total Liking = 7% Verbal Liking + 38% Vocal Liking + 55% Facial Liking”
That’s why scholars caution us to avoid using Mehrabian’s 7/38/55 rule out of context for ANY mode of communication. That’s one of the reasons why we’re cautioning our community to not take web metrics out of context now with measuring blogs.
How did writing a journal online come out to be a universal compelling authentic form of communication? No one wrote for marketing purposes in the early days of blogging but there’s a huge influential byproduct created by a well-crafted blog that is now being manipulated for many purposes – including evil capitalist pig marketing. Oh, just kidding. The interactive nature of blogs, as well as the instant linking between a multitude of people and ideas that the Internet enables are keys as to their value as well. Blogs and consumer-generated content, combined with the web, are to ideas and influence what the first printing press was for the reformation of the Church and a myriad other social and technological revolutions.
Mehrabian’s success came from how he used his background in engineering and natural science to create a unique approach, and new yardsticks for measuring complex concepts.
Let’s not miss the point
I want the blogosphere to find the next Albert Mehrabian — the person who has a better formula for understanding blogs:
p align=”center”>(neuro and social psychological training and scientific background) x (a true netizen’s context, knowledge and sensibility)
= a real understanding of this tiger that we have a hold of
Maybe that’s not the right formula but you get the idea. It’s powerful for sure – even more than we first imagined – and it’s changing our world every day. In the mean time we’d suggest that we simply STOP using the wrong yardsticks and work on understanding why blogging works.
This series of posts is very much a conversation in progress. Hopefully that’s obvious from how we’ve communicated our thoughts. What we’re saying in the end is that this is highly complex stuff. Bloggers like us can sense these things and write about them but we’d be the first ones to say that we’re out of our league (by a country mile) when it comes to answering these questions. We’re amazed that we (the collective we) have the audacity then to propose and use metrics to measure a blog’s value when we know so little about them. If this post were a highway sign it would say ‘road under construction’ and ‘proceed with caution.’ Any metrics we use for now with blogs should be viewed the same way.
What are your thoughts?
Perhaps you’d like to write part V in this series? Seriously, anyone want a go? It’s time for us to stop wanking on and expand our minds and we can’t do that when we’re just proselytizing to the ether…