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The Syntagma theory on the division of the Blogosphere

The Syntagma theory on the division of the Blogosphere

John Evans over at Syntagma has published an interesting concept of division amongst the blogosphere, which proposes that there are three distinct portions of the blogosphere that goes a little like this:

Primary: general consumer blogs, such as teen blogs, general chit chat and personal blogs
Secondary: business blogs
Tertiary: serious bloggers, or as John describes them “folk who talk endlessly about the blogosphere”..serious bloggers, info-providers, probloggers, A, B, and C-listers, people who use blogs to sell themselves and their ideas ~ what H.G. Wells called “the originative intellectual workers”.

He rightly points out that various debates in the blogosphere about the blogosphere (such as the recent A-List/ BlogHer debate) are held in the tertiary portion, and that considering such debates as being applicable to the notion of one blogosphere as opposed to three “garbles the argument”.

He also concludes that “Tertiary blogging is at the same stage in its cycle as the pamphlets and broadsheets that were handed out in the streets of 18th-century London” and that the mainstream media grew from the same point as well.

Now, I both support and disagree with his divisions at the same time, if such a position is possible. Evan’s is right in stating that there isn’t one blogosphere in terms of us all being equal in our intent and aims, but I’m concerned that the considerations of such divisions is unhelpful for the greater good of what is currently labelled the blogosphere because I personally hold the notion that the general application of the term blogosphere to be all encompasing of the various types of bloggers and blogging, in that this diversity is the actual key to what makes the blogosphere the wonderful place that it is, in the same way that the human race is made up of different races, religions, languages and so forth.

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At the same time though the application of the sameness I’m advocating also has its draw backs. The blog=diary notion that was so prevalent in the main stream media until about 12 months ago is an example of this, where the MSM were unable to differentiate from a consumer/ primary blogger and a tertiary blogger. The same can be held true in the inverse today in that many in the so-call A-List (ir as John refers to them: the tertiary blogosphere) tend to ignore consumer, or primary blogs and bloggers. Worse still ie the obsessions with inclusiveness from this very same tertiary blogosphere, as demonstrated by the BlogHer/ gender imbalance argument that seeks to correct a view of the blogosphere as being white male dominated when its the inability to actually see outside of the tertiary blogosphere (mono-culturalism if you like) that has caused these beliefs, not an actual basis in fact. Indeed for memory I can remember surveys that found that women outnumbered men by quite large amounts in the blogosphere, but those figures are probably more representative of the primary blogosphere as to the tertiary blogosphere.

The moral of it all? I think that understanding the Syntagma theory is important in understanding that within the blogosphere there are succinct divisions based upon methodology and intent of those within it, and yet the use of such knowledge should only be used in better understanding those differences, as opposed to being permanent divisions that divide all participants at each level. If, as John states, that the Tertiary Blogosphere is the basis for something larger, and basis of a fourth wave of media that will rise to become a primary source of information to the majority of people (after newspapers, radio and television..I exclude the internet as it currently stands because most information now is provided in part or in whole from one of the previous waves, the new wave being independent of current constructs) then it must learn to understand its audience, and its primary audience is literally that: from amongst the primary blogosphere. Understanding, respecting and listening to the majority of the blogosphere that reside within this division, is the key to the tertiary blogosphere continuing to develop. Failure to listen will eventually result in a failure of model, where in some in the primary portion take the place of those in the tertiary portion.

View Comments (7)
  • The horizontal model is a reasonable idea, and does offer some nice “labels” but is ultimately doomed to failure.

    Why? Because it’s too restrictive. What of those who enjoy BOTH “communicating with friends” AND discussing the aspects of the “blogosphere” and whatnot? Where do they fit?

    Had there been some mention of a vertical division across and through these horizontal boundaries I might be willing to consider this idea, and yes I think the “tertiary” group will (has?) spawn some “mega-bloggers”. However it won’t JUST be those who are discussing the blogosphere.

    Case in point. Dooce. One of the best known blogs and hardly ever mentions “blogosphere”. I doubt she’ll be the only exception to these rules.

  • Gordon
    I agree fully because there is a cross over between all three. I should have mentioned that one of my initial throwbacks to Johns concept of the tertiary level is the label of talking about blogs, because I automatically presumed he was talking about people who talk about the blogosphere as a concept, but it needs to be taken more broadly, take say Engadget for an example, they don’t talk about the blogosphere but they do refer to news on other blogs,so you’ve got to take it in a broader sense, but again, I share you concerns as I do with any labels. Dooce is a fine example, although in terms of the A List argument she’s pretty high profile, even if she mainly blogs about her own experiences. Perhaps John should have articulated his definition of tertiary better?

  • Don’t let’s get stuck in the idea that Tertiary bloggers only ever talk about the blogosphere. We know they do a lot, but that example was only a hook to illustrate the concept. I agree with Gordon that there are vertical divisions, like language, for example. I live 60 miles from France, yet I know two French bloggers, both of whom write good English. And how many of the millions of Primary Chinese bloggers will we ever get to access, let alone know.

    As for Duncan’s point about inclusivity, sure, and that’s why the division is horizontal, based on motivation, not racial, language, location etc. I think this tells us more about bloggers because it is inclusive. What stands out in my mind, and divides the blogosphere more completely, is the intention of the blogger. The Tertiary Blogosphere is a quantum leap away from the Primary and contains the seeds of the mainstream media of the 21st century. It’s only a model, but it does work on a number of levels.

  • My schema is the kind of audience a person writes for: one/few/many

    one == diarist, writing for themselves, the journal-keepers.

    few == chat, interested *primarily* in social events with friends, likely knows every reader.

    many == punditry, addressing (hopefully) more people than they know personally.

    The “one” and “few” writers are by far the majority, and the evangelists want to claim them because it pumps the numbers (a zillion bloggers! == diarists). Inversely, the marginalized blogger-pundits can be told by the evangelists that they should be happy to write a blog-diary, as so many other people are.
    Moroever, diaries can by hyped as “citizen journalism”, while irresponsible and absuive punditry can be excused as personal diary.

    So there’s a huge incentive to conflate these very different kinds of writing.

  • I think the point of John’s division of the blogosphere into three parts is an attempt to introduce some order (and therefore more targeted and specific) into out thinking on the subject. Sure, we can argue over whether it’s the right way to view it or whether we should be dividing it at all, but that doesn’t really get us anywhere. It’s a theoretical proposition, that’s all, and we either use it or invent a better one.

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