Blogs, information relationships and imaginary friends

Lilia Efimova is running an interesting series of blogposts on the outcomes of her interviews with a group of leading bloggers writing about knowledge management and related topics.

One of the interviews is with Nancy White (Full Circle Associates).  In this interview, Nancy talks about information relationships vs human relationships emerging as a result of blogging. The notion of information relationships is that blogs allow to connect in a meaningful way to a wide range of people and their ideas without necessarily engaging with them on a personal level – as Nancy says “trust in what they are producing, which may have nothing to do with trust in them as a human being”.

I like this concept, and this quote formulates very well what I have been thinking about as the liberating aspect of the sorts of instrumental, utilitarian (in the good sense) social networks that can develop in the blogosphere.

When I think about various types of aggregations of indviduals and knowledge – groups, communities, network, and the collective – I always have a bit of a problem, a sense of discomfort, with the notion of “community”.   For me, “community” – in the social as well as learning-related sense – has always had something oppressive about it, like being stuck in a village where everyone gossips about everyone else and where there is a pressure to fit in, to fully participate.

In contrast, information/knowledge networks you can form in blogosphere do not require such full engagement on such a personal level.  I am not an avid blogger myself (this blog is very new and I am still trying to get into the habit of writing regularly). However, over years, I have accumulated a list of around 50 blogs that I read/scan daily.  In most of the cases, I don’t know the authors personally, and with many of them I have never had a conversational exchange, yet I feel I know them professionally, their ideas have shaped mine, they helped and are helping me every day tremendously to learn and feel intelectually connected and stimulated, not to mention helping me find, filter and evaluate resources for my research (books, papers, etc).

A friend I was once explaining this to joked “well sounds like you have a lot of imaginary friends”. It’s an interesting, different type of relationship, yet still a very meaningful one.

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6 comments

  1. Anoush,
    nice to see you picking up this topic. What I find interesting is that in the blogosphere you can do both, create strong personal connections with some people and have “information relationships” with others. I’m still trying to draw the boundaries between those and to identify conditions behind them.

  2. It seems that I’ll end up citing this post in the discussion section for the chapter, hope you don’t mind. I’ll blog it as soon as it’s readable, so you have an idea what is in there 🙂

    And, I’m really looking forward to reading more of your work after I’m done with the dissertation (also had a bit of quiet following :). Feel a bit sad deviating so far from my informal/workplace learning interests and want to bring some of it back into work.

  3. No problem re citing the post, Lilia. I look forward to reading your dissertation as well as the rest of this series.

    Yes through reading your blogs over the years I did observe your gradual shifting away from your orginial interests. But I think perhaps it’s been more of zooming into an aspect of informal learning (personal KM/blogs) rather than really deviating from it.

    It’s a pity we never had a chance to meet up while I was in Twente, but it would be great to explore possibilities to collaborate in the future, once you are finished with -and recovered from 🙂 – your PhD.

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