I first heard the word blog when we were compiling the headword list for the Encyclopedia of Community, the subtitle of which is ‘from the village to the virtual world.’ Our Internet communities editor Barry Wellman had included it and we already had an author signed up. “What,” I said irritably, “is a blog?”
“A web log, of course,” said our project assistant, “Do you have a problem with including it?”
I was chagrined not to know about them, and chagrined that our Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction had gone to press without an article on web logs. But “Blog” remained in place in our new work on all aspects of community. In fact, they were everywhere in 2004. (Remember the New York Times magazine cover story about the political bloggers at the party conventions?)
In that article for the Encyclopedia of Community, Jason Nolan explains, “Blogs have been traced back to 1997, according to Rebecca Blood, an early chronicler of blogging and author of The weblog handbook. They were termed weblogs by blogger Jorn Barger, and only twenty-three were known to exist when ‘Peter Merholz announced in early 1999 that he was going to pronounce it ‘wee-blog’ and inevitably this was shortened to “blog”‘ (Blood, 2000). Blogs are children of older online technologies such as Usenet News, bulletin boards, handrolled web pages, and eve MOOs (Multi-User Object Oriented systems), but the blogging revolution comes from the ease with which one can update and maintain an online journal.”
Blogs are not necessarily a community-building tool, like a wiki or even an old-fashioned online bulletin board. But they can be, and that’s where we’re heading with this blog. I’m getting it warmed up, but we’ll soon have others connected with Berkshire Publishing adding their thoughts, and we want to move the debate about interdisciplinary scholarship started at the Charleston Conference to this forum.