Does linking mean?
Eons ago in my previous blog I was racking my head over link blogs. I came to the conclusion that under certain circumstances linking had implications in the construction of meaning— so, Jonathon, I am not nearly as averse to the idea of link blogs as a medium of self-expression as I once was. I really meant to expand that post further to embrace the “writerly types” out there— because displaying your creative talents through writing is also, as Jonathon observed, a form of show-and-tell. However, I find both of these approaches less revealing than what might be called expressivist “creative non-fiction”— manifest in blogs of personal exploration which do not rely too deeply on constructed personae. I think it was Golub who argued that link-blogging is a process of persona-construction. I disagreed at first, but I’ve since seen the light. I don’t begrudge anyone who decides they want to share something— in fact, I rather like it.
But does linking mean? I came to the conclusion that if it does, it does so only subtly. That’s why I refuse to submit to delinking. The assumption involved is that link-aggregators like blogdex are “popularity indexes”— that is a really twisted rhetorical perspective. What these devices do is highlight the subtle nature of community on the Internet. They establish the shifting context of the discourse, spread among thousands of sites— a phenomenon well worth studying, in my estimation. However, because I link to something does not mean that I like it, dislike it, or am just amused by it— to accentuate only the postive, affirming side of linking is to deny its complexity. Link networks are only “popularity” indexes in terms of affirming interest. I wondered about linking to the racial-hate material in my previous post. But I figured that what mattered most was the content of the post, not any electronic aggregation of the context. Aggregation is imprecise, inaccurate, and devoid of content.
For me at least, a blogroll has absolutely nothing to do with popularity and everything to do with context, and one of my favorite things as a lazy person— convenience. These are the sites I regularly visit. I have my history set to purge each three days, so the links to blogs change so that I know if I’ve been neglecting to read my usual ones. I really don’t think very many people use it at all, except me, to keep track of my own little “neighborhood.” I believe that linking to posts within a blog rather than on the sidebar may have a strong impact (depending on the popularity of the blog) on traffic. However, the primarily static sidebar links only show a bit of my context within the complex blog discourse community. It’s a subtle thing. When I’ve been reading a blog for long enough to be attached to its writer, I like to explore their links to find out more about what they like to read. I find it nice, convenient, and often enlightening.
Blogrolls can help you find people you’d like to read, that is, if you like the person whose blog you find them on. There are no guarantees. They subtly aid the process of developing communities without overt rhetorical posturing— which a roll of “my favorite posts” would surely involve. I often find blogs I really like by looking at my referrer logs to see who has linked me. I don’t always link back though, because my sidebar is monstrous and there are only so many hours in the day to read blogs. Being placed on my sidebar is not a vote of affirmation, only a vote of interest. To read my blogroll, or anyone’s for that matter, as a popularity contest displays a lack of subtlety— interest and affirmation are not synonymous.