Blogging Continues To Gain Popularity

Posted on May 28, 2004

Democratic candidate for President Howard Dean's race for the nomination has ended. But he may still have secured a place in history as the first presidential candidate to rely heavily on blogs.

A blog, or online diary, according to Laurie Brown, a faculty member of the Multi-Media and Web Design Department of The Art Institute of California -- San Francisco, can be defined as "an online diary that relates personal facts and stories, political opinions, or anything else that the writer wants to convey."

Dean's use of blogs allowed him to communicate with voters, speak on issues, and solicit donations. Many believe Dean's decision to use blogs helped him reach young and disenfranchised voters and secure an early lead in the race.

While the term blogs is relatively new, Wendi Dunlap-Simpson of The Art Institute of Seattle explains, "blogging was a natural development from the basic 'home page.'" Since the web began in the first half of the 1990s, many individuals began their own personal web pages, often including links they found of interest. Says Dunlop-Simpson, "Some people updated their web logs frequently with commentary, while others did so less frequently and without much commentary. Eventually people started calling the ones that were updated often with new commentary 'weblogs,' and later 'blogs.'"

For Sean Fitzroy, an Instructor in the Department of Multimedia and Web Design at The New England Institute of Art, blogs offer a new approach to classroom learning. Says Fitzroy, "All of the students in my Internet Technologies class are required to keep a blog. They no longer turn in writing assignments on paper. Instead they publish their ideas on the World Wide Web and have the option to review, respond to, and link to other students' blogs. Fitzroy says blogs can run the gamut, for example, "blogs can be simple project tracking systems to cathartic 'tell-all' personal diaries, or fall somewhere in between private and public communication."

Has blogging changed the face of online communication? Perhaps. Robert A. Emmons Jr., Assistant Academic Director of Multimedia & Web Design at The Art Institute of Philadelphia says, "After reading many blog entries, I found some that were astoundingly personal. I imagine that in the back of their mind, they might be thinking, 'Well, no one is going to read it anyway,' but many times someone does, someone that can relate to what's being written. This idea empowers us. To connect," he says.

Not all blogs however are serious in nature. In fact, some of the most popular blogs can be funny and compelling reflections of their writer's personal hobbies or obsessions, for example, a blog by and about a fanatical knitter ( wendyknits.net ). Blogs can also morph into books. Julie Powell, a secretary from Staten Island, cooked her way through all 524 recipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and is turning her online diary ( http://blogs.salon.com/0001399 ) into a book.

Like Dean's blogs, online diaries can be similar to a daily newscast, but take a smaller, more intimate approach. For example, during the initial battles in the war in Iraq, an Iraqi student kept a blog about his emotions and experiences during the first days of "shock and awe." According to Anthony Moy, instructor in the Multi Media & Web Design department of the Illinois Institute of Art -- Chicago "the blog allowed many people around the world to experience the other side of the international conflict from a less adulterated and personal level."

So what do you need to get started blogging? A computer and an internet connection, for starters. There are several websites devoted to the art of blogging. One of the biggest, according to Robert Emmons, is Blogger.com. Other sites include Weblogs.com, Bloggerforum.com, and Diaryland.com. Some social networking services now also provide free blogs.

Internet watchers say it's too soon to predict the future of blogs. Says Wendi Dunlop-Simpson, "so much information, and yes, so much blather. But it's wonderful that worldwide publishing is now available to anybody with a web site. There are a lot of great writers and great stories out there, and now we get to see what we would have missed if the Web didn't exist."

The Art Institutes, with 30 education institutions located throughout North America, provides education for design, media arts, fashion and culinary professionals. The Art Institutes have provided career-oriented education programs for 40 years, with more than 140,000 graduates.

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