Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Lurkers v Audience

I just read a kind of interesting blog post linked via the NN delicious network on Lurking as Community. Basically, it's trying to take a positive spin on the lurker, which I don't mind, since I am one - always have, always will be. It suggests that the lurker can still have an impact on the community, which I don't doubt, but I just don't necessarily agree with the examples chosen. For one, the author is using a specific individual that she knows is a lurker but also knows as a RL contributor to that community. The next problem I have is that the network she specifically refers to is the blogosphere.

Lurking, as I understand it, refers to individuals who are visibly present within an interactive platform and still choose not to participate (or, more specifically, contribute, because in visibly being there they are participating by leaving a mark). Message boards are a perfect example as they are nothing but user created material and the members and guests that are viewing the forum are always listed somewhere at the bottom of the screen ("I see you lurkin'!). I like the history of the term given on Wikipedia:
The term dates back to the mid-1980s. Because BBSs were often accessed by a single phone line (frequently in someone's home), there was an expectation that all who used a bulletin board would contribute to its content by uploading files and posting comments. Lurkers were viewed negatively, and might be barred from access by the sysop, if they did not contribute anything but kept the phone line tied up for extended periods.
So my first question is, can the blogosphere be lurked? Although Web 2.0 has helped transform (the concept of) the internet into a participatory rather than merely informative platform, beyond the ability to comment (which not all authors choose to allow), the blog offers a purely one way relationship to its audience. And like an audience, blog readers are usually faceless or nameless, there are no (or at least rarely) lists of active users at the bottom of the page. Which brings up the third issue, which is, can lurkers be compared to an audience?

Audiences, unless to a participatory event, are not expected to contribute, and the instant they begin to take part, the boundaries between audience and actor begin to break down (which is the point of most participatory events). A lurker, I would say, is more like a student. In class, you are often expected to participate, but many choose to say nothing. They are taking in the information (or not) and will fulfill their requirements elsewhere.

The lurker, it is understood, is "taking up space," they are that person standing in the way when everybody around them is trying to get on. I don't want to put such a negative spin on it, but I'm just trying to contrast the lurker with the audience for whom a space to "lurk" or observe has been assigned: An audience has a place to stand or sit, whereas a lurker is right in the thick of it.

Lurkers participate within their community because of their visibility. We are aware of their presence not just because they are observing the actions of others, but because we are also anticipating their possible activity. They are potential. And because we don't know what they'll say, or when they'll say it, because they are not behaving in the expected way, they can bring about some form of anxiety in the others, making the lurker hyper visible.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The Goods

A Google Images search for animated gifs will almost always bring up the above image.

Today, I finally got to see the goods. Rejoice!

Colony Collapse (What's Wrong with the Bees?)

Colony Collapse (What's Wrong with the Bees?)

An attempt at a Net Art approach to an assignment.