Nardi, Shiano, and Gumbreckt (2004) summarize an ethnographic study of blogging considering motivations, social interactivity, and relationships between blogger and audience. From prior studies on blogging, blog "types" can be roughly categorized into three "types" including personal journals / online diary (the majority), "filters" which provide commentary and information from other websites, knowledge logs. However, from this study the authors suggest that the blogs are less like personal diaries than they were like radio broadcasts with limited interactivity. The bloggers were looking for readers, but with interaction that the bloggers controlled.
Nardi et al. followed the blogs of 23 bloggers and interviewed the "informants" with a fixed set of questions. All were in either California or New York and well-education and either employed or in school. As in prior studies, they trolled the Stanford University portal looking for the words "blog" and snowballed the sample by asking for friend-of-a-friend relationships.
Nardi et al. describe blogging as a "studied minuet" between blogger and audience. Interestingly, they found that several bloggers in the study started blogging after being prodded by a friend; interesting if a primary blogging motivation is a personal diary. Some noted the impact of readers on their writing, including motivation to post. Others discussed posting to their blogs to motivate others. One blogger discussed a response to one of his posts that came in e-mail form (vs as a comment to the blog) which he found "uncomfortable" and would have preferred the comment to come in the open and public form of a blog comment. Overall, the study suggests bloggers took to their blogs to 1) update others on activities, 2) express opinions to influence others, 3) seek others' opinions, 4) think by writing, 5) release emotional tensions.
However, while the bloggers wanted interaction with readers, they wanted limited (and largely one-way) interaction. Unlike communication in a discussion board or listserv, the bloggers liked talking "at" versus "to" others and appreciated that they format allowed them to be less responsive to others than they would need to be in e-mail or in f2f exchanges. One blogger referred to blog comments as "rhetorically subservient ... to the main post." The broadcast (vs conversational) nature of a blog post encouraged some bloggers to say things on their blogs they would be reluctant to say f2f, as well as to post surprisingly personal content to the open Internet. However, the bloggers did note receiving comments outside of of the blog comments (in IM, f2f). It will be interesting to see if / how the interactivity is different in a micro-blogging platform where the posts are considerably shorter and made on a "shared" platform vs a personal blog.
Nardi, B. A., Schiano, D. J., & Gumbrecht, M. (2004). Blogging as social activity, or, would you let 900 million people read your diary? In Proceedings of the 2004 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work (pp. 222-231). Chicago, Illinois, USA: ACM. doi: 10.1145/1031607.1031643.