Why Blogging Common?

Let’s face it: the Internet is a sexy topic these days. You can’t open the New York Times without running into a story about how online news stresses journalists out or what happens to Facebook profiles when their owners die or Twitter and the World Cup.

The Internet makes a wealth of information available to people — library card catalogues, recipes and government data are all archived and perusable by anyone that cares to take a look. What’s more, the millions of terabytes that make up the Web — even the cheesy cat photos and Facebook statuses — contain information about human organization and processes: about democracy, economic development, human health and human rights as well as the intimacy of human interaction and personal thoughts.

Though the Internet makes headlines almost every day, researchers are only now beginning to develop methods to accurately and meaningfully measure and summarize this massive body of data. We still don’t know exactly what the Internet can tell us about human existence, and even if we ask the right questions, we can only make guesses about what’s not on the Web — information from places where economic or political conditions make getting online impossible. Still, it’s clear that we can go much farther than we have.

Blogging Common’s goal is to survey bloggers around the world in multiple languages. By asking a variety of questions — about Internet usage patterns, opinions on Internet filtering and regulatory policy, the impact of Internet surveillance and soft content control, blogger perceptions of risk associated with online publishing, the incidence of legal and extra-legal threats to bloggers, the impact of filtering on access to information and blogger knowledge and use of circumvention technologies — we hope to tap into the knowledge and experience of some of the world’s most active Internet users, to compare Internet practices around the world and to study the impact of different Internet environments on online behavior, including in countries where the free exchange of opinions can be a risky proposition.

We also hope to have some fun. This is the first time anyone has surveyed bloggers on this scale, and we’re excited! What do bloggers around the world have in common? What motivates and inspires them? How are they different from their non-blogger peers? We may even throw in a question about Twitter and Michael Jackson.

We have a ton of things we’re dying to ask the world’s bloggers, but we’re also open to suggestions. What do you want to know? Leave your suggestions in the comments, and we’ll do our best to get your questions answered.

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