Prosumers, or Who Helps Tell Your Story

We had a good albeit quiet Memorial Day weekend. May has been an exhausting month, so we wanted to take it easy. We played outside, planted flowers and did some cleaning. And I can’t tell you more than that.  I really, really, really want to share something the toddler is doing, but I can’t because it is one of those stories that will humiliate Daniel when he’s older, and I’m trying hard to be mindful about what I post about him.  I’m a shameful tease, but I shouldn’t and won’t share even though OMG I could use some commiseration or even the knowledge that it gave you a chuckle.

Ohhh look! Pretty flowers!

flower bed

Flowers!

 

Petunia

Beautiful blue petunia

So Mel has been posting a series on external validation, blogging and where to draw the line about what stories you tell and about whom.  Most of her posts in this series have centered around her children, but today’s post made me think about the relationship between the blogger and the reader.   Mel explains that in any post or written piece, there is the producer, the consumer and the subject.  In blogging, the producer would be the writer.  The consumer is the reader, and the subject could be the producer, the producer’s children or anyone.   I argue that the reader, in posting comments and having dialogue with the blogger, is becoming both a content consumer AND producer. Producer + Consumer = Prosumer.

What I’m curious about is how the prosumer is interacting with your story, even becoming part of the story you put out there and dictating content.  For example, one of the commenters on a post I read today called out the blogger for not addressing something the commenter thought was important to address.  What shocked me was the sense of ownership the commenter’s tone implied.  Like the blogger owed the commenter something in the post she published.  I’ve also read other commenters telling bloggers that their content is slipping or that they’ve rehashed the same topics over and over and please move on.

Wait, what?

Whose story is being told here? Does the ability to comment on someone’s blog imply that you have invested in them and have the right to dictate how and what they write about?  Where is the line between the blogger and the commenter in the story being told?

It makes me wonder if we are starting to forget that bloggers are real people telling their (mostly) real stories instead of fictional characters in a book or story.  Maybe it’s the voyeurism inherent in reading a personal blog that makes it start to seem like reality television. We watch the story unfold.  If we don’t like it, we change the channel.  Except with a blog, we also have the ability to interact and tell the blogger what we liked and disliked about a post and maybe over time, that becomes a command to write about this, not that.

I’m still working through this thought experiment, so I don’t have any answers. A few questions for you though!

  • Do your readers help co-produce your narrative on your blog?
  • How do you handle demands on what you write or don’t write on your blog?
  • How have you seen the relationship between blogger and reader change over the last few years?
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6 comments

  1. Very interesting post. My commenters often help me solidify a viewpoint or in some cases, change my mind about my viewpoint. No one has ever told me that I am boring them with the same old posts over and over ( I ‘ve seen some comments like that at Dooce). I recently got a very harsh comment from a post that was over a year old, which, random.

    I think that maybe knowing our audience is good, and considering the feedback from them before we post something is important. I lost 10 subscribed readers when I wrote “Sluts Vote.” I didn’t realize so many would be offended by that post. But I’m not sorry I posted it either.

  2. Very, very interesting. My observation is that commenters sometimes seem to take ownership of blog content, or at least to feel some kind of entitlement to dictate what gets blogged about (especially on more entertainment-focused blogs, like fashion blogging e.g.), but the perception from the blogger is generally not in line with this – even if bloggers will modify content according to reader feedback through comments (walking a fine line between courting readers and wanting at the same time to maintain an authentic voice), I feel like bloggers perceive their blog and blog content as WHOLLY their own.

    Who owns the comment box? That’s a question I’ve seen come up with regards to what to moderate, what to delete, etc. – but in terms of co-authoring the blog itself, whom do the comments belong to?

    For me, framing it blog reading as “consumption” really makes me think differently about it. As opposed to, for instance, “conversation.”

  3. The other question I have on this is – why blog publicly unless you want to let the public in? There are many ways you could share your personal stories and they do not need to be out in the public domain.

    I don’t really write to the demands of people. Occasionally someone will ask a question and I will write a blog post on it, but 99.999999% of the time I’m the one driving the content. I think that’s for a few reasons:

    1. My blog is my kids’ baby book. I actually print them every year. Having that focus, I write about our life.
    2. I’ve been around the blogblock a few times in the last 7 years I’ve been blogging. I don’t want to read blogs where people are not genuine or they’re blogging solely for an audience. I want to interact with real people in real situations.
    3. I don’t interact with people in my comment section. I reply to them personally from their comment so that I can get to know people individually instead of living it all out in public.
    4. I don’t want to be a “big” blogger. I don’t want to make money. I don’t advertise. I don’t want anyone telling me what my space should be.

  4. I’m influenced and I’m not influenced. For instance, my top post now is a post about how to set up a self-hosted blog. I obviously don’t need this information since I already have a self-hosted blog, but others asked in their comments for me to write something about this and I’m happy to pass along the information I have.

    But that’s about where the influence on what I write ends. Supporting other people’s thoughts if I don’t believe them myself doesn’t work. Writing what they want me to write vs. what I need to say doesn’t work. But at the same time, the comments help me make sense of myself. Sometimes they lead to another post as I have more thoughts on the matter.

  5. Love this post! I do think that my readers help direct my blog, even if they don’t co-produce it. I wish that blogger had a more predictable and reliable threading plug in for comments, so that people would be notified when a comment was commented upon, because I’d often like to turn what they say into more of a conversation.

    Thanks for commenting today, BTW, and for your kind words. It was nice to find your blog again … sort of the other side of the phenomenon you describe here. 🙂

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