Scholarship on understanding weblogs (blogs) and the implications of blogged content is underway, yet it relies mostly on blogs published in English. Blogs are online journals where the content is arranged in reversed chronological order (Blood, 2002; Walker, 2003). Most notably, the social implications of blogs have been said to dethrone major politicians (Kurtz, 2005; Shachtman, 2002), raise others from obscurity to popular fame (Ratan, 2003), and serve as an “unedited, published voice of the people” (Winer, 2003). Trammell and Keshelashvili (2005) call elite bloggers who garner an audience the size of some small media outlets the “new influencers.” Yet, these popular, powerful, English-language blogs are not representative of blogs in general (Herring, Scheidt, Bonus, & Wright, 2004).
What is known about blogs, those who blog (called bloggers), and the motivations behind blogging has increased through a series of empirical studies. For example, Herring, Scheidt, et al. (2004) examined popular press claims about blogging and bloggers only to find such claims exaggerated. Specifically, Herring, Scheidt, et al. (2004) conclude, “the extent to which blogs are interlinked, interactive, and orientated toward external events” is overestimated, while “the importance of blogs as individualistic intimate forms of self-expression” is underestimated (p. 1).
As in most other nations, blogging in Poland has received media attention in that country, with major newspapers, weeklies, and magazines publishing stories on bloggers. This coverage often focuses on a narrow category of “blog celebrities” (e.g., Polish A-list bloggers), who are acknowledged as such by the community but are partially a media creation. Commercial media also use blogs as a source from which to sample Polish popular culture, the voice and the views of everyday people. In the media, blogs, along with online forums, have become a popular source for quotes from ordinary people. As a result, bloggers often criticize print publications for presenting inaccurate views that blow some aspects of blogging out of proportion (e.g., exhibitionism). At the same time, media attention serves to fulfill their narcissistic needs (Olcoń, 2003).
Internet in poland
Poland became connected to the EARN/BITNET network in 1990 through a connection between the University of Warsaw and the University of Copenhagen. In 1991, the TCP/IP protocol was introduced into the Polish network and the first Internet connection was established with Copenhagen. True growth of Internet use in Poland became possible in 1996, when the national telephone monopoly introduced dial-up Internet access to its customers. At that time, there were about 500,000 Internet users in Poland (ITU, 2004). The number of Internet users has grown steadily since then, from 4% of the population of Poles 15 years old or older in 1998 (Zieliński, 1999), to 23% of the population in the first half of 2002 (TNS OBOP, 2002). In March 2003, 45% of surveyed households declared that they obtained Internet access in the years 2002–2003, 42% in 2000–2001, and 13% in 2000 or earlier (Czapiński & Panek, 2003).
Meller (2004) reported that 7.54 million Poles over the age of 15 use the Internet. Of those users, 53.2% accessed the Internet at home, 26.3% at school, 24.6% at work, 14% at an Internet café, and 14% at a friend’s house. Today, dial-up access still dominates and there are very few users with broadband in the home (Czapiński & Panek, 2003; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2003). The largest percentage of Internet users in the population can be found in the youngest age category included in the aforementioned research, 16–24 year olds. This is partially due to the availability of the Internet in all Polish schools, although access is usually very limited (i.e., special computer use classes).
Blogging in poland
Blogs began popping up on the Internet as early as 1997, and there have been several attempts at defining the technology and differentiating the medium from standard Web pages (Blood, 2002; Herring, Scheidt, et al., 2004; Trammell & Gasser, 2004; Walker, 2003). Barrett (1999, n.p.) defined a blog as “a small Web site, usually maintained by one person, that is updated on a regular basis and has a high concentration of repeat visitors. Blogs often are highly focused around a singular subject, an underlying theme or unifying concept.” The current technical definition of blog is that it is a Web page with a series of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order (Blood, 2002; Herring, Scheidt, et al., 2004; Walker, 2003).
Blogging was introduced in Poland in 2001 with the start of www.blog.pl, the first Polish service that offered users a Web interface and server space that enabled blogging. This shows a relatively quick adoption of personal blog publishing by a population that has been using the Internet for a relatively short time. Today, there are at least 14 Polish-language blog services. According to data provided by these four services, blog.pl, tenbit.pl, eblog.pl, and blog.onet.pl, each has more than 80,000 members.1 Altogether, there are at least 575,000 registered blogs in Poland today. As with blogs in any language, it is difficult to establish how many of these remain active. Even with large scale Internet use being so new in Poland, Polish blogs have the fourth greatest populous of all language groups (NITLE Blog Census, n.d.).
The most recent Polish blog research has focused on the blog.pl service and is based on personal experiences of blogging researchers participating in the blogging community (Cywińska-Milonas, 2003), unstructured reading (Olcoń, 2003), a survey with self-selected samples (Parzuchowski, 2002a, 2002b). This body of work provides basic demographic data on Polish blog users and basic information on the motivations, topics, and emotional states involved in blogging. Gierszewski collected very limited data on the sociability of bloggers. A more complex view on blogging is provided by Olcoń (2003), who examines such issues as social functions of blogging, ties to offline reality, anonymity, identity, and construction of narrative in the context of current sociological thought on the postmodern condition.
The present study is informed by the uses and gratifications theory. Uses and gratifications (Blumler & Katz, 1974) provides a framework covering “a broad variance of media effects including knowledge, dependency, attitudes, perceptions of social reality, agenda setting, discussion, and politics” (Ruggiero, 2000, p. 25). The uses and gratifications approach is designed to address the needs a particular mass medium fulfills for its users (Blumler & Katz, 1974).
The uses and gratifications theoretical framework is built on the assumption that individuals pursue media-related behaviors based on specific predispositions or motives and social-psychological characteristics. Therefore, it is fundamental to understand the media user’s motivations and resulting gratifications. Guided by this theoretical perspective, user-initiated features and topics discussed on blogs can aid in revealing the blogger’s motives and needs fulfilled as a result.
Morris and Ogan (1996) argued that while the Internet is a mass medium, it can fulfill interpersonal needs. Many interpersonal needs can be gratified by Internet use, including both informational and social needs. The uses and gratifications framework has been used to study motivations for various types of Internet use (Papacharissi, 2002a, 2002b, 2004; Rubin & Papacharissi, 2000). This approach has been used to investigate both perceived motivations through content analysis, and actual motivations through surveys (Kaye & Johnson, 2000; Papacharissi, 2002a, 2002b, 2004; Trammell, 2004).
Through the lens of uses and gratifications, Perse and Dunn (1998) found that computer-related technologies serve various utilities for users. For example, early research found that personal computer use provided entertainment, escape, and diversion, whereas a CD-ROM provided learning and escape gratifications.
As found in more traditional media uses and gratification studies (e.g., radio, television usage), Internet communication provides a mixture of gratifications. Use of the World Wide Web is associated with entertainment, surveillance, and passing time gratifications (Tewskbury & Althaus, 2000). In examining motivations for creating a personal home page, Papacharissi (2002b) found that Webmasters hosted pages for sharing information, entertainment, self-expression, and communication with friends or family gratifications.
Self-expression and social interaction seem to be at the heart of the perceived gratifications for English-language bloggers. Papacharissi (2004) conducted a content analysis of 260 registered, public blogs hosted at Blogger.com. From the results she examined possible gratifications bloggers gained in publishing their blogs. Results suggested that the posts were intended to be read by friends or family (Papacharissi, 2004), thus fulfilling a need for social interaction.
Motivations can be manifested through basic technical and content characteristics (Papacharissi, 2004; Trammell, 2004). That is, employing a technical feature allowing readers to leave comments may signify a social interaction motivation, and discussing one’s thoughts and feelings in the text of the blog may represent a drive of self-expression. Papacharissi (2004) adopted a uses and gratifications approach to her content analysis. Her results were similar to those of Nardi, Schiano, Gumbrecht, and Swartz (2004) in that bloggers were primarily motivated by social interaction. The application of this theory thus supported earlier claims that blogging was an active medium where the blogger is aware of his or her motivations and audience (Nardi et al., 2004).
Sorapure (2003) stated that “audience and purpose are clearly important to online diarists, since these writers obviously and intentionally are creating public documents” (p. 9). This statement assumes that the motivations of the blogger are clear. Insomuch as this is true, the blogger is aware of the potential for others to read perhaps private content. Nardi et al. (2004) suggest that this is the case, even in smaller and lesser-read blogs (i.e., nonelite or blogs with low readership). Similarly, Kitzmann (2003) assert that online diaries are a “potential tool for communication and interaction” (p. 56). Thus, while the user’s motivation may be self-expression, the product can be a vehicle for social interaction (Trammell, 2004). Therefore, there may be differences in motivations for blog readers and bloggers.
Cywińska-Milonas (2003) proposed a psychological categorization of blog types based on motivation: exhibitionist, extrovert, and autotherapeutic. Additionally, self-presentation, self-promotion, and creativity were noted, based on her analysis of Polish blogs. Olcoń (2003) identified five social functions of writing a blog: fulfillment of emotional needs, fulfillment of the need for social ties, sociability, pleasure, and self-expression. While Olcón’s (2003) study was from a sociological perspective, these categorizations bear great resemblance to those in the media use theory of uses and gratifications.
Most blogs employ a diary-like look, although scholars suggest that these “diaries” differ from traditional diaries in that blogs are “unlocked” and online for all to see (Papacharissi, 2004; Sorapure, 2003). Indeed, one analysis found that 51.2% of blogs present a personal account of the blogger’s life, and the results indicated a positive correlation between expressiveness and intimacy (Papacharissi, 2004). Similarly, other research found that 37.3% of the English-language blog posts analyzed contained a record of the day explaining the blogger’s personal experiences since the last posting (Trammell, 2004).
Many blog software services enable the blogger to solicit “comments” as an optional feature. These comments are designed to invite feedback and reactions to postings. However, the implementation of feedback mechanisms remains limited. Trammell (2004) found that only 8% of blogs analyzed in that sample allowed users to leave comments, and Papacharissi (2004) noted that e-mail as the most popular form for asynchronous feedback. Additionally, some bloggers post their instant message user names, which invites real-time contact (Papacharissi, 2004).
For the most part, bloggers keep the templates that the blog services provide (Papacharissi, 2004; Scheidt & Wright, 2004). However, bloggers personalize the sidebar (Scheidt & Wright, 2004). Thompson (2004) found that bloggers who do personalize the look and feel of their blog templates often do so to reflect the topical genre. Apart from the template, bloggers can personalize the site’s look by adding graphics to individual blog posts. Even so, relatively few bloggers do this (Herring, Scheidt, et al., 2004).
The present study, which focused on the textual and visual content of Polish blogs and the demographics and underlying motivations of Polish bloggers, is informed by the work of others who have examined motivations for English-language blogging (Nardi et al., 2004; Papacharissi, 2004). Using an ethnographic approach, Nardi et al. (2004) found the main reasons for blogging to be documenting one’s life, providing commentary and opinions, self-expression, communicating ideas, and connecting with others online. Nardi et al. (2004) concluded that blog content and motivations for blogging varied widely, based on the blog. This work opened the gates to allow researchers to investigate the relationship between content that is communicated on the blog and the blogger’s underlying motivations. In this sense, an assessment of what a blogger publishes, the blog’s format and presentation style, employment of technological features and frequency of publishing, and perhaps even the gender of the blogger may all signify the motives of the blogger.
Initially directed by Ruggiero’s (2000) four constructs for assessing motivation, this study employed six a priori categories as examined in Papacharissi (2002b) to gauge motivations of Polish bloggers. The six categories employed in this study are entertainment, information, social interaction, self-expression, passing time, and professional advancement (Papacharissi, 2002b).