On classifications and typologies (2)

An earlier post on typologies ended with the question whether web user typologies have been identified.The answer was both ‘yes’, and ‘no’  because while many typologies have been proposed, there is no consensus. This post takes off where the last one left.

Naturally we start with bloggers. There are many possible ways to classify bloggers based authorship structure, blogger identity, blogging reasons and blog(ger) specialisation.

Some blog on single author blogs, some blog on multiple author blogs, some on both kinds. Guest blogging, usually on invitation from the blogger and sometimes on request, isn’t uncommon either. I have guest-blogged on the Indian Economy blog.

Some blog under their own name, and some blog pseudonymously. The latter in my experience has two sub-types: those, who stay pseudonymous in off-line correspondence and those, who reveal their real names in off-line interactions. I recognise that some blog pseudonymously for fear of persecution by employers or governments; however it is not as if our real identities cannot be revealed. Ask the MIT students subpoenad by the RIAA* or the young man in Tennessee who is being chased by the FBI for hacking into Sarah Palin’s email box.

Bloggers also have various reasons for blogging. Some blog for professional reasons; some blog to create a discussion and a community; some are working to create a living archive of their lives; some blog because they need the discipline of writing regularly; some blog because others are blogging. What might be the other reasons for blogging that I have missed? Please use the comments link to share your views.

By subject matter, there are hundreds of ways of slicing and dicing bloggers into political bloggers, mom bloggers, feminist bloggers, fashion bloggers, food bloggers, and so on. For more on the diversity of the blogosphere, see Technorati’s annually published data.

Likewise, social network users are also quite diverse. A recent Ofcom report classifies users of social networks as follows:

  • Alpha Socialisers are a minority and use sites in intense short bursts to flirt, meet new people, and for entertainment.
  • Attention Seekers are a minority who crave attention and comments from others, often by posting photos and customising their profiles. Mom bloggers, according to Ofcom, fall here.
  • Followers are a large bunch who join sites to keep up with what their peers were doing.
  • Faithfuls are also a large bunch who use social networking sites to find old friends, from school or university.
  • Functionals are a minority who are single-minded in using sites for their particular aims.

There is a longer categorisation created by SEO consultant Kyle Healey. He proposes 23 types of social media users from the ‘superuser’ to the ‘moron’. I imagine it is a bit tongue-in-cheek but click on the link to read this in detail. Which kind of social media user are you?

Of web users in general, there are two kinds, according to Professor John Palfrey of Harvard’s Berkman Centre: digital natives and digital immigrants. In an earlier post, I argued that this is an inadequate classification that would benefit from recognising the naturalised digital citizen. What do you think? Which kind of web user are you?

Typologies usually make people bristle with a “I don’t fit in any of these categories” kind of reaction. It helps us to remember that these are not discrete sets, but overlapping ones. We may belong in one or more, or none of these categories because of the way we use the web. It is worth remembering that typologies are not about exceptions; they are about the homogeneous masses.

Typologies are all fine and dandy but are they any use? That will be the next post in this series.

* MIT refused to reveal their identities and subsequently a Boston judge quashed the RIAA subpoena.

Related reading:

Rapleaf’s statistics on social network users

My earlier post on Digital origins and identities

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