What is it? It’s a frequently updated webpage, presenting the viewpoints of the author, based on software available on the World Wide Web, that doesn’t require a webmaster (that is, an informatics specialist). The publishing ‘unit’ is the post, that is, the text that gets published at once, in one gesture. Click.
Blogs also have one very distinctive characteristic: each new addition is placed on the top (as opposed to the bottom in traditional page editing) and the chronology of the blog is inverted. The information is presented in an inverse order of production: the most recent information is shown first, at the top of the page, immediately after accesing it.
In my opinion, this chronology gives a feeling of contemporaneity to the processes of writing and reading. And that makes it very important in terms of creative process. The blog seems to accompany much better the development of rehearsals than other documentation. The relevance is with what’s being done at the moment, the ties to its history, though still present and accesible, are more loose.
It is argued that an intensive usage of links is also characteristic of blogs. The first noticeable blog boom is related by some authors (A. Piscitelli) to the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers. In the following weeks, while information through traditional media (TV, newspapers, official releases) was scarce and very controlled, and there was much confusion and thirst for information, many individuals (academicians, people personally connected to the tragedy, journalists, government employees in their free time, etc) started sharing the information they had by publishing in blogs. This lead to grouping in terms of linking and referring to each other. In order to complete and share information from different sources, blogs would refer to other trusted blogs (in their links section, blogrolls) and to specific articles or posts (for instance by placing links in the posts themselves). The attempt to make the attack inteligible and tolerable spawned a very specific dynamic of networking that some people see now as characteristic of blogs in general. The service providers (wordpress, blogspot, etc) have included in their systems the services of trackbacks/pings (a notice authors receive when their websites are linked from somewhere else, in order to give the possibility to reciprocate and to understand better the flow of readers; eventually the service providers can even automatize the linking between different blogs once a first connection is established).
One final aspect to note is that the public (beyond authorized authors and editors) also have the possibility to publish comments on the posts. Most usually any reader can write a note in response to a post, that is then added at the end of the post, extending what’s normally called a new thread (for instance, where comments responding to a post start being responded to also with new comments both from authors and other readers).
Nowadays there are, apparently, over 8,5 million blogs online. They are free, easy to create, easy to ‘pimp’ (to customize), and very easy to update. They can have very different functions and life spans.