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Cyber Anthropology: Why Blogs Matter

By: Michelle Krell Kydd
Posted: September 5, 2008, from the September 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

Human beings are social creatures who bond intensely when sharing ideas, opinions and passions. Blogging provides a virtual outlet for expression that increases the chances of like minds meeting one another. Blogging is as much a social phenomenon as a technological one. People are driven by the desire to connect to something authentic when they read and run blogs. The virtual medium for these communications smashes limits of space and time. This is what causes so much confusion for marketers, many of whom do not have “real time” to read blogs in their respective verticals, let alone run a blog.

I realized that blogging was more than a cultural phenomenon when chef Bill Yosses and I created the “Scentuality” event for The James Beard Foundation and New York University. I e-mailed Victoria Frolova, editor of Bois de Jasmin (boisdejasmin.typepad.com), so she could share the details of the event with her readers. Two days after she posted the information, we were completely booked and had a waiting list of more than 40 people.

The experience of reading blogs made me extremely curious regarding their social power. The more I read, the more apparent it became that blogs were fulfilling consumers’ need for authentic dialogue in the fragrance vertical. Perfumers were being worshipped like rock stars, and the contents of their potions had readers and bloggers revealing intimate details of their lives. As a professional, the only time I experience these kinds of revelations are in well-run focus groups or in dialogues with industry colleagues. This was the tipping point for me.

Cyber Anthropology

Technology scares people who don’t understand it. When I began to blog, I didn’t pay heed to naysayers who were quick to point a finger at the issue of fabricated virtual personas. People are prone to say what they truly think when they are posting under an alias online. This doesn’t mean that the virtual world is free of falsehood, but, as noted by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, it is very clear that all of us present a social mask in public. We want people to see us a certain way, and this is perfectly normal (and it is why we use fragrance and cosmetics!). The virtual medium makes this plain to see.

Blogs that are focused on singular topics form virtual followings based on a targeted area of interest. The readership grows in a very organic fashion, much like the formation of cloth by the addition of thread. The sign of a shift in culture begins in the vocabulary.