Does blogging empower women? Exploring the role of agency and community

 
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Studies have shown that online participation varies according to class, race and ethnicity as well as age and gender. Although women are rare among the ranks of A-list bloggers, more women blog then men, according to earlier research. What motivates women to blog, and in what ways do they find the practice empowering?

A 2012 article in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, “Does Blogging Empower Women? Exploring the Role of Agency and Community,” tested the extent to which blogging provides women with an increased sense of agency or an enhanced sense of community. Researchers randomly assigned 214 female university students to write either a personal or issue-related blog (referred to as a “filter blog”). The number of blog visitors and comments were each randomly manipulated to be high or low. The researchers also surveyed a random sample of 340 female bloggers chosen from a Web directory of woman-authored blogs.

Key study findings include:

  • Personal journal bloggers experience psychological empowerment through an enhanced sense of community, while filter bloggers do so through increased feelings of agency.
  • “It appears that, psychologically, filter bloggers seem to assume a pulpit mentality and treat their online output as a form of publishing that benefits from any and all forms of receiver activities on their blogs, whereas personal bloggers appear to treat the blog as a form of support group that thrives on active participation by a group of commenters.”
  • The experiment found that usage metrics such as page visits and number of comments are meaningful for bloggers. The authors note that “for personal bloggers, any indication of external validation is motivating,” referring to both comments and site visits. Filter bloggers, meanwhile, are motivated primarily through the number of visits their site receives, regardless of the number of comments left.

The authors noted that “it may be argued that just as the subjective experience of free will does not necessarily make it real … the subjective experience of psychological empowerment does not render one truly empowered to change one’s circumstances. There is reason to believe, however, that psychological empowerment is likely to lead to actions toward changing one’s environment.”

A related 2012 study, “The Therapeutic Value of Adolescents’ Blogging About Social-Emotional Difficulties,” found that teen girls who blogged about emotional difficulties helped to “alleviate users’ self-perceptions and negative emotions and, consequently, contribute to their ability to cope with difficulties in their offline environment.”

Tags: technology, gender

Last updated: August 2, 2012

 

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Citation: Stavrositu, Carmen; Sundar, S. Shyam. “Does Blogging Empower Women? Exploring the Role of Agency and Community,” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, July 2012, Vol. 17, Issue 4, pages 369–386. doi: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2012.01587.x.