What is it about?

Information and Communication Technology‐enabled Development (ICT4D) discourse relies upon the idea that ICTs can foster development in particular by encouraging wider participation in development initiatives. In this paper, we question how the blogging practices of development professionals shape such ICT4D discourse. Through a combination of interviews and analyses of blog contents, we examine two major purposes of blogging: reflecting upon development practices and engaging with a self‐selected audience. Our analyses reveal that these two purposes were interwoven in ways that contributed to making bloggers' ICT4D discourse innovative but oriented towards a small community of peers rather than a larger audience. Through blogging, development professionals refined their expertise on ICT4D. As they did so, they also generated a personal speaker's corner that primarily attracted like‐minded peers rather than promoting larger participation in ICT4D discourse. This research contributes to the emerging literature on social media practices by showing how blogging practices enable the formation of what a discourse is about, and by highlighting differences between perceived and actual levels of interactions between bloggers and their audience. The paper also adds to the ICT and development literatures by revealing that blogging practices can deepen ICT4D discourse, but that they do not necessarily enhance participation in development. Such insight is crucial for development professionals to develop realistic expectations of blogging for ICT4D.

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Why is it important?

We show how blogging practices build upon a perceived sense of shared community and might contribute to changes in the positions and relations of bloggers with regard to their organisation and to their informal network of peers. Even more broadly, this finding reveals not only that blogging practices constitute discourse (in the present case, development discourse) but also that blogging practices contribute to what the discourse is about. We also found that ICT4D bloggers perceived a ‘sense of community’ when blogging and when engaging with their perceived audience. ICT4D bloggers expressed this sense of community by noting feelings of belonging to a group of peers and of sharing connections based on similar interests, i.e. ICT4D. Although noted earlier, our investigations revealed an intriguing counterpoint to this in that, when looking at the actual blogs and the online discussions they generated, the level of interactivity and the number of people adding comments were actually fairly low. This research revealed that this sense of community therefore more aptly applies to bloggers' perceptions, regardless of whether such a community actually exists or is very active. This distinction between the high level of interactivity that bloggers perceived and claimed to be essential to shaping their blogging practices, vs. the low level of interactivity actually observed constituted an intriguing and new insight of this research. Such a finding contrasts highly with emerging scholarship on blogging practices in other fields where bloggers have been shown to engage more actively with one another and with readers through blog posts and comments. We explain this difference by noting that the ICT4D blogging community is a relatively small one, whose ideas and mobilising mottos have not fully reached societal mainstream and therefore need to be ‘nurtured’.

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This page is a summary of: Blogging for ICT4D: reflecting and engaging with peers to build development discourse, Information Systems Journal, February 2013, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/isj.12010.
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