Saturday, April 26, 2014

Convergence, transmedia, and the death of comments.

During our sometimes-regular, sometimes-not phone calls, my sister Andrea and I often analyse social media, how it works, and what place it has in our lives. One of the things that has come up recently is how blog comments seem to be a thing of the past. It's not that readership has dropped, but while more people read my blog than they used to, less people leave a comment than they used to.

At first I thought it might be just me. I don't post as regularly as I once did, and I don't read as many blogs as I once did. Perhaps I killed the conversation all on my ownsome. But as I've wandered around my favourite blogging haunts, I've noticed what seems to be a trend. I know very little about anything, so this is just my personal observing skilz in action, but even on sites that boast readerships into the thousands and millions, the number of people engaging in conversations directly in response to blog posts via the comments section seems to have significantly and proportionately reduced. As an example, I watched a video on an MTV blog the other day and noted that it had thousands and thousands of views. But the comment box below the video was startlingly empty. This posed an interesting question: if comments are/were ever the way we measured success and/or interaction, what does a lack of comments tell us?

This semester, I've been taking Children's Media as one of my final classes, and one of the topics I've found most intriguing -- possibly because I'd already been thinking about it a bit (don't you love it when two different parts of your personal world come together?) -- is that of transmedia and convergence. If you're not familiar with either term, wikipedia it up, but in the meantime, an oversimplified summary (thanks to my lecturer, Dr Elizabeth Hale) could be that convergence is the delivery of content across multiple media platforms while transmedia is the creation of content across multiple platforms, with various media working together to create one story told in numerous places (the Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a perfect example of this). You'll likely be familiar with the concept, even if not with the terminology.

I think that convergence and transmedia could quite possibly hold the answer to why commenting is happening less while reading is happening more. Most bloggers no longer confine their blogging world to just, well, blogging. I'm a major dork and pretty old-fashioned with a lot of my approaches to communication, so my use of the internet is fairly standard, but even dorky old me tends to cross-post links to twitter, tumblr, and sometimes even instagram whenever I publish a new blog post, and many bloggers use pages on facebook to drive traffic to their blogs. Because I am talking about and sharing my blog post in media other than just my blog, readers tend to respond in kind. Someone might send an @reply on twitter, while another might leave a comment on my instagram account. Someone else might reblog a post on tumblr, while another texts me to add their thoughts. Less people are leaving comments, but it doesn't necessarily mean less people are engaging with the words.

The MTV video I mentioned earlier is powerful proof of this. I'd found the video initially by following a link from a tumblr post. The tumblr post itself was a gifset someone had created from the original video, and it had been reblogged tens of thousands of times. If reader involvement were gauged based on the comments at the blog post hosting the video, things look pretty grim. But many thousands of people had engaged with the media, just not in the form of commenting.

So while it might appear that commenting is dying off, engagement and reading is not. Content being delivered across a range of media means the conversation will be continued across a range of media, which is always a healthy thing.

Having said all that, if you're the commenting kind, keep it up. I love me a good comment conversation.


  • Amanda Holmes -- if you don't want to buy it new, try op shops. It's a classic!
  • Asea -- I love your idea of reading one book per week for fun. Keep me posted on which ones you choose! (and which Hawkeye are you up to?)


  1. This is something I've noticed, too. Whenever I link to a blog post on facebook, people are more likely to leave a comment on the facebook link, rather than the blog. I miss the conversations, though. When I was on LiveJournal, I loved the long conversations you could have with people or the friendship that sometimes grew when people 'met' via comments. The concept of 'liking' something has had somewhat of an effect, too. It's much easier to click on the like button to let someone know you've enjoyed what they offered, rather than taking the time to write something out. I know I'm guilty of this, although I always try to leave a comment whenever I can't resist the easy lure of the like button.

    It's good to know that people are still engaging with creators of content; I just wish it was still kept in the same handy spot!

  2. I think you're right! In fact, I'm working on a paper right now in which I argue that electronic media does not make us dumber (as some worry), but actually shifts what we consider to be important. We no longer engage with one thing in-depth, but link (cognitively and HTML-ly) many different things together to understand things in a complex way from multiple perspectives. Both ways of engaging material are rich, but they become rich through different processes. (I then explore the implications of this shift for the idea that language functions as moral action, but I won't get into that here.)

  3. I have only been able to find Hawkeye volumes 1 and 2; it seems volume 3 (the TV head one) is due to be released in August. So maybe you get them before we do?

    I am starting a new graphic novel series called The Last Man, which seems to have many volumes and has good reviews. I'm hopeful it will be delightful.

    I bought a new novel by Michael Ondaatje (Coming Through Slaughter), so that's definitely on the list. Haven't taken the time to work out any other books to put on it yet, but it's on my todo list for the first day of summer. Any suggestions are welcome!

  4. I'm clearly trying to singlehandedly prove you wrong about comments. ;-)

    I have read Hawkeye #1-10. #11-15 is due to release this summer, and the next volume isn't listed yet. I don't seem to be able to buy them as separate issues, but have to wait for them to be compiled into volumes.

  5. Your blog posts often leave me with nothing to say but "wow". I guess I still should add that comment instead of just thinking it ;)

  6. I think part of the reason might be the way social media is designed, or how we use it. Many sites feature a like button or the equivalent, which is the quickest way to engage. Then you can simply move on to the next post/pic/whatever. I think there's so much media out there we feel rushed to consume it all. I also think maybe people feel they don't have enough to say via comment or that their comment won't be read, depending on the popularity and type of the media


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