Don LaVange (donlavange) wrote,
Don LaVange

“The Culture of LiveJournal: The Internet and Communication”

The development and proliferation of computer-to-computer communication protocols, commonly referred to as “The Internet”, has created a host of new methods of communication that impact humans who experience such communication in a variety of interesting ways. Dissertations on cultural subjects as varied as communications on “electronic bulletin boards” to the culture of “web-cams” have been written. One interesting recent evolution in such ‘net’ enabled communication is the public journal. While “blogs”[1] might be said to tend toward communication analogous to writing one’s own ‘newspaper column”, web based Journals and Diaries might contain anything from a list of what the writer did that morning, to formulated political statements. One example of electronic journaling is called LiveJournal, and its use of journaling and logic features to both find other journals, create syndicated ‘friends’ pages, and participate in discussions related to journal entries has created an interesting culture.

LiveJournal can be accessed internationally, in any typed language supported by the computer hardware, though from a very small percentage of the world’s population. Not only must the communicating human have free use of a computer system, that computer system must have access to the internet. Since it is COPPA compliant[2] one must be at least 13 years of age to participate as a full member of the community, though nothing stops any person who has access to a computer with an internet connection from either participating anonymously or illicitly (by providing an earlier birth date). Statistics[3] maintained by LiveJournal indicate that out of 850,000 total users, there are some 315,000 actual usage incidents reported in the 30 days previous to this writing. Of the total number of journals, some 36 percent report as male, about 63 percent female with the remainder unspecified. Les than 6 percent of the total accounts are “paid” accounts (25 dollars per year), the rest are ‘free users’. Age seems to play a significant distinction among users, the bulk of them falling between the ages of 15-23. The United States accounts for 594,000 journals with other western countries like Canada, Great Britain, Australia contributing members 10-30,000 members reach and places like the Russian Federation (9,000), Singapore (3500) representing smaller distributions of users in those countries. Usage in the US seems to follow population patterns, with the bulk of the users coming from states like California, New York, Florida, Michigan and Texas.

LiveJournal is a system that allows users to ‘post’ a ‘journal entry’ to a web page by pre-pending that entry to a page containing the previous 20-100 entries, sorted in newest-first order. The system allows each user some degree of control of the design and layout of these pages, with more flexibility and increased performance given to ‘paid users’ (free users use older and slower servers). There is some interesting cultural sub-grouping among users designated as ‘paid’ and ‘free’, and some even more special status to users who are ‘early-adopters’ or ‘permanent’. These latter cases correspond to the original group of users of the system before its use became prolific.

LiveJournal users can describe themselves in geographic ways and in terms of their ‘interests’. These interests (or geographical data) can be perused to find journals that other people have written that have varying degrees of similarity to one’s own (where one is a LiveJournal user) interests. Thus one may find all users interested in body surfing, or all users in Melbourne Australia.

The most significant aspect of LiveJournal’s cultural effect has to do with two things: One is the odd quality of keeping a ‘public journal’, especially where the notion of a journal is often culturally tied up with mundane or private-personal record keeping. The other is the ability to select any other LiveJournal user as a ‘friend’. In addition to one’s journal page where one can see the accumulated journal entries one has written, one has a ‘friends’ page, which uses syndication to create a page of some 20-100 entries, where each entry is populated in reverse order of creation time, from the list of one’s ‘friends’. This creates an effect that writers of journal entries often are not speaking to “dear diary” but to “dear diary readers”. The addition or removal of strangers (or acquaintances) as ‘friends’ creates interesting social dynamics, too complex to describe here. This is compounded by being able to create ‘friends only’ entries, readable only by journals you have befriended.

LiveJournalists spend time writing in their journals, reading and referring readers to their journals, reading their friends journals, through either the syndicated friends pages or through their friends personal journal pages, and through commenting on journal entries in their friends pages and reading and responding to comments left attached to their own journal entries. They select journals to read on their ‘friends’ page, and maintain their list of friends by adding and deleting journals from that list. All these functions combine to create a very real socio-cultural dynamic that warrants studying.


[1] “Web logs” – a regularly updated and dated set of paragraphs posted to a web page.


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