the blog and (in)visible silences: the spiral of invisibility in South Korean Blogosphere
The weblog is seen as a one of the most democratic forms of media, particularly in terms of the Habermasian public sphere. In contrast, my research problematizes this view by connecting theories of the Spiral of Silence and the politics of visibility to illustrate the spiral of invisibility in the blogosphere. Within the socio-cultural terrain of South Korea, the research explores how collective social pressure imposes new constraints on interaction and opinion-exchange in the blogosphere. Using the ethnographic methods of participant observation, interviews and critical discourse analysis, I demonstrate how the politics of visibility – the complexity of technical aspects of ‘public’ and socio-psychological aspects of ‘private’ blogging – impacts on self-expression and disclosure. By treating silence as a discourse distinct from Western biases toward the passivity of silence, I conceptualize invisibility as an altered mode of silence in the blogosphere: a consequence of disempowerment by collective pressure, yet a counter-device to social control. My research, then, seeks to address the following questions: In what ways do Korean bloggers, more specifically at the Ohmynews blog service and at Mediamob, negotiate between their needs and desires to be seen by other bloggers, thus reorganizing the boundaries between public and private spheres? What factors hinder bloggers’ sociality and interactivity? How and to what extent do bloggers cope with, or act upon, these constraints? These questions address the roles of the politics of visibility and the culture of collectivism reshaping conceptualizations of the blog as a truly ‘democratic’ space.