Blogging = Stigmergy
To whom is this blog addressed? Everyone, no one?.. Yes.
Stigmergy is indirect communication, that is, communication which is not based on transmission to a specific receiver, but rather to a general audience (Paranak, 2002 - PDF). Not only is stigmergic communication indirect, but it is also many to many, which means not only is the stigmergic medium readable by 'everyone' but it is also writable by that same audience.
Well, blogs are indirect communication to be sure, but are they writable? Utilising the comment function makes them more so, and the fact that anyone with web access can start a blog for free in minutes, means they can respond to the blogosphere's stimuli with their own blog. Of course bloggers respond directly to other bloggers' posts with thoughts, ideas and information which is perhaps directed very specifically to another blogger, but, anyone else passing by can also read this post. This difference is highlighted by the distinction between a blog and an email - if two bloggers email responses to each other, then other bloggers and readers are left out of the conversation. This is not stigmergy.
I'll give a real-world example of stigmergic blogging in this very post.
Although I decided to write about this theme (blogging and stigmergy) independently, I nevertheless did a search and came up with a few others discussing the same issue on their blogs. Below is a beautiful (and well linked to) metaphor posted by Joe Gregorio describing what I'm doing right now:
"If this weren't on the web, what would be the closest analogy for what I am doing [blogging]? Writing my thoughts and ideas down on a chalkboard on a street corner is the closest I can come. Imaging a street with chalkboards mounted at random points along the thoroughfare. I write my stuff on my chalkboard. Other people have their own chalkboards on the same street. Sometimes I walk by their boards, read what they have to say and if I find it interesting then either I scribble a little note on their board (if their weblog has a comment system) otherwise I run back to my board and scribble a note about what I read 'over there' and what I think about it. If I find something interesting happening on the street I go back to my board and write about it. We never speak directly. We only communicate through the boards. Writing on our own boards, or scribbling even smaller notes on other peoples boards is the only way we converse."
What Joe described is exactly what I did by visiting his blog and writing about that visit on my blog. And just as he states, we have never exchanged words in any form of direct conversation, rather we have only communicated through our blogs - so far ;-).
If we are engaging in stigmergy via blogging, then how are gradients of the human equivalent of pheromones being generated? - pheromones being the means through which termites stigmergically communicate. Furthermore, what is the substance of these gradients? Information, reputation, network value? As stigmergy was originally coined with regard to the study of social insects, perhaps more research is required to adequately apply this term to human affairs. More on this in the soon to be released post "Human Stigmergy"...