Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tang Soo Do Tech: Blogs

(The following is another snippet from my Sam Dan essay. While most people reading this are probably quite tech savy, please be patient as I try to apply the changing internet to the life of the martial artist.)

Blog, a contraction of the phrase “web log” is essentially a journal or diary that is published and shared online. Anyone with a web page may create a blog and publish their thoughts. In many ways, this is no different than a regular web page, but is merely a type of web page format. Like wikis, the appeal of blogging comes from allowing the author to publish their material without having to know a special programming language.

Many blogs allow you to attribute “tags” or one word descriptors to a journal entry. If I tag an entry as "tang soo do," a user who then clicks on my tag can be taken to all my other entries I have labeled as "tang soo do." In many cases, a reader can also be connected to other people's blogs with the tag "tang soo do." By being searchable by other users and allowing one to network with other users who use this tag, small communities form. For example, livejournal.com (a popular blog community) has a community of Tang Soo Do practitioners, and a smaller community of "WTSDA" tagged users.

There are a few martial arts blogs on the internet. Some are academic, reflective or professional in nature. Many blogs, such as "24 Fighting Chickens" - a blog dedicated to Shotokan Karate -- are extremely popular with readers due to the rich (and often controversial) information contained within. Like many blogs, 24 Fighting Chickens allows readers to post their reactions to articles, and receive email updates when new articles are published.

Aside from blogs dedicated solely to the author's passion for martial arts, many more web pages may casually mention their dojang in their journal, while others may mention their instructor or school by name. A typical entry may say "class was really hard tonight. Master Smith made us do squat kicks and hit us with a stick when we complained. I can't stand him!" Like a written journal, blog posts are both positive and negative in nature. Some are written very much in the way a person would use a traditional diary: albeit a diary left wide open in plain view of the entire world. In my research, I have come across blog entries that were disparaging in nature towards specific WTSDA studios, instructors and competitions, as well as glowing and inspiring entries. In most cases, these blogs are not intentionally disparaging their instructor, but are failing to consider the depth of their potential audience.

In fact, many "bloggers" consider their online journal to be a cathartic experience first and a public forum next (Noguchi). While they are aware that their postings are publicly readable, they think that no one is actually reading. What these users are forgetting is that all their posts may come up in a Google search for Tang Soo Do resources. When we re-consider the fact that more people are using the internet to research, this virtual "word of mouth" can become dangerous. Even worse, since the average consumer doesn't understand the differences between different associations and federations, a bad review of one Tang Soo Do school could affect a reader's perception of the entire art.
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