Does relative size matter?

Over on almost a diary, I’ve recently mentionend a survey of German blogging called “Weblogs 2005 – Bloggen im deutschsprachigen Raum”, conducted by Jan Schmidt at the University of Bamberg. While the German blogger himself is a relatively unknown species to date, the relatively small size of the German blogosphere as a whole has been observed with some interest for a while now, particularly when compared to the French blogosphere, and the amount of attention blogs have suddenly gained in the so called German mainstream media. It’s one of the eternal questions of humanity asked a new variant: Does size matter?

Size may well matter in this case as in others, but here’s another interesting question: Does relative size matter?

If you look at Wikipedia’s main page, you will notice that, using an article per capita measure, the teutonic part of the free encyclopedia is holding up very well not just in comparison to the anglosphere challenge, but also with respect to la francophonie (about 1.3 times).

Assuming for the moment that both blogging and writing for Wikipedia means participating in some kind of digital civil society, do the different relative sizes of the respective elements thereof tell us something about the people behind the ventures?

Could it be that Germans are more interested in participating in something with a more authoritative, slightly more hierarchical, aura than the blogosphere, where the laws of information markets determine reputation, pseudo-link-list-authority, success and failure, and everything is very much evolutionary, sometimes even in the short run? Could it be that the French are displaying an unexpected, and hertofore unknown taste for said market forces?

I’m not sure, but it seems, just as contemporary forms of dating have apaprently enabled social scientists to gain a new level of understanding concerning the rules determining human mating ( you may not like it 😉 – from Zeit Wissen, in German), mass participation in the digital public discourse could provide previously impossible insights into national discoursive preferences.

10 thoughts on “Does relative size matter?

  1. Good points.

    To generalize a little bit: IMHO, Germans are reluctant to share their opinions and views with an audience which is potentially unknown and which is practically uncontrollable. Plus, the Germans lack a certain culture of debate, because we usually don’t have events like speech contests or similar in school, due to our competition-aversity.

    The smallness of the German blogsphere doesn’t surprise me, whereas the liveliness of the German wikipedia section (including Switzerland, Austria etc.) struck me as really amazing.

    See also the observations of a wikipedia admin expressed in this blog entry (German).

    On a related note: The disregard of the German academia towards the phenomenon of blogs seems to emerge into a real threat for German competitiveness, since sharing information and knowledge will most likely be one of the key issues of the future. Check out this blog entry (with further links) on this topic.

  2. One big issue of contention over European unification was German insistance that German men have larger penises than the rest of Europe and therefore the German condom industry wouldn’t allow their condom sizing to be put in synch with the rest of Europe. Apparently size does matter!

  3. filchyboy,

    thank you very much for revealing the true reasons for the failure of European unification ;-).

    I must admit, that I missed this tempest in the teapot back in 2003. But Google tells me, that you are wrong concerning one point: Actually, one German doctor claimed that the EU-size condoms were too roomy for Germans. Hmmm… perhaps that is the reason why German politicians were so strong EU enlargement cheerleaders.

    But I thought, the topic of this thread was “blogs and wikipedia”?!

  4. germany has jurgen habermas, the most outspoken thinker on public discourse, does he have a blog? interestingly, here to the east in poland, the public trusts the army (the least democratic institution) more than parliament…

  5. The Western part of Poland always had that problem. Especially when it was the Eastern part of Germany

  6. The sharing aspect is interesting. But from personal experience I know that a lot of people are reluctant to write “open diaries” (that´s how they perceive blogs” and think they have friends enough to talk to, they don´t need to do that to/with strangers. The German culture is pretty homogenous, imo, and trying to stand out even with a blog is considered a bit odd. Especially academics have a problem with mixing the unpersonal data-world with personal observations. A fear of not being taken serious if it shows they are only human?

  7. “While the German blogger himself is a relatively unknown species to date…”

    A link from afoe would certainly help…

    We are three German Fulbright Alumni, who blog at the Atlantic Review. 😉

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