Monday, April 04, 2005

Inaugural Post

Welcome to my Word-of-Mouth Communication Study blog!

I decided to start a blog with the hope that it would stimulate discourse about my research and passion: understanding everyday conversations, relationships, and organizing practices. The fact that the subject of this blog is about my research project on word-of-mouth (WOM) is not insignificant. I view WOM as fundamentally an everyday, mundane relational activity. Whether the WOM takes place in traditional face-to-face settings or online, it is essentially about engagement with others. Another way of stating this is that WOM is communication based on mutual coordination, trust, and understanding. Thus, I see this blog as a way to engage with others about a basic human process.

I am equally interested in WOM that is consciously managed or "amplified" by organizations to promote their products, services, brands, and rhetorical visions of themselves. The emerging practice of buzz marketing and organizationally-facilitated WOM fascinates me. In fact, my decision to start this blog was influenced by BzzAgent's blog, where they open up the “inner” workings of their organization and invite others in, and attending the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association's Summit where the topics of buzz, WOM, and blogging were frequently discussed.

Although blogs are exercises in transparency and openness (selection) we must also recognize that they are equally practices of deflection (as the rhetorician Kenneth Burke reminds us). Of course, the deflections, absences, omissions, or silences need not necessarily be borne of ill intent, but certainly they represent alternative rhetorical versions and visions of how things are or could be. This tension between openness and closedness is one I hope to reflect on in this blog, especially as it relates to the construction of personal and institutional identities.

This blog also represents exploration of new ways to engage in academic research (for me, at least), which I define as rigorous, systematic, communal inquiry whose results are made accessible to a broader public. I'm sure there are plenty of others doing similarly (and long before me) and I'm interested in learning more about their initiatives as well.

To anyone who actually reads this (maybe there's one or two of you out there), I invite comments, criticisms (they don't even need to be constructive), shared musings, and above all a sense of curiosity into a better understanding of everyday talk, human relationships, and organizing practices.