Ponderance

(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

Decade of Blogosphere (?)

Wednesday, December 01, 2004
World Magazine has declared 2004 'Year of the Blog'. More impressively, Merriam-Webster's have delcared blog their word of the year for 2004. Of course, they might be a bit late: in 2002 Tech Station Central was calling it Year of the Blog, while others made the same claim in 2003.

The best argument for the importance of blogs that I've read recently is made in Foreign Policy whose November/Decmber 2004 issue has a long, detailed article "Web of Influence" which looks at the increasingly influence of the blogosphere and participatory journalism more generally. While they talk through the standard examples of Salam Pax, Trent Lott's resignation, the 60 Minutes retraction and so on, the article makes three note worthy points:
  • Firstly, they talk about the experience of little-know academic Juan Cole whose blog transformed him into one of the most influential US public intellectuals regarding the middle east. The notion of blogging creating or amplifying the voice of public intellectuals is an important issue, I think; it'd be nice to see more Australian academics writing loudly!
  • Secondly, the article coins the term 'The Fifth Estate' to describe the way the blogosphere acts as a collective of checks and balances which keep the fourth estate (journalism) in line through fact-checking, commentary and the like.
  • Thirdly, the article points to the increasingly important examples of politicaly resistant blogging in countries where resistant voices are still risking a great deal: namely Iran and China.
While there are many more points, I think this article emphasises that while 2004 might be Year of the Blog (again), it might be better to call the first decade of the twenty-frist century, the Decade of Blogosphere, as blogs and other participatory modes facilitated by digital media remind us all that democracy (and politics in general) is about our participation.

Meanwhile it seems Australia isn't that far behind the ball, and will host BlogTalk Downunder, a large blogging conference in Sydney in May 2005.

Update (5.05pm, 1st Dec 2004): Okay, so Robert Corr's comments point out that I was rather dismissive of the existing Australia academics who blog, including: John Quiggin, Andrew Norton, Ken Parish (and the Troppo Armadillo crew). I also regularly read Melissa Gregg from the CCCS, Adrian Miles at RMIT, Helen Merrick's Feminist SF Whileawaying, plus standout postgrad researchers Kylie Veale and Stewart Woods. So, from this impressive list, I can't say there are no Aussie academics are blogging, and I am impressed with the quality of output from those who do blog, but I still think there could be more. I guess I won't be completely happy until the downunderblogosphere has a notable blogging public voice for any topic I can imagine (for example, Elspeth Probyn who writes for Higher Ed on feminist issues would probably have a greater impact as a blogger, as would Kath Albury on the erotica of the everyday, or Catherine Waldby on bioethics). Oh, and I'm not criticising these individuals for not blogging, but rather the academic institutions we reside in which make the time to blog very hard to find, and even harder to justify using that time for blog writing!

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