Opening panel – Senator Andrew Bartlett, Duncan Riley, Professor John Quiggin and conference chair Peter Black
My stream of consciousness notes from the opening panel session. Square brackets are me thinking…
Reflecting on the evolution of the blogosphere over the last five years; how, why evolved, why has it become the phenomenon that it is?
John Quiggin: always attempted to update websites daily, so unsurprising that blogs with their ease of updating have had the success they have had. Diarising has flowed on into Facebook etc. Public debate – historically big barriers to access for the public; small number of newspapers; difficult to get a slot in the public debate, when people do get them, they tend to hang onto them. Blog technology universally available, even the mass media now using them [kinda ironic really given that they've probably evolved in part as a response to the difficulty of establishing a public voice?]. Breakdown of the divide between the people who do the listening and the people who do the talking. Early blogs, no commenting, lots of linking. Comments allow dialogue, allow people who don’t necessarily want to maintain their own to have a voice, you get to this point where people become regular commenters. Group blogs are they way of the future [hmmmm...]
Senator Bartlett: obviously interested in political blogging; diversity and social networking component are the aspects he finds particularly interesting. The ‘viral’ aspect of blogs, something that can feed and spread through communities, just another way for information to get out. Over exulted as a new frontier that will democratise social interaction – not so, but definitely another way for people to connect in a society where a number of the traditional ways of connecting have broken down. Discussion of issues and concerns, dynamism and diversity, the real value of blogging. Comments – sensitivity – parliament likes to see themselves as the only ones with the perceived wisdom. Concept that anyone else could even have a clue foreign. Slowly being broken down by blogging. Insularity of sitting and breathing and living the ‘bull shit’ that happens in govt, being broken down; almost an alternative commentary emerging. Cross fertilisation in main stream media, not always with attribution to blogs. Value of comments is not just the straight two way, but the cross fertilisation of commenters coming from different philosophical perpectives, is where the real value lies. Best thing about blogs is their authentic, right there, straight, unvarnished – that’s the particular value for anyone, no matter where they’re coming from – not going through a middle person, only filters are those that the author applies themselves [this is interesting for those of us who blog about professional issues - how do we censor to maintain distance in our work-professional lives (should we maintain distance in our work lives, can we?) from what we blog in our personal-professional lives.]
Duncan Riley: single blogs are the bread and butter of the blogosphere. Group blogs at the top of the long tail, but not the way of the future. Burma – blogs are where the decent news is coming from. Australian media has a phobia that bloggers are the enemy and are going to take them down. Sees bloggers as a threat – ‘shit cans’ bloggers. In the US, journalists are bloggers and bloggers are journalists. Not so in Australia. Some media blogs illustrate that the media is trying to be pre-eminent bloggers in Australia – not really doing a good job! How do we take Australia over the tipping point and into the future of blogosphere? Facebook and MySpace as micro blogging, as access to a blogging platform. How do we break out? Senator Bartlett a wonderful example of what politicians should be doing in the blogosphere. We seem to have missed out having a stand out blog that blows people away. Dog eat dog mentality, cliques. Hope that what comes out of this conference is contacts, cross links. People haven’t got the audience because we’re not doing enough collectively to say, we’re here, we count, and we’re producing this great content.
Senator Bartlett: Has a MySpace page, been thinking about doing it for years, finally got one earlier this year. Points out that you can put it up as just a billboard, but it is a great way for people to connect with you who otherwise wouldn’t. [lightbulb for libraries. We put up these MySpace pages and they act as sign posts, but we need to interact with our users there. What's the point of sticking up a sign that points back to the library, when we can actually let people access us, and access them and their ideas and get them engaged in the library]. Great blogs around literature and the art in the Australian blogosphere, eg on Indigenous art. Easier for someone from a smaller party to blog. Opportunity for him to get info from people that’s different from the focus group, survey type work govt does. Authentic information from the ground. The more people can cross connect, the less they get fed directly from the mainstream media, the better. Positive is there’s always someone out there who can keep you honest – [ha ha this session is off the record, he presumes? in a room full of people who are blogging as he speaks]. Can also have a gag effect, if he’s gonna end up on YouTube five seconds after he says something, then he’s going to be more careful about what he says, which could be both good and bad.
John Quiggin: academic blogging – blogging time consuming, starting out a drain of time. Been involved in academic publication in the past, responds to what’s happening in his field on his blog, which leads to being invited to write journal articles etc. Blog has lead the way to getting involved in opportunities for academic research. Big investment in establishing a blog and getting involved, but it has had a positive pay off in academic terms, and certainly doesn’t chew up every waking minute.
Peter Black asks what is unique about the Austn blogosphere?
Duncan Riley: We’re opinionated, not afraid to give our opinions, but we’ve been more reserved than the US. Still not as ‘out there’ in media (eg reality tv) etc as the US, and that’s showed in blogging. Reservation would be the downside. Australians have a much more global perspective, whereas for the US, the world stops at the Canadian border. We’re better at taking a broader world view. We’re inclusive of others and we write for a global audience. Limitations, haven’t quite got past the tipping point in Australia, but globally, we have a massive audience. Bloggers have an amazing ability to connect with others overseas, particularly when you get down to some of the niche topics.
Question from the audience: Traditional media incredibly influenced by commercial interests. To what extent is that a danger in the blog world? In terms of shaping editorial.
Duncan Riley: numbers game, some people can be shaped or influenced by sponsors or commercial influence. Most bloggers pretty ethical. He has a personal view that he isn’t influenced. Doesn’t write editorial for money. Asked the audience who writes editorial for money? Couple of hands raised to laughter.
John Quiggin: authenticity is hard to fake. So perhaps it’s harder for this to occur in the blogosphere. Plus, the number of people who make a living from blogging is tiny. Not worth it commercially, doesn’t pay off.
Duncan Riley: far more accountable to readers than the media.
From the floor: noted that she has criticised QUT (her employer) at a time when she was applying for a different job at QUT, and she received an email suggesting she should consider what she writes about QUT before applying for any further positions there. So not just happening in the commercial world.
From the floor: question about politicians rushing to get into spaces such as YouTube and MySpace. What has the response been? Is it working, or are kids saying this is my space and I don’t want you in it.
Senator Bartlett: Not convinced that there are a lot of votes in it for the federal election. Points out that there’s a difference between blogging and being on MySpace. Surprised more people don’t do it at local council level because he thinks it would suit that. Points out that politicians in this environment (social networking) are prolific in the UK, but not so here.
Peter Black: idea of invading these spaces. As a teacher, are students willing to engage with him in these spaces? Reluctance to engage with him in a discussion in these spaces, sense of ownership there. But they do read his blog etc. What’s the role of teachers in these spaces?
John Quiggin: real sense of ownership in MySpace and Facebook as opposed to YouTube.
Senator Bartlett: YouTube is being used to get media attention. Eg Howard’s use of YouTube. He doesn’t have to turn up and answer questions, just feeding the media. Facebook much more about interacting. Authenticity always an issue. Politicians using MySpace can be seen as a gimmick.
Duncan Riley: on one hand, anything politicians can do to get rid of some of the apathy that surrounds politics in Australia is good, they’re getting people engaged to some extent; on the other hand, John Howard doing a YouTube video in a suit is just ridiculous. It’s a media gimmick.
More talk about commercial aspects. Someone from the audience spoke about his experience with being paid to blog, and pointed out that it is legitimate.
All about ethics, what’s legitimate, what isn’t, certainly not clear cut.
Interesting discussion this morning. The rest of the day is in streams, which is a shame, because I’m keen to catch all of this conversation. I’m sure I’ll pick up what I’m missing through other bloggers’ summaries.
Tags to come.