BloggerCon: Blog Values

Interesting article by Staci D Kramer in OJR about BloggerCon III. She reflects on her own experience of blogging the conference:

It also was my debut as an everyday blogger, someone responsible for the care and feeding of a news blog. The result was a tilt in my blogging worldview. Instead of exploring issues as a journalist and a user, I was adding in the concerns of a blogger and the energy that comes with being part of creating something.

I think this “energy that comes with creating something” is one of the overlooked aspects of blogging. And although in this context Kramer is talking primarily of creating news content, it is a much broader process: the creativity of blogs as a personal publication tool encompasses the link bars, the blog roll, the book and music sections, the furl list etc as well as an emerging sense of “blogger identity”. These elements can be viewed as part method and part embodiment of blogging values. Kramer goes onto consider these different aspects of blogging:

For most of the bloggers gathered at Stanford Law School Nov. 6 and for untold others, blogging is a culture with all the trappings including evolving standards (even if some don’t like the word), ethics, rituals and language. It is a community, or more precisely a cluster of communities threaded together. It was no surprise to me that a session on core values by Napsterization’s Mary Hodder overflowed an 80-seat room.

But blogging is also a tool, and for some, only a tool. It is a way of sharing news and information, a form of writing and publishing. It is not a way of life nor is it life-altering. While some bloggers may perceive blogging as a commitment, for others it is a method.

Kramer links to a range of other blogger participants from the conference. Trevor Cook an Australian blogger and PR consultant makes an interesting comment about mainstream journalism and blogs:

I think the blogging versus MSM [mainstream media] conflict is no good for anyone. Someone pointed out that blogging’s triumphs so far (those that are well-known at least) tend to be negative like the Trent Lott resignation and the Dan Rather ‘kerning’ episode. The big league is in generating new content not just criticising existing ‘content generators’ (previously known as writers). To this end, there was a lot of comments on the importance of bloggers as local journalists or specialist reporters rather than competing with the NY Times.

Another very interesting link is to Salon’s Scott Rosenberg who prepared a series of discussion starters for the blogging and journalism session and has now posted them online. He links to a fascinating NYT article by John Schwartz which is one of the best journalistic attempts I’ve seen recently to address some of the wider issues underlying of the journalism/blogging debate:

Increasingly, these smallest indivisible chunks of information are being subjected to microscopic scrutiny and high-energy attacks in the realm of public discourse, which has made things look a little less solid and more malleable than they might once have seemed.

Facts, for better or worse, have been stripped of the meaning that authority figures, like politicians and news anchors, once imposed on them, said Clay Shirky, an adjunct professor in the interactive telecommunications program at New York University.

That might not be an altogether bad thing. Authority figures have often abused the facts, and they are now held more accountable for what they say. But the flip side of all this truth-squadding in what Mr. Shirky calls “postauthority culture” is that facts themselves becomes more open to interpretation. “It’s much more difficult to get people to agree on what a fact is, or whether it’s important,” he said.

Political campaigns and their supporters tend to treat the atoms of reality as something to be molded, cracked and spun. Meanwhile, volunteer armies of nitpickers are taking facts down to the subatomic level where they can become as meaningless as a nose-to-canvas perspective on a pointillist painting.

Blogging has emerged onto the scene at a time of increasingly fractious politics and into a media environment where many of the fundamental cornerstones of traditional Anglo-American journalism are both under partisan attack and open to philosophical questioning. I think some of the debates about blogging have helped to bring some of these broader issues to the surface in mainstream media discussion. But the danger is that the debates get focused as debates about blogging rather than debates about journalism.

The other contribution that the blogsphere has made is to provide a utopian model for what a public sphere might look like. It is as flawed as any other utopian model but also has the essential power of utopias to inspire a movement of resistance and change.

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