Friday, February 11, 2005

Triangle BlogCon approaches!

Tomorrow's the day for Triangle Bloggers Conference 2005. During the run-up to the conference, Anton has asked us all to share our thoughts on blogging and community. (Who knew that "run-up" was a recent import?) I've been slack. With so many great bloggers around, I don't have much to add.

Thanks to Brian for podcasting the Dave Winer event over in Greensboro the other night. Almost like being there--stirring fond memories of the Greensboro conference in August.

For Ruby and Brian and anybody else interested in meditating on journalistic objectivity, you might see the comments gathered here.

More than that, I recommend this essay by Trish Roberts-Miller in the on-line collection Into the Blogophere (UNC's own Tyler Curtain also has a nice contribution).* She's a professor of rhetoric at UT-Austin. Like Ed Cone and so many of us, she wants very much to believe that the blogosphere offers a place for a reasoned exchange of ideas and real dialogue. During the run-up (sic) to the Iraq war, she was particularly looking for that.

What I had hoped about blogs is that they would represent a medium that would encourage good faith argumentation more than do webpages (because they are interactive), but be more accessible and inclusive than bulletin boards, newsgroups, and mailing lists (because they require less technical knowledge and time commitment).

Instead, I found several tendencies among blogs, all of which amounted to their being what Jane Mansbridge has called "enclaves," which are discursive spaces "in which the relatively like-minded can consult with one another" (1996, p. 57). First, the very presentation of blogs--the privileging of the blogger's text(s), as well as that the blogger can choose whether and which comments to include--keep discourse roles far from equal. This is not argumentation among equals.

In order to test her own hunches, she created an unusual blog:

This was a parody blog in which my dog, Chester Burnette, wrote about major political issues (such as the squirrel-dominated media, the place of small dogs in the squirrel conspiracy) and more personal ones (his trips to the ranch, his trying to take care of his servants). My intention was to parody the blogsphere, its confusion of the intimate and public, and expressiveness and argumentation, and, especially, how bizarre the enclave arguments were.

She had a serious aim, actually, but she winds up not so sure that blogs are the medium that's going to elevate the level of political discourse. I hope this is a subject we can talk about tomorrow.

*Jason Gallo's essay on the relationships between blogging and journalism is also interesting.

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