Australian blogger Amy Bradney-George on the ever-increasing importance of blogging in our media landscape:
A few years back, around the beginning of 2006, I began reading blogs by friends and family as a way of keeping in touch with them. From there I realised how many people across the world are actually utilising this form of communication and expression. I began looking for blogs by people in the arts industry – namely film, television and theatre. When I started regularly reading Stargate:Atlantis executive producer Joseph Mallozzi’s blog in the first half of last year, I also found another purpose for blogging.
Joe not only writes about what’s going on for the show he executive produces and writes for, but also about the film and television industry, about writing for screen, about the crew and cast, and also about other things which interest him – books and food spring to mind. He does an almost-daily “mailbag” question and answer session, effectively cutting out the middleman (media) and giving his responses directly and eloquently. While a lot of the questions are about Stargate (I believe he’s worked on all the Stargate projects save the original movie), a lot are about his other interests and the industry he’s working in.
What struck me then (and still does) is the fact that blogging can put a personality to a name and face that people may know. It’s also a great way to give people answers to questions they may have that the mainstream media won’t ask. Science fiction is a good example of this lack of media attention because is general it is not deemed “mainstream entertainment” (and why is a whole new topic which I won’t go into here). Being able to read blogs by people directly involved in the film and television industry can provide information that the relevant media parties may miss or be unable to report on.
Before I move on, I’d like to mention Joe’s book club. Every month or so he picks, or asks readers to choose, three books people can read and then discuss. It started towards the end of last year and has been a great success. Joe’s even been able to get authors like Lou Anders (also a prolific scifi editor), Jeffrey Ford and K.J. Bishop to drop by and answer questions from him and the other readers about their relevant books. Each book is given a week’s worth of discussion before moving on to the next. In itself, I think this book club not only gives readers a chance to ask well-known authors about their work, but has also created a great community of intelligent, interested speculative fiction (scifi, fantasy, horror) readers. It seems blogging can be more interesting and useful than I first thought.
One of the main discourses on blogging that I’ve heard about recently is the apparent threat it might pose to mainstream forms of journalism. I’ve often seen it referred to as a form of “citizen journalism” or, as the ABC might say “a type of User Generated Content”. Axel Bruns, a “casual observer” of journalism, says in this article that traditional forms of journalism are being overtaken by new forms like news blogs and other websites offering “citizen journalism”. Bruns’ thoughts shed some light on the fear many media organisations have when it comes to the internet and blogging.
As I’ve said here and here, I don’t necessarily think traditional forms of media are necessarily threatened by blogging or at risk of being lost, however, blogging does need to be looked at more closely by the media.
A good place to start might be the recently published book by Australian journalist and author Antony Loewenstein, aptly titled The Blogging Revolution. Based on two years worth of travel and research, Loewenstein’s book investigates the democratising processes blogging can provide, especially for countries often viewed as politically repressed. Focusing on dissidents and bloggers in Iran, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and China, the book provides and in-depth look at how citizens, or perhaps more aptly “netizens” in these countries use blogging.
In his introduction to the book, Loewenstein expresses a frustration at the mainstream, Western media’s lack of interest in blogging as a way of providing voices for these countries. He writes that very few Western countries have had coverage of the Iraqi war without a “Western journalist’s filter”. It seems despite a journalistic obsession with balance, much of the Western media has not looked further than “official” statements, while blogs from citizens in these countries, experiencing these events first hand, lay forgotten in the online world.
His book highlights the importance of blogging for countries that don’t get a lot of Western media attention. It can be a way of showing the world what people experience, and how they feel about their countries. Western society may often make assumptions about countries seen as repressed or oppressed but, without hearing from people there, how do we really know? Loewenstein’s book provided insights and information into not only blogging, but also the way citizens in Iran, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and China feel about their countries and their leaders – what life is like living in these countries. It’s more than food for thought, The Blogging Revolution is essential reading for anyone interested in the opportunities the internet can provide and the state of the world today.
There may be no definite way to define the purpose of blogs, but it’s apparent they can be invaluable tools in providing insights, forums and context globally. Maybe that’s enough.