Blogoz and meandering thoughts about blog hierarchy

October 11, 2007 at 6:15 am (conferences and workshops) (, , )

I had the fantastic opportunity to go to the first Australian Blogging Conference the week before last, the one bonus of having to cancel my Perth trip due to my child’s illness. Congratulations and many thanks to the organisers. I hope that the success of this years conference means there will be more to come, and this time longer. (Is that the sound of someone volunteering to help with next years I hear you ask? Hmmm… maybe… I’m sure I could be convinced, I know a thing or two about organising a conference, and what’s more I make a great poster and a mean t-shirt 🙂 )

In addition to my personal motives for wanting a longer conference, I think that a longer event would allow for a more diverse look at blogging and how it is used.

and here is where I meander…

I did get the feeling that certain types of blogs were given a privileged position above others. I do understand that with a limited time allocation you have no choice other than to focus on some things and leave others for another time, that can’t be helped, but I did feel that some very important aspects of blog culture, and therefore sections of the blogging community, were excluded. This feeling began for me with my first look at the program – though fair enough, limited time and all – but became much stronger for me in the introductory panel discussion. The speakers (Senator Andrew Bartlett, Duncan Riley and Professor John Quiggin) on more than one occasion referred to “knitting” blogs and “food” blogs in a way, though not actually a put down, that made it clear that these kinds of blogs were ‘other’. This ‘othering’ of more personal and domestic blogs suggested that in the context of the blogging conference and its associated community blogs that were not political, commercial, academic, or journalistic were considered less valuable.

In this context I see knitting and cooking blogs as scapegoats for the domestic in the public sphere. I think it is curious that we would have a platform that we term ‘citizen media’ but then fail to acknowledge the way a very large portion of citizens use that media – or, rather, acknowledge them on the surface, but then disregard them as irrelevant. For me, one of the most fascinating things about web media is that it gives unprecedented (though far from perfect) opportunity for people who were previously without a public voice to speak, yet by privileging those that most resemble offline media we are participating in silencing non dominant groups.

This reminds me of the way that, in my wider experience, I have noticed that people often begin general discussions of blogging with a blanket dismissal of ‘all the teen angst blogs’, before talking about ‘the real’ blogs. This I find interesting in terms of what we consider culturally valuable. The passionate (yet presumably still real) thoughts and feelings of teenagers are generally dismissed and often attributed to ‘raging hormones’ in the same way the thoughts of ‘hysterical’ women have been dismissed throughout history. It makes me think that there must be some kind of unwritten ‘blog hierarchy’ similar to the fan hierarchy, where knitters, foodies and teens occupy the position equivalent to people who write erotic fanfic, sitting only above pet bloggers, the web 2.0 equivalent of furry fans. (hmmm… what do all these interests have in common? Could it be that they are all somewhat effeminite? But I digress.)

While this may appear to be a negative assessment of the conference I did on the whole enjoy it and found it a very worthwhile experience, I just feel that this is a conversation worth having. Of course, none of this was what the introductory session was about at all. There is a fantastic account of what the plenary session was really about here at Woolly Days.

Thoughts on the Research Blogging session to follow.

ETA: I just found an interview with Dr Jean Burgess that set of a huge light bulb for me – vernacular creativity, (everyday creative practices) – the way the internet encourages and facilitates this kind of creativity is fascinating to me, and that, I think, is what was missing from this years BlogOz.

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9 Comments

  1. lauredhel said,

    Fantastic post. Linked – I hope you don’t mind.

  2. sajbrfem said,

    Thanks, lauredhel, don’t mind at all.

  3. Scapegoating feminine communication at Hoyden About Town said,

    […] Hoyden guest-blogger sajbrfem has a terrific post up at Diary of a Research Artist: “Blogoz and meandering thoughts about blog hierarchy”. We missed her dearly at Perth’s Femmecon, but at least she got a day at Blogoz as a […]

  4. strangedave said,

    A great post.
    I wish I’d been able to take in the OzBlogs conference, it had a lot of people at it I’d like to chat with, including a few of my EFA board member colleagues, most of whom I have never met in real life.

    Bartlett and Quiggin are two of my favourite bloggers, and they have very solid political commentary. But the point about what is valued is a very solid one. I think the dismissal of teen angst blogs has a point, fundamentally its often hard to write about angst in a way that is unique and refresshing. but the dismissal of craft and domestic is really interesting. I think the average craft blog may well have more real and interesting content than the average political blog! One of the things I think is most wonderful about blogs is the way they open up conversations about all sorts of specialised subjects, yet there is a perception that the ‘important’ blogs are those that address just the same subjects as those most valued by mainstream media.

  5. John Quiggin said,

    I meant to talk about these as an example of blog styles that weren’t represented on the panel, rather than dismissing them as unimportant.

    On a related topic, the immediately following session had an interesting discussion of LJ. I’ve always thought of LiveJournals as being a quintessential example of blogs because the diary form is a natural fit with weblogging but not everyone agreed.

  6. sajbrfem said,

    Strangedave,
    Thanks! Yeah, you would have loved it, I am really glad I got to go.

    John,
    I know, as I say, no one was actually deriding these subjects, but the cumulative effect of the way they were mentioned and the fact that these styles were not only unrepresented on the panel, but in the entire program gave me pause for thought.

    I completely agree about live journal – I was the one in the session (quietly and politely) screaming “LJ *is* real blogging!” I plan to talk more about it in my next post. People’s comments about live journal and inbuilt community were interesting, I have been an LJ person for years and have enjoyed the community aspect but completely taken it for granted until recent reflection.

  7. lauredhel said,

    I’m interested in the arguments made against LJ being “real” blogs – would love to hear a summary.

    I read all kinds of LJ blogs, from the strictly personal to highly political, crafty, foodie, feminist, and so on.

    The three things that I particularly like about LJ (apart from the community aspect) are the privacy/friends-group settings, the threaded comments, and the email notifications of comments. (RSS feeds for individual comments threads would be nice too; I guess no blogging platform is perfect.) Seems to have better icon management that some other sites, too. Other stuff it does not as well.

  8. Blerceundurse said,

    Qualitative resource

  9. jason kenny said,

    Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

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