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“Only… when Americans think it is important…”: Blogging the World

April 20th, 2004 · No Comments

Notes from the session on Blogging the World moderated by Rebecca MacKinnon at BloggerCon on April 17.

In this session the IRC was especially exciting with participation from people in other countries. Below is a basic outline of points made. Again I am organizing by topic rather than by chronology.

Other blogger’s notes: Rebecca MacKinnon’s are here…great perspectives from Hoder and Dowbrigade who both participated remotely via IRC….

Current state of international news in the blogosphere:

Ethan Zuckerman’s maps showing how countries are (disproportionally) represented in the blogosphere: in news and in blogs

Rebecca MacKinnon: isn’t it unfair in the blogosphere that issues only become important when Americans think it is important?

What is valuable about going to a blog from a particular country?

Judith Meskill: to get a first person opinion on that [knowledge economy] is very important to me than to get a very highly massaged version…I’m mainlining what’s really going on.

What are the barriers between international bloggers?

Translation & new tools needed

(from IRC)yes, Ethan, having a good machine translation tool would free people from translating and bring them right into writing: andrea_livinginc

Ethan Zuckerman: It would be really really useful for people interested in this to step up on blogization..put together networks of people who will identify key posts and translate…

Is it technology or is it culture? Other cultures use other technologies:

SMS text messaging and chat rooms in China
talk radio in Ghana

Ethan Zuckerman:..the tech I want to build [in Africa] is talk radio…that interesting dialogue happens on talk radio…

What can we do to build a bridge between radio and blogging? Or capture SMS for American culture?

Lack of technology & power: “How does the on-line community work with off-line?” RM

Rebecca MacKinnon:[recent question that was asked] “Where are the Haitian bloggers?” Like they have any power let alone any computer connection.

Lack of context for understanding across cultures:

Ethan Zuckerman:…is being able to give context…the reason Rebecca’s work is so powerful is she knows loads about N. Korea…a lot of this function ends up being editorial function…Rebecca’s taking voices of travelers, workers…let me explain why you care about this…I’m trying to drag Joi Ito [to Africa]…he wrote back and said “I can’t read this, I have no idea what people are talking about…” how do we build bridges between.

Can it change how governments interact with each other?
Can it change the way people view the way their government is interacting with others?

audience suggestion: Sister cities concept invigorated?

Tom Regan: I started receiving emails from people on the other side [in the] Kosovo situation…Mike Moran of CNBC wrote about it too…it was a very interesting experience to start hearing the voices from the other side…at one point we started having a conversation about what our countries were doing to each other..
“I wonder what would have happened if Germany had been able to blog?” It definitely upset the apple cart in terms of my perception of the people on the other side. Suddenly right and wrong became a lot fuzzier….

Weblogs changing social bridges within countries

Hoder:”Weblogs are creating social bridges in a deeply divided society of Iran. The central part of all these bridges is a social dialogue between two generations, those born before 1970s and those after. It’s the first time that the younger generation is actually speaking to the other one. This is why weblogs are important more than anything.”

Hoder: How to make a blogosphere

Weblogs build social bridges across countries

Rebecca MacKinnon: read Dowbrigade’s message on IRC: Do I have more in common with whom? With a blogger in Albania or my neighbor who reads People magazine or an illiterate worker?

How do we match up these communities of interest?

Weblogs change audience

Rebecca MacKinnon: when you’re reporting on a place as a journalist for a conventional media, you’re talking to people whose interests and background are coming from a particular area…if you’re talking to a blog audience, who are all over the world….up until now all conventional media has talked to geographically defined audience.

Caution: weblogs may not serve truth

Rebecca MacKinnon: if you’re in a society where people don’t have easy access to reliable information….to what extent are people much more susceptible to believing rumors on blogs…why did they believe it? because it was on the Web…they weren’t interested in that, they were interesting in trusting information from people they knew which may not have been based on any fact what so ever….just because people are free to blog, it may not serve the cause of truth, it may serve the cause of bigotry or racism….when you have a society that’s not open anyway, I think there’s more danger of extremism having more currency..

Rebecca MacKinnon:To what extent are bloggers breaking down barriers if people stick to reading blogs that validate their own world view?

How to make the changes necessary?

How will people begin to read blogs that are different from their own perspective?
How will people begin to change the balance of coverage and blogging? How to make what is “unfair” fair?

“We should be taking a leadership role…one blogger can have an impact…”

Dave Winer:If you hold your breath until CNN starts covering things it needs to cover…they’re not even trying on CNN to report news any more…

Jeff Jarvis exhorted the community:

if we’re trying to talk about trying to support…we should be taking a leadership role in this,


What do we want? we talk about journalist…why not adopt countries? It happened by accident with me…but because blogs were so easy and I respected the person so much…it’s very easy to adopt a country…we have the technology..we talk a lot about accessibility for disabled. we’re talking about international accessibility…we need tools in other languages…maybe there are ways we get them to CNN…there are things we can do starting from this room …and makes it easier for us to enable other countries to do this


There’s a woman in Maine who just sent on her own money 4 laptops to Iraq..we all have things we could be doing…

One blogger can have an impact in a funny way..there’s a chance that you can do this kind of leapfrog…one person isn’t too small…

Okay, Jeff, I’m thinking about it….

Dave Winer has posted a suggestion: Weblog coverage of families of American war victims in Iraq?

Tags: bloggercon