My last blog entry about blogs and justice was a bit theoretical and ended with more questions than answers. Maybe it was confusing. Let me try to be specific. I think blogging will go beyond text and by blogging I mean the whole space that includes all sorts of micro-publishing of micro-content in a highly linked and low-cost way. This includes camera phones, video and audio. There are many things going on right now that will be sand in the vaseline from a technology perspective. Most types of DRM will suck for micro-content distribution. So will things like the broadcast flag. The whole notion of architecting systems for streaming video on demand goes against architecting systems for sharing. These technology and policy decisions will greatly affect the ease in which we publish and share information in the future.

When else can we do? At the last GLT Annual meeting Ethan Zukerman raised an important question during a talk moderated by Richard Smith, the Chairman and Editor in Chief of Newsweek. He asked why the mass media didn't cover Africa more. To summarize, Mr. Smith answered that they were a business and had to print things that people cared about and that they had resource constraints that made it difficult for them to cover remote regions. Resource constraints and caring. Mr. Smith seemed genuinely distressed by the inability to report about things the he believed people SHOULD care about. In Aspen the year before last, Jack Kemp said an interesting thing, "It doesn't matter what you know if you don't care." I agree, and generally people don't care to learn about things they don't care about.

I think blogs can help on both points. There are lots of people in these countries that can help provide voice if enabled with some technology and some support. Witness provides a video voice to people who are oppressed in remote regions of the world. Take a look at the videos. Tell me if you still don't care. Salam Pax our Blogger in Iraq provided a real human voice before the invasion of Iraq. This human voice helped me care about Iraq much more than a statistical body count reported in the New York Times ever could. I'm hoping that Creative Commons licenses will allow musicians in remote regions to share music and culture directly so they have a voice, rather than being mined by studios and commercial interests and being turned into an mere ethnic overtone in an otherwise typically commercial business. I think blogs and technologies that allow people to produce and share information help greatly on the "make people care" part of the equation.

On the "we are resource constrained" part of the media equation, blogs can help too. Ethan Zukerman is planning his second trip to Africa with GLTs and other opinion leaders. I hope to join him on the trip after that. Ethan has been working very hard to try to provide technical support to NGO and other people working in Africa. As I propose in my Emergent Democracy paper, I think that there is a way for information to emerge from regions though several layers of blogs. A group of bloggers focused on Africa, working with people like Witness to try to identify issues, getting first hand sources and dialog onto the Net is the first step. We don't need a lot of these bloggers and they probably won't be your average person, but with a few well positioned bloggers in these regions, these regions can be "lit up" with a human voice and feed culture into our collective consciousness. These bloggers would keep in touch with sources and provide a network similar to the way in which a journalist creates a local network of sources and experts.

I think that bloggers can work closely with the mass media. Richard Smith expressed his interest in hooking up with bloggers and other sources with access to information that his journalists could use. The bloggers who are in or care about regions that are not well-covered by traditional media could become sources for traditional journalists and support by providing an audience that cares and resources at a very low cost.

These are just some examples of things that we can be doing to help make blogs provide real value to society, rather than becoming an echo-chamber for local values or chat rooms to promote new media assets.

So when Clay's asserts that:

I can’t imagine a system that would right the obvious but hard to quantify injustice of the weblog world that wouldn’t also destroy its dynamism.
I guess if the primary focus of a good system is to be just, I can imagine it trying to make technology more inclusive and thinking beyond the market of the privileged that danah refers to.

8 Comments

Do organizations such as Digital
Partnership
factor into this discussion?

plz take a look at these picture about bam quake.

"provided a real human voice"

I entirely agree.

"A group of bloggers focused on Africa, working with people like Witness to try to identify issues, getting first hand sources and dialog onto the Net is the first step".

This is what we're moving towards in India, this and many other things. Check it out: Living in India

Joi, the most useful comments I got at that GLT meeting were yours about the importance of caring. My tendency is to blame the Richard Smiths of the world for the lack of attention paid to Africa. But I'm beginning to be convinced that the problem is symmetrical - readers don't care about Africa because the media doesn't write about Africa and vice versa.

I'm doing some research now on book purchasing at Amazon and seeing some of the patterns you anticipated, Joi. (It's interesting to look at Amazon in comparison to newspapers, because purchasing behavior on Amazon helps you see what people are willing to pay money to read about.) Turns out, there's not a great underserved market of readers looking for information on the developing world... When readers pay their own money for content, it looks like they're just as likely to look for content on wealthy nations as newspaper editors are...

All of this brings me back to your comments on caring. While it's sorta fun to yell at Richard Smith, the productive response is to try to find ways to get readers to care about parts of the world they know little about and to communicate that they care to the mainstream media. While I think blogs are a key part of that process (hence BlogAfrica), I think it's a long, complex process that's going to require getting tools into the hands of people with stories to tell.

Joi,
I believe there is one caveat to your quote:
"generally people don't care to learn about things they don't care about"
For me sometimes I do not want to learn about things I have no way of helping (or influencing). So one of the things that needs to happen is to develop ways for people to help other remote regions, instead of just giving money, something tangible they can do.

Yes, I think that the bloggers can do work more closely to the mass media. The bloggers who are in or care about regions that are not well-covered by traditional media could become sources for traditional journalists and support by providing an audience that cares and resources at a very low cost.

Hi,

I agree with Richard Smith in that the mass media is not covering the remote regions appropriately. The bogs are the good place which can provide the better coverage working together with the mass media.

Hi,

This is a nice post.
It was interesting to read and I enjoyed it.
I agree with Richard Smith in that the mass media is not covering the remote regions appropriately. The blogs are the good place which can provide the better coverage working together with the mass media.

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