Yesterday was the blogging panel at Davos. Jay Rosen was the moderator and the panelists were Orville H. Schell, Loic Le Meur, yours truly and Hubert Burda. You all already know Loic and Jay I'm sure. Orville is the Dean of the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and was at the Media Leaders discussion the day before too. He's got some great perspectives and his positive and insightful view on blogs was encouraging. Hubert Burda is the CEO of Hubert Burda Media, one of the largest media conglomerates in Europe and I was extremely impressed by his positive and open view on blogs and media. In other words, we had a great panel.

Jay kicked it off by saying that we were going to ignore the official title, "Will Mainstream Media Co-Opt Blogs and the Internet". ;-)

I explained that blogging meant a lot of things. There was the technology of blogging, the act of blogging and what journalists were talking about most of the time. I explained the power-law and asserted my position that the head of the curve, or the more popular blogs, were like an amplifier and that I agreed with many people who believe that the "tail" or the more personal blogs was where most of the interesting stuff was going on. I talked about Ross Mayfield's layers and the idea that a lot of interesting sources could be filtered by special interest groups, through a social layer and to the amplifier where maybe they can connect, merge with mass media to a certain extent. Because of the the media orientation of the panel and the audience, we decided to focus on the impact that blogging had on journalism and media.

Loic said he thought blogging was like "open sourcing" himself. Which I thought was an interesting way to look at it. He used his metaphor about how he thought blogging will do to the traditional media what Napster did to the music industry. He clarified that he meant that it would allow people to share information peer to peer instead of going through traditional distribution. The difference was that people could more easily create content for blogs than music.

Mr. Burda had a lot of great insights and talked about how collapsing business models and changes were all part of the game and that he and the others needed to let go and adapt. He made a point that he would be interested to see more blogs focusing on things like science instead of typically popular stuff like politics.

I think we all agreed that the ability for blogs to talk with and become one with the audience was key.

What was interesting was the number of people from the mass media in the audience who still seemed to think that blogs were either just poor quality news or that bloggers were just wannabe journalists. One person from a newspaper said that she thought blogs would just become incubators for journalists. I (emotionally) asserted that the mass media and blogs were not the same. Many bloggers (such as myself) are blogging, not for the money, but for a passion which embodies what I believe is part of the heart and soul of journalism. We are not encumbered by the pressures of advertising, marketing and the burden of having to sell print media. It's insulting to think that all bloggers just want to be journalists for print media. I pointed out that big media had a role and that their ability to protect their journalists from litigation and to fund particularly expensive investigations and stories was something we can't do, but the notion that we're just little versions of them was absurd.

Jay chimed in and pointed out that blogs are much more similar to the spirit of the "freedom of the press" referred to in the US constitution. IE citizens with presses.

I'm on a narrow band connection so I will add links after I get to a wifi connection.

4 Comments

Re: Science blogs… At a dinner I attended a couple of days ago with several professors from Japan and the UK, scientists having personal websites became the topic of conversation.

One very influential professor asserted that personal websites are a waste of time and that the quality of a scientist’s website is inversely proportional to the quality of his/her research - not very encouraging.

Academic publishing is tied up by even more highly entrenched interests than the mainstream press. The academic publishers (I say 'publishers', but in truth, one company has a very large proportion of it tied up) manage to get first printing rights to all significant scientific work, without paying a cent for it. They then proceed to sell it back to the people who produced it - the universities and taxpayers - at a highly inflated price. This whole system is maintained by co-opting senior academics to work as editors in return for a miserable stipend.

The question academics should be asking is not so much 'are blogs useful?' as 'why can academics not see how they are being ripped off in front of their very noses?

Here's a counter-example to the idea that the quality of academic websites is inversely proportional to the quality of their creators' research.

Language Log: a group blog about linguistics by several professors at different universities.

Whether or not that happens to be your area of interest, the key trait of the site is that it makes linguistics approachable. Anyone can read the blog and get an idea of what it is linguists do all day, through humor, analysis of articles in print media, and the general musing of people who are in-the-know about linguistics.

I think it's a real model for how academics can enter the blogging world. A group blog works well in this arena, both because professors are busy people, and because academia is all about discourse.

See in particular Mark Liberman's post Why there Should be More Scholarly and Scientific Weblogs: "...my point is that we have a chance for our voices to be heard by the public at large, on the topics we know and care about, without journalistic intermediaries."

There is a difference between weblogs and personal websites in general. As I think has been mentioned before, weblogging tends to blur the boundaries between one's professional and personal facets. From an academic point of view, scholarly or scientific writing requires a lot more thought than a casual blog article, backed up almost always with research, either actual, or references to other peer-reviewed articles.

Blogs on the other hand are often more about sharing personal thoughts and reactions, which one can write more quickly and that one is not necessarily expected to stand by as Truth with a capital T, or even as Science or Engineering. It's a casual level of discourse that is more playful than paper publication.

If you think about websites, as contrasted to blogs, information about your research can draw in new collaborators and research partners, if it is available on the web. It's also a way to share results in a more informal way, with more interesting media than just the written word, like pictures, movies or datasets. I am searching for collaborators and a PhD topic right now, and websites are one of the main ways (along with academic publications) to find out what people are actually doing.

Of course, a lot of more senior people in their field already have a casual level of discourse through meeting at conferences or possibly through discussions by email. So putting more stuff on a website isn't necessarily worth the effort (particularly when one needs to update every week, or month.) Writing a blog requires a lot more effort: weekly to daily updating, which not everyone wants to do.

Leave a comment

9 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: The blogging panel at Davos.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://joi.ito.com/MT-4.35-en/mt-tb.cgi/1324

Also zumindest ein Medienmacher in Deutschland weiss jetzt, was Blogs sind.

Mr. Burda had a lot of great insights and talked about how collapsing bu...
Read More

Joi Ito berichtet Read More

Davos from -tfs blogging experiments
January 24, 2004 4:55 PM

“media sites could do things like permalinks, trackbacks, ping pingers, syndication and other things to make them much more blog friendly.” It seems so logical, yet I’ve never heard anyone else advocate these great ideas before. Perha... Read More

Ever since I read Laurie Garrett's personal letter posted around the net almost a year ago following the World Economic... Read More

Why Blog? from The Next America
January 29, 2004 6:02 AM

From Joi Ito: Many bloggers (such as myself) are blogging, not for the money, but for a passion which embodies what I believe is part of the heart and soul of journalism. We are not encumbered by the pressures of Read More

El encuentro anual del World Economic Forum celebrado en Davos (Suiza) del 21 al 25 de enero de 2004, incluy Read More

Ever since I read Laurie Garrett's personal letter posted around the net almost a year ago following the World Economic... Read More

El encuentro anual del World Economic Forum celebrado en Davos (Suiza) del 21 al 25 de enero de 2004, incluy Read More

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Business and the Economy category.

Books is the previous category.

Computer and Network Risks is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index.

Monthly Archives