Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

photo_library_3208Yesterday, Jeff Jarvis introduced us to the Iranian blogger, Pedram Moallemian. Pedram blogs at the eyeranian. He is one of the outspoken Iranians who blogs in English and help us understand what's going on on the incredible number of Persian blogs. He explain that the Persian blogs can be traced to the short explanation written by Hoder at explaining how to use Blogger in Persian. There are now over 100,000 Persian blogs. Most of the blogs are about politics and sex as well as other things like poetry. The suppression of free speech in Iran is one of the explanations for the number of Persian blogs, but the notion that one short page of Persian documentation for Blogger starting this incredible trend is also very important. Many countries and languages probably just need a small seed to create an emergent cascade of blogging adoption.

Jeff writes about an arrested Iranian blogger who was recently freed. Great post with links to other interesting posts about Iranian blogging.


Thanks Joi. Correction: it's

Hey Pedram. Oops. Fixed!

What makes it "emergent" blogging instead of just, say, blogging?

"Many countries and languages probably just need a small seed to create an emergent cascade of blogging adoption."

I'd love to figure out what that 'small seed' is so that I could encourage more Welsh bloggers. It seems to me that blogs are the perfect medium for minority languages such as Welsh - easy to set up, easy to use, easy to create a global/local network of diaspora/native speakers/learners - yet there's less than 20 Welsh language blogs that I know of.

There are around half a million Welsh speakers in Wales, and probably quite a few* ex-pats and learners scattered around the rest of the world. To me, blogs would be the perfect way to bring these minority language speakers together into a giant, delightfully messy mass of communication and conversation. Unfortunately there seems to be no such movement within the Welsh speaking community that I’ve been able to discern.

If one page of instruction is all it took to kick off a surge of creativity resulting 100,000 Persian blogs, it does seem that surely there should be more than 20 Welsh blogs, bearing in mind that there is no such language barrier to understanding the mechanics of blogging for any Welsh speaker as they are all bilingual and thus speak English.

One also has to look at the barriers to take-up. With Welsh, I think they range from the physical (the lack of internet take-up in much of Wales) through the linguistic (the assumption that the Internet is predominantly English-language and that therefore there is no ‘room’ for Welsh) to the cultural (the lack of desire to communicate beyond one’s immediate meatspace community or the assumption that no one else would be interested in what you’re saying anyway). Maybe also the fact that Welsh speakers are also English speakers is also in itself a barrier.

This is a sad state of affairs, as it’s minority languages/cultures like Welsh that stand to benefit the most from the internet and from blogging. (I’ve only picked Welsh to discuss because I don’t speak any other minority languages, but I’m sure valid generalisations could be made from its example.)

In traditional media there is little space for minorities and within that space there is little or no variation. The Welsh media is tiny and largely introspective with no room for outsiders. It also suffers pressure from non-Welsh speakers who harbour anti-Welsh sentiments and would either like to see the Welsh language eradicated or simply do not acknowledge its value or importance.

The internet, of course, gives a voice to anyone who cares to speak up. Blogs facilitate this process by removing the need for any technological knowledge at all - five minutes and a bit of form-filling later, and you have your own place which you can run by your own rules and in your own language.

One would have thought that, considering the limitations of the Welsh media, that the net and blogging in particular would be popular with Welsh speakers who wanted to use their own language to express themselves. Yet there seems to be hardly anyone with a voice who wants to speak up.

I find it hard to believe that out of half a million people, only 20 think they have something to say, so I do wonder exactly what it is that’s holding back the rest. Maybe the blog meme just hasn’t spread to the vast majority of the Welsh-speaking population. Or maybe there really is one key action that needs to be taken to set off a trail of toppling blogging dominoes. If that’s so, I’d dearly love to know what it is and I’m sure that blog advocates from other minorities would too.

*there’s no data that I know of about Welsh-speaking ex-pats, and I wouldn’t even want to take a flying guess.

Lago: It's emergent because I heard about it at the Emergent Technologies Conference. ;-) It's emergent because it wasn't there before. What's interesting to me is not that Iranian blogs exist, but HOW they came to be.

Suw, interesting point about the Welsh. I think the level of oppression is quite high in Iran and the incentive to blog is very high. Many of the bloggers are professional journalists who are being clamped down on or who wrote for journals which have been shut down.

Joi, I had wondered whether the political climate in Iran was behind the surge in blogging - if you're living under such oppression and are seeing your fellow countrymen suffer, the urge to tell the rest of the world about it in order to attempt to force change must be very high. Even just to have an outlet where you can rant about the injustices you see must be of great value to those Iranians who blog.

Whereas in Wales, hundreds of years of subtle bureaucratic and cultural suppression by the English (and parts of the Welsh establishment, I hasten to add) has lead only to widespread apathy, a state that seems to be reflected by the lack of online Welsh activity. One example of this is the fact that the second biggest Welsh language learning website after that of the BBC has been created by an unfunded Englishwoman (me).

So if maybe the missing seed is passion - in Iran, perhaps passion for truth, change, justice &c. - how does one mobilise a minority stuck in the rut of apathy?

Dean showed that political passion still exists in America, and that grass roots movements can indeed be mobilised using the power of blogging and the net. But in his case, you have both a rallying around a common cause/personality, and you have the whole mass media backlash to the online phenomenon which has dented Dean’s campaign chances significantly. Yet even if Dean’s not nominated, he’s proved that you can not only rally people via the net, but you can raise significant funds for your cause. Next time round, similar campaigns won’t make the same mistakes he did.

But that still leaves me with this feeling that maybe it’s possible to evangelise blogging to Welsh speakers, but that I still am not really sure how.

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