BloggerCon == Bloggers?

Oliver Willis recently took a poke at the hype that threatens to wash over the blogging phenomenon:

During one of the Saturday sessions a member of the audience referred to the assembled crowd as “utopia”. Now, yes, I loved the blog camaraderie but quite frankly I don’t want to be the only black person in utopia. I was the only black person in that room, and was one of a few minorities. I’m not whining about that, but simply stating the fact that a technology that is mostly the pursuit of upper middle class white males does diddly to change the real world. I’m a geek through-and-thorough but when I hear tooth gnashing about issues like copyright as if they were the most important issue in the world – it tells me that the blog world is somewhat out of touch.

First, thank goodness someone is trying to keep people from having their heads explode. Blogs are neat, but they are not a panacea.

However, the Saturday he is talking about is the BloggerCon get-together, hosted at Harvard. The chances that the group assembled there represented the mainstream blogger was very near to zero. The group assembled was very much the elite of the community. As such, it is disappointing that Mr. Willis was the only black man in sight, but I don’t know that this is representative of everyone who blogs. So the real question might be “why does the elite of the blogging world look so much like the elite in other social groupings?” In other words, I don’t know that this is as much a condemnation of the blogosphere as a recognition that it tends to reinscribe an existing social order, perhaps with a sidecar of white-male geekiness thrown strangely toward the top.

Having recently been accused of being a bloghyper myself, I don’t want to be step into the role of defending of the technology. On the other hand, I think a more appropriate question might be: where is the conference for the average blogger?

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  1. Posted 10/7/2003 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    This is interesting. I too blogged about Willis’ post. I am thinking that this conference was for the elites (given the price of the conference) who wanted to talk about specific topics. When I sent the organizer an email about why there weren’t any sessions concerning gender, race or identity, I rec’d a snotty reply – ‘I am sure it will come up’ – ‘no-one suggested it’ and ‘why are you emailing two days before the conference about this?’ Perhaps the organizer was stressed, but I was shocked. I watched most of the conference via Kevin Marks’ bootleg feed, and i certainly noticed the deomgraphics in the room – I waited patiently for the ‘isms’ to ‘come up’ in the conference. They really didn’t. While the elite bloggers (A listers) decided the fate of the blogosphere, I (B lister) sat at home thinking that these elites are missing the obvious.

  2. Posted 10/8/2003 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    You ask where the conference for the average blogger would be. Well, most recent data (see Persues) says that the average blogger is a teenage girl. Trust me, they aren’t going to conferences.

    The InstaPundits & scholars like ourselves are not the average blogger. We are but one segment in the blogging community.

    I was at BloggerCon & thrilled to be an invited speaker. The day wasn’t about the average blogger. To me, it was about what the elite blogger can do to get blogging to every Internet user in the world. To me, it was about what every blogger can do to change the world & the political system.

    Yes, it was idealistic & full of bloghype. But, it was beautiful. It was not for the average blogger. It was for the blogger with a vision to make the technology & use of it better.

    It was for you & me, not the 11th grader in Kansas. It was for you & me so that we might inspire that 11th grader.

    Blog on.

  3. Posted 10/8/2003 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Kaye: You’ve got my vote if you ever decide to run for blog-office :)!

  4. Posted 10/8/2003 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    Netwoman: I think perhaps there is something to this. There is a certain view that there exists a blogger elite, rather than a set of blogging communities. The feel–and I wasn’t there, but I think Kaye captures it a bit in the above–seems less CPSR and more LUG. Nothing wrong with that, of course, and I’m all for a lively LUG meeting, but it is a particular discourse community. I think it would be a mistake to assume it is the only one, or the only one with power.

    If there is not–if there really is only this relatively small techno-elite cadre acting as the vanguard–then (a) blogging is a threat to the formation of a public, and (b) Neil Postman, wherever he is now, is probably wishing he could come and slap us upside the head. I have a feeling, though, that while this highly interlinked group of blogging celebs represents only one (if the most visible) of the many spheres of blogging.

    This is meant in no way to be a slight to the conference, but I would find a conference of 11th-grade girl bloggers to be a very interesting prospect indeed. I think it’s easy to forget that innovation and revolution often happen at the periphery. The fact that girls have taken this up as a medium is far more interesting to me than the fact that Harvard Law has. It would have been hard to get further from the periphery than BloggerCon :).

  5. Posted 10/10/2003 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Alex, Ha! I was going to ELECT YOU … then offer to run your virtual campaign!

    I was a bit ideological in my last comment, wasn’t I? Blame it on BloggerCon.

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