During the final session at BloggerCon I, in October of last year,
the Dowbrigade, still a blogging neophyte at that point and incredibly
intimidated by the famous names and aggregated flow in attendance, made
his hesitant first and only intervention before the plenary.
"Despite the incredible success and promising start of what we have
done these past two days," we mewled, "I strongly believe that if the
revolutionary changes in communication, journalism and politics we have
been talking about are to become a reality, it will require a truly global
movement, and not just a bunch of white guys on the two coasts of the
United States. Maybe we should consider holding the next BloggerCon in
Europe, or Asia, or South America."
These comments went over like a lead balloon, like a barely perceptible
fart in a perfumed salon, and the wrap up discussion quickly went back
to self-congratulatory profundity. So it was with some satisfaction
that an older and hopefully wiser Dowbrigade, participating in BloggerCon
II long distance from beautiful Manta, Ecuador, observed that this year
there was a decidedly international flavor to the conference, both in
origins of the participants and in the themes discussed.
In fact, there was an entire session dedicated to the Internationalization
of Blogging. In addition to those on-site in Pound 201, there were on-line
interventions from bloggers in Holland, Germany, China, Korea, Japan
and Canada. Unfortunately our success with the live audio webcast was
mixed; between our limited and fluctuating bandwidth and the technical
that kept popping up in Cambridge, trying to follow the discussion in
RealPlayer was more distracting than edifying. However, the action on
the IRC channel, which functioned flawlessly, was fast and furious, and
allowed us to simultaneously follow the flow of the discussion while
in witty and insightful repartee with the virtual participants.
Ample evidence, both statistical and anecdotal, was presented to support
the proposition that blogging and the social changes it is engendering
are a world-wide phenomena. China, where the number of active blogs
has passed 300,000 and is expected to hit a million within the year,
Iran, where the vice-president is an active and authentic daily Blogger
and South Korea, where the world’s first Internet President has just
turned back a tide of analog antagonism, were presented and discussed
as examples of thriving non-US dimensions of the Blogosphere.
Problems were admitted and discussed. Uneven internet and broadband
penetration, skewed socioeconomic representation, political repression
and government control of server access were all brought up and kicked
around the table. The language barrier and the embryonic state of machine
translation, even after 30 years of intense efforts by linguists and
programmers, was described and decried. But still, a sense of optimism
and increasing awareness that the Blogosphere is truly a land without
A strong case was made that the revolution in substance and sensibility
which is the secret promise of blogging is even more desperately needed,
and may actually be further along, outside of the United States.
Of course, the difficulties in convincing Americans, who think they
invented air, to admit that anyone is further along in anything than
they are, are legendary. The idea that we may be able to learn something
worthwhile from a foreigner is shocking and offensive to many in this
deeply ethno- and linguo-cenetric culture of ours.
Several interesting ideas were proposed to overcome the Balkanization
of Blogging. One idea we heard, echoing the substance of one of our very
first posts, was the creation of a Bloggers’ Mapa Mundi, a large virtual
map of the world linked to relevant or noteworthy blogs around the globe.
We would like to take a moment to elaborate on how such a resource could
Suppose you heard a rumor, or a sound-byte, or read a passing reference,
to something interesting going on in, say, Ulan Bator. Assuming you
know a little about geography (a dangerous assumption when dealing with
Americans below a certain age, these days), you could go to the Mapa
Mundi, and click on the area in question.
Up would pop a page containing a) a brief profile of the country, population,
history, political organization and socioeconomic data; b) a list of
the top English-language blogs in the area (at present, most of these
would probably be of the ubiquitous ex-Pat variety) and c) a list of
the top native-language blogs as well. In countries with large numbers
like Iran or
China, these lists could be broken down by province or geographic zone,
as well as by Blog-type (personal, political, protest, etc.).
Who would do the admittedly time-consuming work of setting up and administering
a system like this? The most reasonable proposal we heard was that existing
English-language bloggers who care could volunteer to be responsible
for a single country or zone. The Dowbrigade has dibs on Ecuador.
One last idea that occurred to us post-session, as a way to break down
the barriers to peace, love, and understanding represented by the Tower
would be a coordination between ex-Pat and local bloggers.
In each country, some of the foreign bi-lingual English-language bloggers
could "adopt" a top native-language Blog for a mutually broadening exchange
of posts and views. On a regular basis, the English-language blogger
would translate and summarize important postings from the native-language
blog they were working with, making these first-person insights and reporting
available to a wider audience. The local blogger could do the same
with the postings of their English-language "brother Blogger". (No sexism
intended, merely an alliterative adoption of "sister city")
At any rate, we REMAIN even more convinced that the only hope the forces
of freedom and virtual light have in breaking the worldwide monopoly
and stranglehold of the major media over the global attention
span is by working together, learning from each other, and developing
a functional solidarity that transcends language, local political bickering
and geographically based ethnocentrism. Blogging breaks barriers,
and the world is our oyster.