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Panel #2

Last week I moderated a blogger panel. I was disappointed with the low attendance, but at certain times of the semester it’s hard to get faculty to turn out. However, I was very pleased with the actual content — the bloggers were articulate and thoughtful and passionate. It was a great discussion. A big thank you to Cliff, Oyster, Schroeder and Maitri. (Alas, Karen of Squandered Heritage couldn’t make it, which is a shame because I’m sure she would have brought another great perspective.)

Here are the questions I asked. Remember, these were formulated with a non-bloggy audience in mind:

  1. Tell us about your blog. What do you write about, and why? What motivates you?
  2. Who are your readers? How many people read your blog? Do they leave comments? How does your readership inform your writing?
  3. Tell us about the blogs you read (not strictly local). How do other blogs influence your writing?
  4. The writer David Zirin described the New Orleans blogosphere as being unlike most cities, using the phrase “blogger solidarity.” Your thoughts on the nature of the local blogosphere?
  5. If you were blogging before Katrina, how did Katrina change your blog? If you started blogging post-Katrina, was Katrina in some way a catalyst?
  6. Activism: Describe how you are active in your community. How does that relate to your blogging? Is your blog an adjunct to this work or is it your main channel? Can blogging be a form of activism?

I don’t think I explicitly got to some of those latter questions because the conversation took on a life of its own (as good conversations should) and we ended up covering those topics.

However, my big regret is that I didn’t allot more time. We only had an hour, and so I didn’t get to my final two questions. This was particularly disappointing because these were my “big” questions:

  1. Does blogging matter? Can blogs make a difference? And if so, how?
  2. One promise of new media is democratization. Is this promise being realized, or does the blogosphere reproduce/reflect social inequities?

I thought I’d follow up by posing these questions to my esteemed panelists online. Please answer on your own blogs, or in the comments as you prefer. Feel free to address either of these two questions, or both — or neither, as the spirit moves you.

Anybody else can join in too; it’s an internet free-for-all.

Published inFriendsGeekyThe Ed Biz


  1. Both of those final questions are related. Blogging indeed matters because of its inherent “democratizing” tendencies, if you mean the word in the sense of the free flow of ideas and taking the punditry of the fourth estate down a notch. N.B.: We are not here to replace traditional media, but to supplement, enhance and keep them honest.

    That said, the onus is on us to keep the larger blogosphere as well as its smaller communities, like the NOLA bloggers, open for communication. This has philosophical and technical aspects. This means looking beyond the Big 10 or Big 50 blogs for perspectives and journalistic finds; otherwise it’s like reading the Top 10 papers or watching various TV stations. It’s true that the wisdom of a crowd is something to heed, but people as a tendency look for expert opinions all in the same place, when they are really strewn everywhere. Technically, this requires a search of the internet for those blogs and discussions and not simply clicking on the same blogs in your Favorites everyday.

    Furthermore, the real discussions live in the Comments sections of posts which, in their current form, require elevation. It is often the case that the comments often supersede the original post in depth and latitude.

    In my opinion, the blogosphere does continue to reflect social inequities in that not all communities have a voice, know of the power of blogs or care to communicate in this manner. Whatever the case, we lose a viewpoint that is critical to a democratic discussion. It is very critical to realize that blogs are not the be-all and end-all, just like newspapers and TV news, because democratization in this case is not a far-reaching thing.

    In closing, blogs are collectively a great boon, but not a panacea – if you write consistently and moderately well, read other blogs and leave intelligent questions or comments on them and come to this tool (yes, it’s only a tool) with a mindset of wanting to learn more and participate, a dialogue will happen, which is the end requirement here. Before this medium, yelling at the TV and thinking you were the only one was the norm. However, now that we have this utility, it is our responsibility to keep, grow and share it with a conscience, which makes it like democracy, society, neighborhood, media or any such social construct we’ve come up with over the ages.

  2. Blogs do matter (sometimes), and will increasingly fulfill their potential to “matter” more and more, in all kinds of ways that maitri mentioned in the above post.

    For example, in politics, blogs helped build a furor over a campaign incident in Virginia that helped a Democratic candidate barely edge a favored GOP candidate, and the balance of the Senate was tipped.

    Campaigns at all levels use and read blogs, MUCH more than bloggers might assume.

  3. I think Maitri’s answer to this question summed up how I feel about it. From my perspective I think finding the blogosphere has been a catalyst for me to explore my expressive side. I consider blogs to be a channel for people without access to mainstream media to tell their story. I tend to not read blogs connected with major media outlets because they are just an extension of the same media that doesn’t represent my views.

  4. Elizabeth Elizabeth

    As an audience member at the panel I want to say thank you to Bart (for putting this together) and to the panelists (for their insights). As a non-blogger I found the panel very compelling and I have visited all your blogs since. Thanks for expanding my perspective!

  5. […] idea for this event came out of two panels in 2007: one that I was on and one that I organized. In a sense this event combines those two. That first panel was sponsored by Communications, which […]

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