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Blogging Conference Coming Up


I would have liked to mention this here some time ago, but with one thing and another (such as my trip to PerthDAC) I just didn't get around to it. Anyway, for those of you within two days' travel of Brisbane: Peter Black from QUT's Law Faculty is organising Australia's first blogging conference this coming Friday (28 September 2007), at the Creative Industries Precinct. True to the theme, the conference won't be a broadcast-style 'shut up and listen to my paper' affair, but a discussion-based unconference (similar perhaps to the Fibreculture conference I organised with Geert Lovink and Molly Hankwitz in 2003).

Unlike other conferences, I won't be blogging this one, though - both because of the paperless setup itself, and because I've been roped in to facilitate sessions throughout the day. In the morning, I'll co-chair the "Researching Blogging and Blogging Research" session with Jean Burgess and Mel Gregg (and I'll contribute a focus especially on crawling and mapping the blogosphere, an area which has been of increasing interest to me recently); in the afternoon I'm helping to run the citizen journalism session with Graham Young and Rachel Cobcroft (and no doubt we'll talk quite a bit about the 12 July incident, crategate, Youdecide2007, and other pre-election fun).

And speaking of citizen and other journalists: last week, QUT put out a press release to promote the conference. As always with such stories, they tried to find a particular hook, and asked me to offer a few comments on the role of blogs in the interminable Australian election campaign. Amongst other things, what I said was this:

"We are one election behind the US in terms of the influence of online media - including bloggers as opinion makers," Dr Bruns, co-editor of the book Uses of Blogs, said. "In the last US election, bloggers were invited to cover the Democrat and Republican national conferences, and played a crucial role in mobilising grassroots support for candidates," Dr Bruns said. "In Australia, bloggers, some of them professional political analysts and election pollsters, provide a different perspective from that of the mainstream media - and many journalists are flustered by these new expert commentators."

Which must have struck a chord with a journalist from a Brisbane newspaper which we'll leave unnamed here - she called me up last Wednesday ostensibly to see if there was a story here, but right from the start assumed a very hostile position. "You're making some very big claims here," she said. (Did I?) "Can you back this up? Have you got any evidence for this?" (Well, this happens to be my area of research, so...) "See, we professional journalists can't publish any such statements unless they're backed up by facts." (Priceless.)

Unfortunately, all of these parentheses were responses I only thought of later, after she'd already ended the interview in a huff - lesson learnt: never speak to the mainstream media when you've had only two hours of sleep on the red-eye flight back from Perth.

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