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Blogging outside the Echo Chamber

Well, the next instalment of our Club Bloggery series for ABC Online has now been published. On the Gatewatching blog which Jason Wilson, Barry Saunders and I run, we've posted a slightly earlier, longer version of the piece, which asks quite simply what we know about the real impact of blogging on political debate in Australia, beyond the realm of those already addicted to the machinations of the political scene...

Blogging outside the Echo Chamber

By Axel Bruns, Jason Wilson, and Barry Saunders

In the current political climate, it's no surprise that a number of sessions at the recent Australian Blogging Conference at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane focussed on the potential for blogs and other citizen journalism sites to impact on political news and punditry. In a previous article, we've already noted the continuing skirmishes between psephologist bloggers and the political commentators, whose rather unscientific interpretation of opinion poll results that some bloggers have challenged fervently.

Welcome to Club Bloggery

The second of our weekly series on pre-election blogging for ABC Online's Opinion section has just gone online, and we've also found a name for the series - Club Bloggery. I'm very pleased to say that it's also been crossposted to the ABC's Election Tracker site, and an extended version is now up on our group blog Gatewatching. The first instalment generated some interesting discussion (which I'll refer back to in the third piece I'm currently developing) - hope it will be the same for this one:

Club Bloggery Part 1: Consulting Bloggers as Citizens

By Barry Saunders, Jason Wilson and Axel Bruns

The 2007 federal election is shaping up as a chance for Australian political bloggers to show off their skills. From now until the votes are counted, Club Bloggery will wrap up the biggest news from the blogosphere.

Introducing Gatewatching

No, the book isn't getting a re-release (yet). There's a lot of other activity going on around the fields of citizen journalism, news blogging, and online opinion writing, so Barry, Jason, and I thought it would be a good idea to set up a group blog dedicated to tracking these developments - and I'm pleased to announce that our new blog at Gatewatching.org is now open for business. This doesn't mean that I'll stop blogging here, of course - but my citizen journalism-related thoughts, and the outcomes of our collaboration on Youdecide2007 and beyond, are going to be collected there (as well as cross-posted here where appropriate). Come join us as we try to make sense of it all.

This launch also coincides neatly with the start of a series of posts we'll do for the ABC Online opinion section over the coming weeks (and throughout the Australian election campaign) - we've been asked to report from the political blogosphere in an effort to highlight the best ideas emerging from outside the mainstream media. It seems appropriate in this context that our first post to the ABC site is a rumination on the interrelationship (and increasing interweaving) between industrial and citizen journalism, touching on the 12 July meltdown at The Australian as well as the crategate story we managed to uncover through Youdecide2007.

Blogging Conference Coming Up

BlogOz

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).

He Scoops, They Score!

Youdecide2007.orgSometimes things just come together. We've only done a soft launch of the Youdecide2007 site which will provide hyperlocal citizen journalism coverage of the upcoming federal election in Australia, with a number of electorate profiles, interviews with local citizen and MPs, news releases, and opinion pieces now available on the site - but that hasn't stopped the site from attracting a good number of visitors, some press coverage, and now even a mention in parliamentary question time. A little while ago, Jason Wilson did a phone interview with Liberal Party member for Herbert, Peter Lindsay (available on the site as a nice YouTube clip overlaid with images from the electorate). In the interview, the MP rather appears to digress from his prepared talking points (about half-way through the clip), and makes the somewhat general claim that "young people today are financially illiterate", thereby causing themselves unnecessary mortgage stress. The federal opposition was quick to pick up on the story, and the Honorable Kevin07 engaged in some opportunistic political point-scoring on the basis of the statement.

Mainstreaming Citizen Journalism in Australia: YouDecide2007

As we're slowly approaching the official start of the Australian federal election campaign (not that the unofficial campaign hasn't already started...), we're also getting very close to the launch of our citizen journalism site to accompany the election. This is the first major project in a three-year ARC Linkage research programme around citizen journalism which involves SBS, On Line Opinion, Cisco Systems, the Brisbane Institute, and my colleagues and me at QUT Creative Industries.

Mobiles and the Public

Sydney.
The post-lunch session at Mobile Media 2007 is started by Janey Gordon, who focusses on the use of mobile phones in critical situations, contributing to the public sphere; she's focussing especially on the SARS outbreak in China in 2003, the tsunami in the Indian ocean in 2004, and the London bombings in 2005. SARS was initially underreported, and news about it was restricted by the Chinese government, until a Beijing doctor became a whistleblower about the crisis; in this context, the mobile phone became a key tool for the spread of grassroots information about it. SMS messages were later also used to send out blanket information to the public in order to manage public knowledge.

The Cult of the Professional

There's been a certain amount of publicity recently for Andrew Keen's book The Cult of the Amateur, which roundly criticises citizen journalism, Wikipedia, and pretty much anything else associated with 'Web 2.0' and user-led content creation for 'killing our culture'. Looks like it's striking all the right chords with the usual moral panic crowd who find it hard to accept that anyone but themselves could be in charge of determining what's good and worthy - or indeed, that users themselves, as the participants in culture, might want to have a say in such decisions.

Keen's one-man cultural crusade is reminiscent of the Discovery Institute's 'Teach the Controversy' campaign against the science of evolution, which similarly relies on clever marketing to disguise the fundamental flaws of its 'scientific theory' of intelligent design; or in a related comparison, he's establishing himself as the media industry equivalent of a climate change denialist, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to discredit his overgeneralised hyperbole. Some industrial journalists, of course, love anything which attempts to take the shine off their citizen counterparts. So, I was reasonably concerned what I saw Keen pop up in the weeknightly podcast of the BBC's NewsNight programme - but thankfully, they had Charles Leadbeater at hand to inject some reason into the debate:

[NewsNight video at the BBC - what, no embeddable version?]

Political Blogging in Australia

Boston.
In addition to the various vodcast-based means of staying up to date with political developments in Australia and the world even while in the sadly news-starved U.S., I'm also a regular reader of Larvatus Prodeo at the moment - one of the most consistently insightful Australian political group blogs. (The Prodeans are having a great deal of fun at the expense of the Canberra press gallery punditariat at the moment - very enjoyable.)

So, in that context it's very timely that my article on mapping the Australian political blogosphere using the IssueCrawler research tool has just been published in First Monday. This analyses my David Hicks case study, some of the outcomes of which I've published here in the past, with a particular view to outlining possible methodological opportunities combining IssueCrawler and Technorati. I'm very grateful to Edward Valauskas and the First Monday team for turning the article around so quickly - beats print journals any time...

From CNN to Democracy TV

Boston.
One of the cultural icons of the 1980, MTV has come in for some criticism in recent years for its ever-decreasing coverage of the world of music, in favour of sit-coms and reality TV. Actual music videos, the stuff the MTV empire was built on, are featured these days at best as interstitials in between re-runs of The Real World and Punk'd. Having spent almost a month here in Boston and exposed to U.S. television now, I think much the same can safely also be said about CNN: actual news stories are few and far between an endless stream of pundits, 'expert' commentators, and unmitigated political pontification by hosts acting not as news reporters or even merely as news anchors, but as media spectacles (think trainwrecks, not fireworks) in their own right. (Pointedly, the New York Times TV schedule classifies most of CNN's and Fox News' content as 'talk / tabloid' rather than 'news'.) The Daily Show with Jon Stewart did a nice job on pointing out the journalistic travesty of CNN's coverage of Queen Elizabeth's recent visit to the U.S., for example (watch it now, before Comedy Central does its thing and the video disappears from GooTube):

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