on blogging

bloggers disproportionately influential (SMH)

interesting piece in the SMH this morning suggesting that bloggers and ‘internet pundits‘ are ‘exerting a “disproportionately large influence” on society….. “They’re not representative of the larger audience, but what they’re saying does matter” . Makes me wonder about the ethical responsibilities for people with disproportionately loud voices. Then makes me wonder whether, as there is such a low barrier to entry to blogging (or being ‘active’ on the internet) and voices are (in theory) so easily refuted… perhaps there is no such responsibility? Not sure. Thoughts anyone?

10 thoughts on “bloggers disproportionately influential (SMH)

  1. I can’t even imagine the contrast to this is. Dispraportionate to what? If it weren’t bloggers exerting all this influence, who would it be? Marketing executives? Neo-con talk show hosts? Is that more representative? If society where always perfectly reflected, then it would be static. Some demographic has to exert influence, and the bloggers, who at least represent a significant plurality, is a lot better option than an insular and out of touch “elite”. The problem of “moral responsibility” is certainly much less of a problem if the trendsetters are thousands of individuals fighting in a relatively level playing field rather than a dozen large corporations (and their representative talking heads), all with similar interests. It is specifically the low barrier to entry that solves much of the moral problem; if someone is doing “wrong” you can refute them, personally and directly; something that is entriely impossible when dealing with the alternative.

  2. the idea of having a disproportionate voice is related to somethinking I’ve been having lately around Google (search results in general I guess) and blogs.

    A while back I wrote a pretty average review of a Tim Winton novel that I’d read (which reminds me.. I need to do another bus reading post soon! i have a backlog).

    About a month ago, I started getting a whole bunch of people arriving at my site searching for Tim Winton. I figure he must have either got a good review somewhere important or he’s on a school curriculum reading list…. For a while there, I was about the 4th or 5th search result you’d get if you were searching for Tim Winton and his book The Turning.

    Given that Australian literature is not really my area of expertise (as much as I love it, and particularly Mr Winton’s work!), and that I’d really thrown this review together pretty quickly (and it was all about me and my reaction and very little about the book itself!), I was kind of embarrassed and a little concerned that this was the quality of information that people were using to evaluate the book.

    That, to me, was an example of when I had a really loud voice (accidentally), just because I had a blog…. a pretty inoccuous example, but is has made me think about the possible ramifications.

  3. I concur with that analysis up to a point Leisa – however bear in mind that
    (a) it’s a google search result, not a direct hit – they may not have even looked at your review (at least that’s the way my stats appear)
    (b)a lot of people are capable of recognising that they cannot cite a blogger in schoolwork, or that a blog is different from a regular source of information
    (c) blog book reviews are probably becoming a useful source of information to the publishing industry (and god knows they need all the incisive hardhitting help they can get).
    All that aside, I am having terrible googums about the next set of remarks I want to put up about Brian Castro’s new book. So it’s really not a question of simply publishing and being damned.

    Also have you read this article online only? As I don’t think it’s in the print version of The Age. I read Next yesterday and all I found was that short piece on Marieke Hardy. So it would appear that the print version of the Fairfax press does not find bloggers influential – unless, of course, they already know who they are!!

  4. they still do print newspapers during the week?! ;) yep, i read it online.

    re: my Tim Winton example… I guess that I am assuming limited media literacy in having these concerns.

    And I also, for some bizarre reason, feel kind of outraged about either the fact that there was no one else online with more clout writing about what was significant landmark on recent Australian publishing, or that Google couldn’t find them and put them ahead of my little old blog.

    It is really funny tho, to see which posts really get picked up (either by others linking, or by Google search queries) and which don’t.

    Funny peculiar that is, not funny ha-ha.

    eh. I think I’m on a tangent.

  5. Your Tim Winton example is a good one, but I’d suggest that it’s not so much that bloggers, but rather the “old guard” that have the dispaportionate voice. That is, the old guard (and by this, I mean traditional publishers, non-Internet media companies, non-active internet users in general, etc.) are not moving to the new media, Internet, blogs, etc. and thus have a diminished voice. It’s not that you were shouting too loud, but that the counterweights–experts with better reviews of Tim Winton–where not shouting loud enough. That’s not your fault, it’s theirs.

    I’d suggest that this state affairs is largely a result of the fact that those at the top of any system always fear change in the system. If you’re at the top, change can only be bad because (the perception is) there’s no where to go but down, so the companies and people that had the most power pre-Internet boom, rather than embrace the Intrenet and new media fight it and rather than become a force in the new world, pour all their energy in trying to artificially maintain the old world. You see this with the RIAA law suits, but even more in their pricing model that prices costless (to manufacture and distribute) low quality MP3s at nearly twice the cost of relatively pricey high quality CDs. An even better example is recent telco and old media efforts to recast the Internet into the likeness of traditional broadcast through preferred routing schemes.

    These efforts are (I hope) largely a waste of time. Certainly from a societal standpoint, we’d all be better off if these companies used their significant resources and expertise by increasing their footprint in an open Internet rather than trying to increase their footprint by constraining the medium itself.

    But neither can we blame them entirely. The many individual professors who are still more concerned about publishing reviews in traditional journals, and (to your point) professional commentators who largely publish in print journals and eschew the new mediums. Three years ago, I would have said its largely a failure to realize where the growth is and where the signifigance is going to be. At this point, though, I think it’s more of a problem of failing to adapt business models and, as I mentioned before, simple fear about losing one’s place at the head of the pack. Rather than engaging the hoi polloi, even the meritocitous leaders are largely sticking their heads in a hole.

    On the whole, though, none of this is alarming. We’re just starting to leave the earliest phase of a significant transition period. These are problems that will largely solve themselves. Experts will transition to the Internet partially because it makes sense for them to do so, but mostly because they must if they want to continue to have an audience that matters.

  6. Zane – beautifully written. I believe you are very much correct.

    It has been and will continue to be interesting times for people in old media formats, and for those of us wanting to engage with them in new ways. They’ve been a pretty powerful crew for a long time and it’s understandable that they’re a little nervous about the way that media has changed, and will continue to change. Particularly nervous about how they’re going to make a buck out of it, and nervous about how they don’t understand it.

    Having said that, there are a lot of people out there trying to resist the change. To either block progress/change, make like an emu (or ostrich, if you’re of a Northern Hemisphere bent), or try to buy their way into the market (in order to control it).

    To those who don’t engage, or who try to bully their way into some kind of control in these new media formats… I hope they get what they deserve. And, I’m pretty optimistic that they will.

    Personally, there are a few advertising agencies that I’d be keen to see eating a bit of humble pie in the next few years ;)

    But, back to your post. I really liked this:

    It’s not that you were shouting too loud, but that the counterweights–experts … –were not shouting loud enough. That’s not your fault, it’s theirs.

    I agree, it’s not up to individual bloggers to make sure that they’re part of a balanced discussion… but the potential loudness of my voice has certainly made me re-think how careful I need to be about what I write. It’s not good enough just to whack something up that *sounds* like I mean it (or know what I’m talking about). It needs to be considered, and well thought through, and (if appropriate) researched.

    A little bit like journalistic ethics, I guess… unless you make it really clear it’s entirely an opinion piece.

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