The Conversation Continues

Dear Mr. Gillmor:

            At the conclusion of your book, We the Media, you challenged your readers to continue the conversation.  As one of your readers who is stuck somewhere between antiquated and digital communication methods, I thought a blog-letter would be my way of continuing the conversation.

While I am still uncomfortable with some aspects of the blogosphere, your book has elucidated some beneficial aspects of this new world.  One point to which you continually return is the role of blogs in grassroots journalism and, specifically, blogging as means of civil engagement.  You state, “In country after country where free speech is not given, the blogsphere matters in far more serious ways” (140).  The bloggers in Burma and Kenya, for example, have illustrated your statement to the rest of the world.  The government in Burma was so threatened by bloggers that blogs were banned and cyber cafes were closed.  The government’s actions speak to the power of the blogosphere to incite uprising, spread awareness, and illicit change.  While most of Kenya is offline, there are some Kenyans who are able to utilize the internet to discuss their country’s current volatile situation.  There are many blogs covering the post-election violence, some more peacefully-minded and reflective than others.  In a country that censored the media’s reporting of the controversy, blogs have filled a hole for Kenyan perspectives for the international community. 

The ability for bloggers to remain anonymous is a great benefit of the blogosphere, as you noted in Chapter 9.  In countries such as Kenya and Burma, bloggers could be taking far more serious risks if they aired their grievances without the anonymity of the internet.  

While these two countries are examples of people who have incorporated blogging in their political uprisings, it is important to remember this resource is still out of reach for many.  As you noted Amy Goodman as saying, most people still don’t have access to computers; therefore, grassroots journalism must continue to promote mediums that are historically accessible to the masses.  Thomas Paine’s pamphlets and Ben Franklin’s newspaper are not obsolete quite yet.  With the advent of new mediums, we shouldn’t shrink our toolkit, but widen it. 

During the course of your continuous discussion of blogs, you theorize about a future where “people can bring serious alternatives to the public and get paid for what they do” (157).  Yet, I have to wonder:  What will happen to the grassroots feel of blogs when their writers get paid?  Will they just become the new Big Media?  Will a new grassroots, of-the-people forum have to emerge in order to combat the everlasting paradigm of Big Media?  I think you find optimism where I cannot.  Maybe it is the voluntary nature of blogging that is at the heart of the blog’s benefits.  Once bloggers become paid for their work, are they not then professional journalists and at the mercy of their funding source?          

As I mentioned in my last post, it is clear that our global society is still trying to understand the scope and ramifications of the internet, generally, and the blogosphere, specifically.  It is obvious it will take many more continuations of this conversation to come to any conclusions. 

Sincerely,

Emily

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