Weblog analysis, geography and language

The web transcends all geographical boundaries, but does it create a level debating field for the global meta-weblog conversation? The weblog was (maybe) invented in the US, the dynamic has been strongest there. The fabulous blogger breakthroughs of the Bush-Kerry campaign only underlined this. There seem to be more blogs in the US, most of the successful blogs, often referred to as the elite blogs, are written by people living there, and the most well-known media-and-blogging scholars and commentators/essayists are Americans. At the conference Digital og Sosial in Bergen recently, the main attractions were Rheingold and Doctorow.

Does this matter? I think so. New media developments do not take place in a vacuum. I have some experience in developing news websites in Norway and Germany, and although we observed what went on in the US and other places, many of our choices were heavily influenced by the different countries’ press and political traditions. There’s every reason to expect weblogs, and the relationship between media and weblogs, to develop differently in different contexts also. Experiences will be different, and should influence analysis and discourse. That’s why it won’t always make sense to transplant analysis originating in other contexts into our own. A parallel example: Nowadays you can often find news published by Norwegian media about breakthroughs in biotech research somewhere in the world. The news piece usually originates and is quoted from some international website or newsfeed the journalist has found. What will typically be overlooked is that scientists in Norway might be working in the same field, maybe even on a similar project, but the journalist doesn’t even know that. The web transcends geography, yes, but also has a tendency to erase social context.

Norwegians, Germans and others can contribute unique insights to the ongoing, fascinating conversation about the development of blogging and other online media forms. We shouldn’t stop using our own languages, and there are of course good blogs in Norwegian and German. But the conversation should be global, and for that end we have the latin of our age. So this blog will be written in English, with the aim of developing media/weblog analysis from the Norwegian/Scandinavian/North European perspective.

Beckham’s razor

No real scandal today without text messages. If it’s David Beckham’s mistresses, Sven Göran Eriksson’s affairs or Henning Berg’s “honest” revelations about the inner life of Norwegian footballers – the core of all these “shocks” are a few short, fragmented, more or less coherently constructed sentences or keywords transmitted per SMS. Lovers carefully building the suspense of long love letters, enemies systematically looking for the weak spot in the opponent’s defense in a duel of words – no more. The text message is a razor that cuts to the bone. The next European earthquake in politics or business will certainly involve the publication of supersecret text messages. The youth with their strangely coded SMS language were the vanguard, but the elites will catch up sooner or later.