Blogging Outloud: Shifts in Public Voice (Sarah Houghton’s take on it)

danah boyd (University of California at Berkeley, Yahoo, apophenia) spoke to a full room for Saturday’s opening session.

She started by telling us that she was a bit disappointed by yesterday’s keynote from Roy Tennant encouraging us to regain our rightful place as the guardians of the world’s knowledge (note: that was not my take on Roy’s talk at all, perhaps she heard a different Roy than I did). She told us that library hegemony (in the form of this gatekeeper identity) is no better than Google hegemony and that we should not subscribe to the same closed-fisted elitism that we criticize Google for. The crowd’s reaction to this upfront criticism was mixed…many arms were crossed and lips were pursed. Personally, I found this honesty refreshing and telling of how the public (especially the young) probably views libraries and librarians. Sad, but true.

To explain her idea of what blogs are, boyd compared blogs to paper. Some people use paper to write grocery lists, print photographs, keep journals, write novels, etc. Blogs work the same way—there are many different species of content.

boyd criticized Gorman’s “Revenge of the Blog People” as inflammatory and uneducated. She emphasized that blogs are not just diaries and amateur journalism (the two examples given to discredit blogs and bloggers). Some bloggers do use their blogs for journalism…and quite a bit of blogging acts as an alternative commentary on issues and events. She also refuted Gorman’s criticism of blogs as being interactive and allowing commentary. The commentary mechanism of blogs is what makes blogs unique—allowing anyone to have a voice.

Blogs are not about publishing; blogs are about sharing. Blogs allow you to share your thoughts and ideas without having to chop them up to fit the ideas of the editors of a printed publication.

Blogs allow people to find others who have things in common with them. As such, they put themselves out in a very visible public space. Bloggers view the benefits of being out in public as outweighing the risks.

boyd also noted that blogs are saturating search engines. If your blog is prolific, your individual posts become top search results (above published works and other prominent websites) simply because more people are linking to the blog posts and viewing them than the other types of resources.

She also discussed memes—the tendency of one idea that’s important to one blogger being replicated on blog after blog after blog. She then tied this to the relatively new remix culture (fan fiction, mixing political statements with music tracks). Remixing is a new method of expression and commentary, which she termed cultural consumption and communication….not necessarily “art.”

She closed by saying that Google and remixers and bloggers are not the enemies of librarians. We all share the same goal of distributing information. Let’s remember that.