New Beginnings

Old blogs die from lack of use and I have ignored my old blog to the edge of total extinction. Many reasons really, changing habits, work, projects and the final nail in the coffin – the transatlantic move.
Here it is.The metaphorical clean slate (Well, not really a clean slate. While I am prepared to delete much of the old site I couldn’t really bring myself to rubbish all my blogging since 2005. So I imported the text and left the rest).
The main focus of this blog will be taking and making notes for my current research and writing on the impact of the ebook on production, distribution and consumption of books.
Naturally, this is a blog and I fully expect it to fill up with several pointless bits of information not relevant to the main project. But that’s the way it is with blogs, they were never meant to be stringent.

Enlightened Frog by Wrote CC BY NC

Is blogging counterproductive to writing?

Like many bloggers I have occasionally indulged in online self-examination and questioned why I blog (here, here & here). Obviously there are many reasons why to blog (personally I do it because it’s fun). But I have never really considered the effects of my blogging. Not the effects on other people, but the effects on me.

So far in my blogging I have been happy to write posts. They are a quick and comfortable way to organise and spread thoughts and ideas. Didn’t think much more about it. But then I came across a quote – which I cannot find right now, how typical. Anyway the quote was from a writer who said he did not like to talk about what he was writing about becuase… it ruined his creative tension.

I find the idea of maintaining a creative tension very interesting. Blogging is fun and can be used successfully to organize and communicate but could it have a negative effect on other writing? Writing blog posts not only take time and effort but is also very rewarding.

The rewarding part is actually not all good as it does produce a feeling of well being. And this well being does acutally remove part of the motivation to continue writing. Obviously I have no intention of giving up my blogging but I may need to come up with a better strategy to prevent blogging from killing the motivation to write other stuff.

Give grandma a blog

From the Guardian: A Spanish woman who is thought to be the world’s oldest blogger has died at the age of 97. María Amelia López began blogging at 95!

In a 2007 interview, López told the Guardian that the internet had given her a new lease of life. In one of her last posts, published in February, she wrote; “When I’m on the internet, I forget about my illness. The distraction is good for you – being able to communicate with people. It wakes up the brain, and gives you great strength.”

Her first post was made on her 95th birthday. It read: “Today it’s my birthday and my grandson, who is very stingy, gave me a blog.”

Will we be blogging when I am 95?

The Vulnerable IT Society

The formalities are cleared and I will be responsible for a new course at Göteborg University begining after summer. The course “The Vulnerable IT Society” (Det sårbara IT-samhället) will be in Swedish and there is some more information here.

Naturally the new course already has a blog which will focus on the vulnerabilities of the information technology society. So basically I am looking for students, bloggers and general interest in the subject – but all in Swedish this time.

The blogger as social debater

On Friday I will be attending a meeting for green bloggers in Stockholm arranged by the Swedish green party (wanted to write Swedish greens but there was too much temptation for bad vegetable puns). During the meeting I will be giving a lecture on the role of the blogger as a social debater and I am looking forward to presenting some ideas on this topic.

Beyond the obvious short intro (minuscule) on what is a blog? and why is it different anyway? the question that must be addressed is whether or not the blogger has a role as a social debater? Naturally there are blogs that impact highly on the  broader social debate but many of these belong to individuals or groups who are naturally part of the social debate and in these cases the blog is simply a different technical platform. The easiest example of this is a politician with a blog where the technology does not really create the social debater but only provides an alternate platform.

In the latter category I also want to add corporate blogs which are basically (but not exclusively) marketing tools.

But then there are plenty of blogs which seem to have created new social debaters, individuals who previously had no voice now have been empowered (ugly word, but valuable concept) and enabled into presenting their views. The question here is – what is their social impact? The blog gives them voice but does this shape social change?

Then there are the blogs which have masses of hits but low social impact. Fashion blogs, sex blogs, voyeur blogs, athletes blogs etc etc these generate masses of hits but can a million hits be the same as a social debate?

Finally there are the mass of unread blogs highbrow, lowbrow, academic, quirky, personal, public, exhibitionist and therapeutic. It would be easy to attempt to claim unread = no social impact but these may be the potentially important social movers. From the unread backwaters of the internet ideas have spread before and therefore it is difficult to simply sweep aside the masses of unread bloggers as socially unimportant.

As I said I am really looking forward to Friday… and if you are in Stockholm why dont you drop in? Here is the invite on Facebook

Why would sub-democratic leaders blog?

Listening to the radio this morning and heard that Karim Massimov, the Prime Minster of Kazakhstan started his private, yet official blog on 9th January and apparently has been so happy with the result that he has ordered his minsters to start personal blogs.

A politician starting a blog is hardly worth mentioning and starting in 2009 seems even to be a late starter but this one is a bit interesting.

According to the American State Department Country Report on Kazakhstan

The Government’s human rights record remained poor, and it continued to commit numerous abuses. The Government severely limited citizens’ right to change their government and democratic institutions remained weak. On some occasions, members of the security forces, including police, tortured, beat, and otherwise mistreated detainees; some officials were punished for these abuses. Prison conditions remained harsh; however, the Government took an active role in efforts to improve prison conditions and the treatment of prisoners. The Government continued to use arbitrary arrest and detention and to selectively prosecute political opponents; prolonged detention was a problem. Amendments to several laws governing the authority of procurators further eroded judicial independence. The Government infringed on citizens’ privacy rights.

Reporters sans frontières begin their 2008 report on Kazakhstan:

As well as the usual problems journalists get when they expose corruption or criticise President Nazarbayev, the media was the victim of power struggles inside the regime. Three opposition journalists died in suspicious circumstances and coverage of the August 2007 parliamentary elections was biased.

So the idea that the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan starting a blog and praising the way in which it allows citizens to communicate more directly with government is surprising to say the least. Either the whole thing is a propaganda attempt gone wrong or a total misunderstanding of the power of online communication.

Or maybe those in power just don’t get how bad they are?

Short Piece on Copyright

Two online debates in Sweden have been rather interesting. The larger one has been about the need for harsher copyright legislation. Those involved have managed to sink to bitter entrenched positions and started using underhand methods such as lobbyists appearing in the media as “impartial” news reporters and, even more interestingly, attempting to control the past in order to control the present. This last strategy is simple historical manipulation boiled down into silly unsupported statements such as “without copyright there can be no diversity”. Most amusing really.

The second debate has been growing slowly and is actually interesting in the discussion on free speech in relation to blogging. A very strident Professor at my university (whose social pathos and ability and energy to vocalise injustice and corruption are both admired and criticized) has gone out and criticized bloggers who claim to be taking part in the deliberative democracy. Bo Rothstien’s criticism is that some bloggers do not seem to be aware that even in free expression there are rules.

He is not talking about the law. He is talking about the need of the deliberative process to also include respect for those involved in the process, about respecting your adversary or opponent. When bloggers comment on their opponents philosophy, religion, sexuality or simply sink into name calling – this is not a democratic process.

Anyway I am happy since today I have sent in my two-cents on the first discussion in the form of an op-ed into a Swedish daily. Most probably it will be refused but it was good to produce something “off-blogg” since the rest of the week seems to have disappeared in a fog of empirical research.

The why question – again

After recently reading Andrew Keen’s book the The Cult of the Amateur I found myself nodding in agreement to the fact that I would rather listen to talented person than a bunch of amateurs. Much of the book is filled with contradictions, errors and digressions but his main point is that we shouldn’t be so happy about the amateur productions occurring online since they are effectively killing of the professional market.

My main gripe against Keen is that his arguments against online amateurs can also be used against others. Crappy musicians, tv shows, movies & reporters all steal attention and market shares away from the talented few. But sure the online medium is particularly good at allowing a lot more crappy amateurs to participate.

While thinking about these things I came across Andrew Sullivan’s article Why I Blog in The Atlantic. The why question is an old one which seems to affect all bloggers at different stages. Most probably because someone around them will eventually ask the question: but why do you do it? This can at time set of a wave of introspection and a need to self justify.

Way back in 2005 I explored this myself and linked to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang site (no longer available but a excerpt here) on 4 reasons why academics should blog. In April this year Henry Jenkins wrote a piece on why academics should blog.

The blog posts represent what might be called “just-in-time scholarship,” offering thoughtful responses to contemporary developments in the field. Because they are written for a general rather than specialized readership, these short pieces prove useful for teaching undergraduate subjects. We are seeing a growing number of colleagues using blog posts or podcasts as a springboard for classroom discussions and other instructional activities. Having developed a steady readership for such content, we are also able to use our blogs to showcase innovative ideas and research from colleagues around the world.

But Sullivan is more brutal about blogging this may be because three years later the blog has come of age. Indeed media has predicted the death, rebirth, redeath, rebirth of the blog several times since they discovered them in 2006.

The blog remained a superficial medium, of course. By superficial, I mean simply that blogging rewards brevity and immediacy. No one wants to read a 9,000-word treatise online…the key to understanding a blog is to realize that it’s a broadcast, not a publication. If it stops moving, it dies. If it stops paddling, it sinks.

In addition to this need to keep moving is the results that the blog has on the writer. Sullivan again

Alone in front of a computer, at any moment, are two people: a blogger and a reader… It [writing] renders a writer and a reader not just connected but linked in a visceral, personal way. The only term that really describes this is friendship.

And that is the main point of the blog. It is a conversation. Naturally a rather one-sided conversation. In part it is the enjoyment of writing, in part the need to comment on life as it occurs but at best there are reactions to the ideas expressed within the words in a way which rarely happens anywhere else. This is why I blog.


As usual a minor annoyance triggered a landslide of changes which finally resulted in the overhaul of the look and feel of this blog. It’s amazing how simple the technology is to change and equally amazing how much time can be spent chosing and tweaking something so minor as a blog.

WordPress client for iPhone

This snappy little application means that you could blog anywhere anytime… all I need now is an iPhone… Strangely enough I still don’t feel the desire to own one…

Excellent news for bloggers came…when WordPress announced that they’re developing a client application for the iPhone.

The WordPress client for iPhone is available in the App Store and in iTunes.