Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Monday, August 20, 2007

What is blogging about?

I read last week a post from another Bajan blogger, Doan mind me, who wondered if blogging was dead. I think the post touches a point for many who blog, which is can the process be kept up and stay fresh? I am not going to take issue with the blogger, Jdid, but would offer the thought that people have things to say and blogging is a way to do that and share with a wider audience than ever before. New tools are being developed all the time and being an instant publisher is very simple.

No doubt, it's hard to create good content. However, the value of each person's contribution can be seen with stories such as that of, Miles Levin, a teenage cancer sufferer who blogged for the past two years from hospital in Michigan, who died yesterday (see report; the hospital website is http://www.carepages.com/ and the blog can be found by searching for LevinStory). As the report quotes from his blog, Miles wanted to "...leave behind a legacy of victory. Dying is not what scares me; it's dying having had no impact. I know a lot of eyes are watching me suffer; and -- win or lose -- this is my time for impact." Sure, for some of the 15,000 bloggers who were responding to Miles, it could be like a reality TV program, and many people could get a chance to be closer to the subject by sharing what they are living. Whatever else is going on with society, people still seem to want to reach out to each other, especially in times of need. Blogging allows that to happen easily, and I like it for that reason, amongst others.

Some of the local bloggers have been discussing recently the impact their blogs may be having on local political decisions, and that is an interesting debate, though it's hard to know what one can prove. It's clear that many people now turn to the Internet as their prime source of information. The well-established news sites such as CNN and the BBC tend to have a reputation for comprehensive coverage, but as we have seen over the past few days, these news services also turn to bloggers to try to fill out information. They do this whether or not they have local reporters. Bloggers have developed a reputation for "telling it like it is", so at critical times, the major news services know that the "official" reports may want to down play some of what is going on for various reasons. Blogs tend to respond quite fast to events as they develop, even if many blogs are not "news" oriented. Bloggers are not necessarily neutral or objective, but they seem to have begun to fill a number of gaps in supplying information.

I was fascinated to see what has happened to this site over the past week, as the hurricane season got a full head of steam. Visits and page views have increased four to five fold. While Barbados represented about 25-30 percent of visitors before, now about 40 percent come from the UK and 30 percent from the US, and the Barbados audience share fell to 5 percent. I imagine that many people living outside the region but with Caribbean connections have been trying their best to get coverage of developments that could be affecting families and friends. It will be interesting to see if that readership size and structure are sustained beyond the hurricane season. In the meantime, I will continue to welcome all new readers and hope that they can get a different insight as a result of what they read.

Blogging raises some complicated issues about freedom of expression. The tendency for bloggers and commentators to prefer anonymity suggests that the general feeling is that freedom of expression has a price and that "reprisals" are possible. These need not come from any authority; they can come in the form of harsh and obscene reactions to posts or comments. I can understand the search for anonymity more when I read some blogs, which take tough or very critical stances, but when I see it on some simple, apparently noncontroversial blogs, it makes me think. Some of the need for cover must reflect that some bloggers are hiding identities from their employers. This desire for self-protection is rarely seen in the established media such as newspapers, magazines of TV; it occurs on radio call-in shows. There's a lot of food for thought in the freedom of expression issue and it's worth pondering more. But not today.


Jdid said...

interesting points. from a personal perspective I use an alias because well mainly because of the medium I'm blogging in. I still have a healthy fear of the internet even though I've been adding comments online for over 10 years. i actually try to keep most of my blogs non-personal, i'm just not comfortable with divulging certain info where everyone can see it.

its sort of a catch 22 for some folks. you're in a very public medium so do you censor what you say or do you censor the info related to who you are. I do a bit of both.

also I'd have to say that I also have a fear of being victimized for something I said. Well to be honest it doesnt really play that much into my thought process but at the same time I can understand the thought process of the anonymous blogs in the Caribbean cause growing up in Barbados you always heard about someone or the other being targeted because they did something to offend the government or someone in some position of power. freedom of speech just watch what you say! its just something to think of anyways.

In the long run it probably doesnt make that much difference being anonymous anyway because if you really wanted to find me its relatively easy given the way one use technology to trace people online.

sorry to ramble on, just thought of another point. anonymity can give a blogger extra oomph to his voice. How so? The mystery of not knowing who the person is who's blogging can negate some of the biases against that person. Its like how before music videos we judged singers by their voice without caring as much about their looks. music videos have turned alot of subpar crooners into superstars because they look good half naked. the opposite holds for blogging. with anonymous bloggers you dont know what kind of mousy, nerdy, clumsy types are typing away at the keyboard and so you just listen to the voice. voice being their writing. shoot man i shoulda saved this for a blog post :-)

Taran Rampersad said...

For myself, I stay away from politics and other soap operas in the region - most of them are boondoggles, and one gets tired of saying, "Look! Boondoggle!"

Further, it is a small country as I was reminded at the US embassy a few weeks ago - someone said, "Hey, you're the guy who runs KnowProSE.com!"

And I said, "You didn't find me by searching for anything related to GW Bush, did you?"

Truth is that most writers in the region walk on eggshells. To truly tackle something controversial, one has to have a discussion in the blogosphere. The few times I have posted things controversial, I met dead air... why? Probably because people don't want to touch those issues. And if they don't want to touch those issues, do I really want to single myself out? Probably not (though I do on occasion anyway).

It is so easy to get wrapped up in what the media portrays poorly in the region... what we need are *real* stories coming out, and the intestinal fortitude to do so. I'm actually waiting for some feedback from a lawyer before I post one such thing. Imagine, I am consulting a lawyer to write something... If I were in the US, I wouldn't have to bother.

Different country - different rules.

Karel Mc Intosh said...

I'm one of the bloggers who go by my real name, and sometimes I do feel the censorship factor. In the Caribbean, as in other places, there is the chance of offending someone by opposing their viewpoints. Sometimes it can affect your career or personal life.

So anonymity does in fact give you a no bars approach where you can say what you want. Me, they can find me easy, so I have to watch what I say. I try not to "badtalk" people, of course except it's Kiss Bread :)