blogs & nondiversity

Bitch has lots of good thoughts and links today about women and argument. More specifically, about (yet again) why the representation of women in political blogrolls and op-ed pieces is so skewed. I also just saw a good piece by Stephen Levy in Newsweek about the fame logorithms and striking nondiversity of "the blogosphere," which led me to Global Voices Online,one effort to try and make blogs by nonwhite and non N.Amer/Euro voices more visible. It's all interesting stuff worth looking at if you haven't already been reading it.

Of course, a lot of these concerns operate from a very narrow definition of what constitutes "the blogosphere": politics as only having to do with governments, laws, violence. It's basically a white male definition of the public sphere, and of public discourse (following from the 18th & 19th century newspaper model). In newspapers, ideas are generated by a small group of people and controlled by financial interests. Newspapers did provide many more people with information and entertainment, and the growth of newspapers in the 19th century accompanied the rise of both the middle class and a mass reading audience. Newspapers were also crucial, as Benedict Anderson suggests, in fostering a sense of community that helped solidify national interests in the modern period.

Yet historically speaking, even within that capitalist-modern period, other kinds of groups & communities have fostered other kinds of communication networks, other modes of discourse. I'm thinking about everything from quilting groups to Quaker Meetings. There are so many already-existing alternatives to the newspaper op-ed format (which has to be one antecedent to the Crossfire type TV shows), that I have to assume that there are other kinds of communication models similarly growing on the web. The really interesting question for me isn't "where are the women/people of color in mainstream technorati-top-100 blogs" but "what have the women & people of color already begun to create as an alternative to that hierarchy."

The great thing about blogs is that they have the power to overturn the newspaper model, by giving many people the power of framing their thoughts in language and publishing their ideas to an audience. Our very sense of what the public sphere might look like, of what community might look like, has already been expanded and altered by the rapid growth of the web and specifically of personal-publishing options like blogs. But we're in a transition stage right now -- as one media dinosaur species slowly dies off, it struggles and makes big splashes. And it tries to make the future awkwardly fit its own model (like Newsweek's little list of "blogs to watch"). Who knows what the future of information access and shared discourse is going to look like. But I would be willing to bet that it won't look much like the NYT or Newsweek.