Thursday 4 March 2010

How the BBC Strategy Review misunderstands the blogosphere

Commenting on the much-covered BBC Strategy Review, Alfred Hermida pointed out that the BBC had described the blogosphere as "unruly" in the report. Here is the extract:
"Nor is the global democratisation of opinion and argument as straightforward as it appears. Above the vast and unruly world of the blogosphere, professional media power may actually concentrate in fewer hands. Individual plurality may increase but collective, effective plurality decrease—with societies around the world left with fewer reliable sources of professionally validated news. The risk of bias and misinformation and, in some countries, of state control, may grow. Again, public space is threatened."
Interestingly, this also visualises the professional media as sitting "above" the blogosphere. Which leaves me wondering whether the BBC also see their own blogs as sitting in the blogosphere, 'below' the "professional media", or whether their blogs simply do not belong in the "unruly world of the blogosphere".

Surely the former can't be the case as there has been much made of how the BBC's blogs conform to the same professional standards of accuracy, impartiality and fairness as all their other content. And it seems to me that they do.

Maybe then the latter is true: the BBC's blogs do not belong in the "unruly world of the blogosphere". Certainly it would seem strange to describe the BBC's blogs as "unruly", but not all blogs are "unruly" and I would argue that as they nevertheless remain 'blogs' they still sit within the blogosphere.

It seems the problem then, here, is the addition of the adjective "unruly" to the blogosphere and the decision to describe the professional media as an entity which is separate to the blogosphere.

In fact, dividing the blogosphere and the professional media in this way doesn't make much sense any more in a way that it might (possibly) have done at the beginning of the 21st Century.

Since the development of blogging some bloggers and blogs have become part of the professional media and some members of the professional media have become bloggers or have adopted the blog as a format.

Perhaps it would have been better to use the word mediasphere and note that within that there is a both a blogosphere and a professional media that overlap and intersect. And that within the blogosphere there is undoubtedly a significant "unruly" element. (You might also highlight that there are also some "unruly" elements within the professional media.)

Of course, I've just read way too much into one line of a much longer report. There were clearly more important things to address in the Strategy Review than a conceptual discussion of the blogosphere.

But this blog wouldn't be a blog if it wasn't at least a tiny bit "unruly" in its overly miniscule dissection of the odd sentence here and there, right?


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