Thursday 20 August 2009

Creating a European Public Sphere: A European blog discourse?

I was eating with a former study colleague of mine yesterday evening, someone deeply acquainted with modern technologies and social media, discussing about life and web.

This person has inspired my early blogging - before "Watching Europe". He is also the one who proved to me the political use of Twitter by reporting about a real-life discussion meeting (where we both participated) on the use of the web for politics live on Twitter and asking questions coming from Twitter followers to the speaker on the panel - this was 1 1/2 years ago. He also knows the German blogger and social media scene pretty well.

One of the things he raised in our discussion about what he would like to see in the Euroblogging scene is a transnational discourse on European topics. He proposed that a group of European bloggers from different European countries should pick a current EU-topic and report about the coverage and opinions in their respective countries, including a personal account.

The articles should be in English, but the summaries could be translated into other EU languages. By cross-linking these articles it might be possible to create bits of European discourses that could be a good read.

He also proposed that we use the BOBs, the Deutsche Welle Blog Awards at next years re:publica conference, to bring together a bunch of active European bloggers to get this thing bigger.

Reflecting on this idea, I was thinking about a possible technical/ organisational solution for this exercise:

It would be a wiki-like blog with a bunch of bloggers from different countries writing collectively. Someone puts up an article on a current EU topic summarising the press and blog discussions in her/his country, using hyperlinks to fill the story with life and to keep the article relatively short. Any other contributor can later edit the post by adding his own country's perspective. Step by step, the article would grow bigger, with every new contribution getting closer to a complete overview.

The advantage would be twofold:

First, this individual starting approach (compared to a collective agreement on which topic to choose) will ease the initiation of new posts. And second, the collective editing of a single post will keep together the discourse on the same topic in a single place, easing it for the reader to get an overview over the actual discourse.

And even if a post on one topic will just encompass the perspective(s) of two different countries on the same issue, this could be an inspiration for further debate or a way to see how different issues are perceived in different (or very similar) ways.

What do you think about it - regarding both the substance of the proposal, and the technical side on how to implement it?


Joe Litobarski said...

Hiyah, Julien,

TH!NK ABOUT IT is a bit like this - with its focus on a single issue (EP elections, climate change).

The current round of "European identity" posts in the Euroblogosphere is also a bit like this - although it is more individuals reflecting on identity than it is them reporting on the views in their countries.

I would certainly support any initiative like this - and would give my time for it.

Kosmopolito said...

Count me in ;-)

If I understood you correctly, it would actually be a "Euro-Blog Carnival". Blog Carnivals have been around for a while in the US/UK blogosphere (in German they call it "Blogparade")

There used to be a great page called that aimed at creating a political blog debate in Germany. As far as I remember they had a very similar idea like you outlined in your post (from the technical perspective...). Unfortunately the page is not online anymore, probably because the project never managed to create any online buzz and thus proved not to be hugely successful.

However, some leftovers can still be found online,for example this project mindmap:

Your ideas regarding re:publica and BOBs sound interesting too. Happy to help with anything. Always wanted to participate there ;-)

If we need a central place to announce the topics and publish the summaries, I am sure we also could use a (slightly re-designed) bloggingportal. Summaries could also be included in the soon to be launched newsletter...

Eurocentric said...

To a certain extent topic trends tend to spread around the EuroBlogs (at least clusters of Euroblogs, anyway).

But it would be a great resource to have; it could expand the range of opinion and coverage across Europe that EuroBloggers could draw on for their own blogs.

I'd be willing to help out, though I'd be hopeless with the technical side.

Nosemonkey said...

A wiki could work - although such an approach raises two concerns for me, one technical, the other more political.

1) I'm not too up on the technical side of wikis, but surely it'd be tricky to get the thing spewing out RSS? If new additions are made, how will people know, without remembering to constantly go back and check the site every few hours? I rarely bother to check sites without RSS feeds these days, because I simply forget that they're there.

2) An open wiki is bound to be subject to abuse - especially one dealing with anything political (not least something like the EU where, as we all know, there is a sizeable number of committed opponents who are not averse to doing their best to do down anything that could be seen as promoting the European Union). But at the same time, a site requiring registration can be off-putting, and easily end up as a closed shop, with the members just talking among themselves.

An alternative might be, as Kosmopolito suggests, to do it as a kind of blog carnival - a dedicated site rounding up the best of the web. Effectively combining articles like your blog roundups with articles like your German blogs translations, where contributors can add roundups and translations of their own.

An obvious solution would be to have this as part of - the Editor's Picks part of which has never quite worked properly (being both a bit basic and having rather a long delay between posts being published and appearing on the site), but which remains a very useful blog aggregator and index.

André said...

yes, a wiki page on bloggingportal would be great. Is it be possible to create a dossier page like Euractiv has it for important topics? That page could be fed with updates from the various blogs, if they all have the same tags for example

Julien Frisch said...

Thank you all for your comments!

I will continue discussions about this projects with you and others who have contacted me on Twitter or via email.

In general there seems to be a great interest in this proposal, and we will have to see how we solve the technical and the organisational side, in order to find a practical solution that will make it easy for writers and readers to create this transnational discourse.

rose22joh said...

Sounds interesting.
If you want to see a blog carnival in action check out the UK mummybloggers - seems to be quite well organised that way.
My take on this is that these sort of initiatives need to be as inclusive and open as possible. So a wiki with open editorial sounds fun.

Mathew Lowry said...

Some of the ideas in the first part of your post ("European bloggers from different countries report about the coverage and opinions...") remind me strongly of the approach that the PINS project was going to take (remember

We were going to have one EU-level moderator per topic, and a network of national correspondents reporting on conversations and policy developments across all topics at their national level. In this way the EU-level moderator would highlight national developments, stimulate cross-border conversations, analyse trends, etc.

I still think it would work. I think your idea would work too, but perhaps not in wiki form, for the reasons Nosemonkey cites.

Perhaps a combination, with any given 'issue page' composed of:
- an issue summary at the EU level (wiki), with lots of link resources
- 1+ blog post per country from
national correspondent(s), summarising the national debate, linking to other posts, etc.

Relevant news could be piped in from various sources using RSS at EU and national levels.

Tools like delicious could allow anyone to submit annotated links and feeds. A dedicated 'tag EUROPA' team could be set up to help make sense of the labrynthe that is EUROPA.

That's my 2 cents, anyway.

Mathew Lowry said...

Following the logic of Go where the audience is, I thought I'd ask people interested in this topic what online tools they use to publish, share and generally manage information.

If it turns out that everyone uses delicious, for example, that would indicate one way forward, while a massive majority on Facebook would indicate another.

I summarised my tools here:

Julien Frisch said...

Follow-up to this debate:
"Why a true European blogosphere is not emerging yet (Nicole Simon)"
"Where is the European Blogosphere?"