When I left Boston this morning, it was still raining. It had been raining pretty hard since I waded into Cambridge on Friday to attend the Beyond Broadcast conference. This two-day event, at only $50 bucks, was perhaps one of the best conferences I've attended in what appears to be a year of conference attending.
Lots of people wonder why I keep going to conferences--they wonder "what's the point?" Thing is, I'm kind of on a mission to learn as much as I possibly can about what's being said about the world of blogging and the internet. Going to conferences is, for me, like taking continuing education classes. The World of Cyberspace is a place we are going to have to learn to live and thrive in--and I want to be here.
Someone said to me (I think some Canadian guy--a producer of a current affairs show out of Ontario) that a lot of it is about the evolution of the individual--how we started to acknowledge the individual in religion and philosophy several hundred years ago, and it is no surprise that we would want to use media to express the self.
The internet combined with the wonders of self-publishing and cheap electronics is giving us a whole new medium of expression.
But we must be watchful--there are lots and lots of folks who are unhappy with this freedom and want to find ways to corral, commodify, and control it because they cannot see that this whole world out here--this new Wide Open Spaces, Wild Frontier--is where we may see a new step in our evolution...
James Boyle, law prof from Duke, who gave the keynote is one of the folks who can see that we are moving into a New World, and sees the threat to it. While he sounds the alarm that special interests influencing and moving the government to rule in their favor, he also sees that complete openness might not be the total answer. He deftly explained how even Open Source development has some checks and balances (very true!) and that this, not new laws, should be the model for governance Out Here. As he explained how Property Laws don't truly reflect the Intangible landscape of the Internet, I kept thinking of how, when our forefathers were drafting the Declaration of Independence, they changed "life, liberty and property" to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."
Many of them knew how Property Laws in the Old Country kept them from getting educations and participating in government. Now, Old-style notions of property threaten innovation, internet commerce and opportunities of all sorts. (the video of Prof. Boyle's amazing keynote will be posted shortly)
The panels were stocked with individuals who are some of the best minds in their fields. I won't go into the panel details here, as you can find info on them at the Beyond Broadcast site....
What I do want to let y'all know about is the session on Citizen Journalism: Trust and Credibility that I was part of. Led by Dan Gillmor, this was the very first group at a conference that I attended that had a mix of journalists, bloggers, writers, activists, filmmakers, vloggers, etc. And because it was a mixed group, not all higher-ups from MSM, a lot of great stuff was said (we could've used a podcast.)
If y'all go thru the highlights posted on the wiki, you'll see how things evolved. There was, however, one point that stuck with me (and one that I talked to the Ontario guy about later on)--I was troubled by how the journalists in the room seemed to continually say "those bloggers" but never managed to mention names. There were, however, several of us in the room who could be identified as "those bloggers", including Lisa Williams of H2otown, a true citizen journalism blog on Watertown Mass, Andy Carvin of the Digital Divide Network, videoblogger Steve Garfield, prolific blogger, gather.com community admin and activist Shava Nerad.
However, I don't think the journos meant us. I think they meant another group of bloggers, and I remain amazingly curious as to who they believe are "those bloggers."
If the journos in the room were talking about the A-list--folks like Kos and Marshall and Atrios and Cox and Jarvis and such--then they're talking about folks who have been journalists (or lawyers.) In the case of journalists who are now bloggers, then the discussion of what they are doing is really a battle between different kinds of journalists not journalists and "bloggers" (if we agree beforehand that not all bloggers are journalists.)
Strangely, the Ontario guy later on asked me why I don't identify myself as a journalist since I work as an editor for Corante. I did walk around for a time identifying myself on my business card as a journalist, but when I found myself mingling with longtime journalists, I realized that this might be a bit foolish of me--that they wouldn't be able to google me and find anything but my blogs. I also didn't want to incur the wrath of those folks who have degrees who have far more opportunities than I to be journalists. It's a matter of academic degree and of opportunity.
I think though that there are differences between the European model of journalist and the American model of journalist. I've spoken with several folks from England and Canada who never studied journalism who are now doing journalism. Why, then, is there such a bias in America against those who are not properly professionally educated in journalism?
Yet as I sit here reviewing the Saturday discussion, what I marvel the most at is that I was able to be in a discussion with someone like Dan Gillmor. This was an amazing opportunity and priviledge and at times I'm left a bit speechless by it. I never thought that I would ever find myself in a room at Harvard, with Dan and so many other amazing people (listed above) discussing journalism, citizen journalism, and blogging...
This is a wonderful time in the world....