FEATURE: Blogtalk DownUnder

BY Mark R. Hancock


BlogTalk DownUnder

"BlogTalk DownUnder" took place this year from the 19th - 22 nd of May in Sydney, Australia. Although the conference is now over, the papers and outcomes of the event give an opportunity for many who did not have the chance to attend to gain an understanding into some areas of interest within the genre.

The proliferation of blogs over the past few years has been incredible. Most people who have an Internet connection know at least one person who authors a blog, or they, themselves, maintain and write one. In a few short years, blogs topics have covered the gamut from pregnancy to hypertext theory . Yet, despite their widespread subject matter, there is a lot of debate and discussion that has, and is yet to, occur around their nature and purpose. This is what the organizers of "BlogTalk DownUnder" have attempted to capture.

Despite the event's title, the roll call of speakers was hardly Antipodean. However, if you were looking for an introduction to what's new in terms of theoretical and practical development in blogging, you could do a lot worse than to look at the works of those invited to speak, including Mark Bernstein , Rebecca Blood and Thomas N Burg . And, with workshops by James Farmer (event organizer) and Adrian Miles , (one of the leading proponents of video blogging or "vogging"), there was plenty for participants to get hands-on with and to prompt discussion.

James Farmer felt that there was a certain amount of legitimizing going on through the gathering of academics and the discussion panels that followed from the presentations. As Farmer stated in an email:



"For me the most significant event that occurred wasn't so much people talking about blogs (we do that much of the time anyway) but people getting together, face-to-face and realising that this isn't just a 'hobby' or 'sideshow' but a fully fledged professional activity with many academic, community and business leaders engaging with it."

The hope of conference organizers is that the discussion and workshops will lead to further research and development within the discipline. Also, with so much information to cover, and with the papers being in the public domain, there is the opportunity for those unable to attend the seminars to assimilate and disseminate the information into their own research or creative practice. This takes time, and it often isn't until much later that the impact of a gathering such as " BlogTalk DownUnder ," is absorbed into the culture of the discipline. As implied in the following statement, Farmer has hopes that the conference will achieve this and more:

"I guess I'd like to think that participants are returning to their disparate institutions, organisations, businesses and research with the
feeling that there's genuine momentum, direction and support for their
work. That from this [conference] much greater things will come."

Blogging is still very much an emergent discipline, despite the proliferation of blogs across the Internet. Blogging is about writing and engendering hyper-textual connections. It's also about shared personal reflection and reader responsiveness. Yet the impact of blogs is not limited to the personal. Because they impact so much of our media landscape at this moment in time, it is worth developing a deeper understanding blogs.