Some reflected glory from Les Blogs

V.F. en cours de rédaction.

I spent a very pleasant day yesterday having lunch with Suw Charman (in whose IRC channel#[1] I like to hang out), Kevin Anderson of BBC World Have Your Say and Matt Mullenweg (the WordPress lead developer). They are in Paris for the Les Blogs 2 conference. The local welcome committee included Michel Valdrighi (who took some great pictures) and Mark Cabiling. Frédéric de Villamil joined us later, after we’d taken a stroll showing off Paris to our visitors and arrived at the Lizard Lounge bar for pre-conference drinks and socialising.

Even though I’m not at Les Blogs, the meeting was rather stimulating. Kevin proceeded to interview Fred and me about the French blogs’ reaction to the recent unrest in the French peri-urban housing estates#[2], in the context of the traditional media. Even though I’ve only been interviewed a handful of times in my life, I could tell that Kevin is an excellent interviewer. We had an interesting discussion about political blogging: how, via the tools that are now available to any interested citizen, a political debate that is deadlocked between the oft-repeated stances of whatever the dominating political actors are in a given country, can be shaken up and revitalised. This includes places where blogging is subjected to massive censorship (China, for example), but also the old Western democracies that are typically suffering from stagnation of the political life and ossification of the structures. How exactly this (often still very modest) injection of new democratic lifeblood happens varies a lot between countries, localities or other units that are covered by a common political process.

Another topic that came up with various conference-goers was that of multilingualism in the blogging world. Multilingual blogging tools — multilingual anything, really — feature prominently in that, but also the problem of vehicular languages, at the moment English most of the time. There is a fine balance between the nefarious effects of the domination of one language in international communication, on the one hand, and the effective silencing even the most brilliant ideas undergo if they are not reflected in the common discourse, on the other. This is a question I’ll have to come back to in another post.

[1]: #suwcharman on — it’s rather like a 19th century salon, 21st century version. [2]: It is time, maybe, to admit that I decided some months ago to reorganise my online activities. I have, in effect, split my web presence, focussing this blog on matters of language, my forays into linguistics, reading, uses of the new electronic tools and occasionally meta-blogging posts like this one. The more personal stuff, topics related to local blogquaintances, snarky remarks and polemicising has been shifted to a different place, which is not publicised under my real identity. I don’t have any doubt that a competent searcher will be able to find the rest of my writing — I’ve been active on the internet for over ten years after all, and it has left traces with my name attached to them. Yet I’m trying to prevent my more experimental and controversial material to show up on top of any Google search for my name. Another, more important, reason for the split was that I had started blogging without any consideration for a potential readership. Those local or regional bloggers I’ve made friends with, sometimes via the blogging platforms we use, sometimes around a pint of Guinness, aren’t necessarily interested in this blog. And those readers who are, could care less#[3] about what’s shaking the locals, or the weather in Paris. So, yes, I have indeed written about the French riots. In English even. Just not here.

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