Pictures from Blog Nation


7:19 am - June 26th 2008

by Sunny Hundal    


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Yesterday around 80-90 people met up at our first Blog Nation, held at the Guardian newsroom in London. Here are some pictures…

Early responses:
Jim Jay:

There was also some discussion of the *fact* that Labour’s going to lose the next general election – would this lead to a flowering of the left blogosphere and the complete disorientation of the right? Blogging to some extent thrives on dissent so leading right wing bloggers may have to make decisions come the election of the new Tory government in 2010 about how supportive, and therefore dull and pointless, they wish to be.

One speaker made the point that on a demo it’s perfectly possible for people who hate each other to come together for a common purpose in a united fashion, but with blogging this seems to happen far less. The left blogosphere for instance is made up of largely hostile blogs who have no history of any online cooperation on the issues. I shouldn’t exaggerate this point, of course, but its something that’s worth grappling with I think – how do “rival” blogs work together over issues that they agree on.

Charlie Beckett:

The Left bloggers want to change the world but they don’t want any responsibility. In this they are a mirror image of the right-wing blogosphere in the States.

Georgina Henry from the Guardian made the important point that the Left is in opposition to the Government. So it is much more fun to be a right-wing blogger. What does Iain Dale do when his party gets in to power? I suspect he will be as slavishly pro-Cameronite as he is now. More interesting will be what Guido does. I suspect he will adopt the knee-jerk impossibilism of the current left-wing blogosphere.

Lee Griffin:

The second part of the debate, on feminism, turned out to be more interesting than I thought it would be. Quite a few in the room left, perhaps worried about the conflict that tends to arise over feminism, or perhaps through a distrust or dislike of feminist methods. I certainly would have put myself in the latter category but wanted to hear the discussion out.

I’m glad I did because it became clear that feminists are as divided and diverse as those fighting for civil liberties can be, or for homosexual rights, or whatever. It just so happens the most bulshy and disagreeable feminists are the ones that you tend to see more of and remember.

Jim Killock:

One point that did not emerge is the differences to these old-style grassroots networks, and the new. There are a number, that make them more powerful, in my view. Firstly, information is much more connected, referencable, researchable, and recorded. Conversations exist, potentially, in perpetuity. Connections can be made across time and space. They are potentially extremely visible.

On the downside, there is a tendency I believe on the web to find what you want and to screen out everything you don’t like. It is extremely easy for liberal left bloggers to essentially talk to either themselves, or at best to other politically-committed people, while never reaching out to the wider public. That still has to be done on the streets!

And a special thanks to all those of you who came from so far away – David from Coventry, Holly from Bristol, Dan from Colchester, Cath from Norwich and Jim from… somewhere far away too. If I’ve left your name out, please let me know.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Liberal Conspiracy

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Reader comments


1. Kate Belgrave

It was a really good event and I got to talk about myself for ages. Thanks to organisers and attendees – excellent!!!!!!

Makes me laugh all this “slavishly pro Cameronite” stuff. Do these people actually ever read my blog before they comment on it? It seems to me they comment on what they think it is rather than what it atually is.

3. Mike Killingworth

Many thanks to Sunny and everyone else who organised the event.

The one point above all others that it brought home to me is that blogs serve many purposes, and that comparisons of left and right bloggers may well not be a comparison of like with like.

Charlie Beckett’s point about change and responsibility is a fair one, but it predates the Internet, of course. To the extent that blogging is a form of journalism, it is intrinsically “oppositionist” – as, indeed, is single-issue campaigning.

The principal challenge for the progressive blogsophere will, however, lie in its response to Labour’s forthcoming electoral catastrophe. To what extent will we arrive at a common analysis of “what went wrong”? Will there be a measure of agreement as to what Labour should do to renew itself? Or should we look to the Liberal Democrats as a better vehicle for the promotion of progressive values as they relate to the 21st century? Or beyond parties altogether?

At the very least, it isn’t immediately obvious that whoever wears the Labour rosette will be best placed to seek to evict Johnson from London’s Mayoralty in 2012 and although I personally believe that Cameron is, like so many before him, merely a decentraliser in opposition, suppose I’m wrong and that local Councils can actually make a difference once again – would that create an opening for a disconnect between national and local forms of political organisation which we could exploit?

Beyond that, we might choose to analyse the political impact of the longer-term cultural shifts of the last thirty years or so. When Labour left office in 1979 it was taken for granted that its beating heart was the organised, skilled manual (male) working-class – and there’s been some nostalgia for that here, too. I never knew where the beating heart of Blairism was, but perhaps I’m just too stupid to understand Anthony Giddens.

We shall also need to confront the reality that living standards in this country are set to decline for a generation, and that in turn is likelynot only to exacerbate inequality, but also to provide unscrupulous politicians with the opportunity to curtail our liberties further in the name of “security”.

And finally, drawing on the experience of Labour in office, not only since 1997 but also in previous generations, we need to consider Harold Wilson’s view that “the Labour Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing”. Clearly morality and politics do intersect, or none of us would bother, but it does raise the question: can this (or any other) country actually be governed from the left? Which brings me full circle to Charlie’s original point…

What’s wrong Iain? Didn’t you receive your invite?

Thanks for organising the event Sunny. It was great to have the opportunity to meet everyone and to share in the mass braindumping.

Hopefully there will be many more to come.

It was an interesting event, but I think that perhaps the “braindumping” should have occurred before we went to a face to face event like this so that we could have made more progress. Some good ideas around though, and good to meet people!

Iain,

I don’t read your blog everyday, but it is one of the very few Tory blogs I visit.

There was a definite point when your blog became much more closely aligned to the Conservative leadership. I don’t know whether this was a personal shift or, shall we say, a strategic one.

However, you remain critical of Slippery Dave on some issues, it seems to me.

Iain: “It seems to me they comment on what they think it is rather than what it atually is.”

Maybe that’s because you keep telling people it’s one thing when it’s actually quite another.

Hope you have another one as couldn’t make last night. Sounded like a good night.

God, I wish that I’d brought a mask as well. I look like death cooled down.

Great to meet you all :o)

Mike@3 I’m sceptical about pledging alleigance to any political party to use it as a vehicle to drive through your policy aims – that’s the height of cynicism and one more reason why disillusion spreads about politics, politicians and the political process.

To stretch the metaphor, when the cart is stuck in a rut we need to stop whipping the nag and get out and push (even if we’re not all pushing in the exactly the same direction).

I’m glad to hear that it was a successful night, it’s good to see a movement start rolling.

The event was very good – thanks to all involved. I had one niggling thought throughout, though.

It was commendable that so much time was spent discussing women in the blogosphere, and especially feminism. The issue deserves a lot more attention than it currently recieves because women do clearly and understandably struggle in blogging. But it was made very clear that there was a strong feminist blog cohort, and those of us guilty of ignoring it will doubtless be more aware and alert in the future.

Dare I suggest that a future session should instead be asking “Where are all the young bloggers?”. The “MySpace Generation” should surely be like fish in water with political blogging – not able to vote, so engaging in politics online. I was amazed to see so few people under the age of about 25. I have grown up with the internet in a way most older people have not, and my generation dominates much of the web. Why, then, are there so few young bloggers? Or, if they exist, why are they ignored?

I would hate to do down the feminist slant last night, but it was obvious to me that the female presence in the blogosphere is far more advanced than that of young people, who, as a group, failed to get a single mention throughout the evening despite the starkly visibe low turnout. This really would be an important area to investigate in any future event (of which I hope there will be many more).

I think there’s a little bit too much focus on what we’re missing rather than what we should be doing. To me the primary focus right now should be soldifying our movement a little bit more and making it a more legitimate and powerful voice. That in itself should, hopefully, bring more people to the blogs and to start blogging, but simply trying to work out equality issues on various different groups (do we have enough homosexual bloggers? What about one armed blind bloggers, they weren’t mentioned at all yesterday) is not going to get us anywhere.

Lee Griffin,

Get a bloody haircut, hippy.

;o)

Sunny, you should put up the picture of the mystery sleeper to see if anyone can identify him. Are you sure he wasn’t there when you arrived?

@Ali Gledhill,

At The F-Word, we field more with complaints about the lack of women over-30 than under-30 – we had a long debate about it, prior to me becoming editor, because the tagline of the site was originally “young UK feminism”. (background info here)

In terms of our blog, we have a whole age range (although with a grouping together, I must admit, in mid-20s), and in terms of the site as a whole, I don’t specifically ask contributors to state their age, but from those who have volunteered the information we have regular contributions from all age groups, including many teenagers.

@Sunny – great event, thanks for putting all the work in and organising it :)

>“Where are all the young bloggers?”.

Er … everywhere, or it seems so sometimes.

You probably need to define your terms. I’d call young 18-30. Plenty in their early 20s, and rather too much “people not in my generation can’t understand the internet and social media” prejudice in some circles.

Matt

>“Where are all the young bloggers?”.

Reflecting further, perhaps they are all Tories – and hence not allowed in last night .

“Get a bloody haircut, hippy.”

I did :P

I was suprised how many liberals were there with such short hair. And no sandals, it was weeeeird.

Reflecting further, perhaps they are all Tories – and hence not allowed in last night .

Err, Matt, I’ve seen a few Tory bashes too. The middle-aged banker-look, with paunch, is pretty much the average.

>The middle-aged banker-look, with paunch, is pretty much the average.

Heh. No comment. It would be interesting if someone did a census. Certainly, there seem to be numbers of CF bloggers around,although they tend to switch in and out a bit.

All the cool young bloggers exist outside of London obviously, and found it hard to make it ;)

>>The middle-aged banker-look, with paunch, is pretty much the average.

Certainly my experience. Nothing wrong with that, of course…

All the cool young bloggers exist outside of London obviously, and found it hard to make it ;)

Yeah, like Tallinn. :o)

*checks notes to see if 30 is still considered young*

I get about!

I thought this was great: no matter how enthusiastic we are about the web, there’s nothing like meeting face to face. Perhaps at the next one we should have a specific new campaign or project to launch or disacuss?

Thanks for a great night Sunny; it was really nice to meet everyone, and the discussions were really interesting – it’s certainly given me lots to think about.

Lee Griffin – “I was suprised how many liberals were there with such short hair. And no sandals”

I had my sandals on, and I’ve got short hair. Not sure I’d describe myself as a liberal though…..:)

Cath: Haha! See, topsy turvy world. Labour not working for the left, non-liberals in sandals, interesting times ;)

Sunny, really great event, congrats and thanks.

Lee@18, I had my sandles on too (they were even birks), but yes, have grown out the hair.

@Lee in early responses, what are ‘feminist methods’?

Thanks to the person mentioning young bloggers – it’s a very good point. Although I did see bloggers who looked very young last night! (not that I am condescending, being under 25 myself)…

I appreciated the question raised by a male member of the audience which was along the lines of ‘what can male bloggers do for female bloggers’. I think there are simple steps that all male bloggers can easily take to simply pay more attention to the female blogosphere (feminist or not, mind). Of course having to remind men that, hey, it would be nice if they linked more actively to women was a bit obvious, but repeating it can do no harm.

That said – I wondered if the whole discussion about ‘paying attention’ (I don’t much like the terminology) to women bloggers couldn’t be transposed to other groups or communities. For example, bloggers of colour, LGBT blogs, etc.

Jessica: Spot on. I was talking with Holly last night and I pointed out that it’s almost as if the left did start more freely linking, using sites like this to spread the word of other peoples good work and views, then the issue feminists feel exist on this could start to evaporate alongside those of other lesser heard groups.

Zohraa: I don’t think it’s any secret, again I spoke about this with a couple of people last night, that I hate people that have forthright views, will never change them and (worse still) won’t accept there is another view or argument. For example there were several feminist bloggers that took the stance on the abortion debate that there was no argument that could be made for supporting the anti-abortion movement, and rammed that point home fairly regularly and aggressively. Before last night I considered that to be the way feminists acted.

As I said in my article about last night though, I think a little epiphany dawned on me that like every other aspect of the blogosphere, those feminists that stick in my mind aren’t all feminists, just the most verbal and therefore stick in your mind. My point was kind of that what I thought were “feminist methods” are nothing more than methods that some bloggers on all areas of the spectrum use regardless of their cause. Listening to the rest of you I realised I was reading, supporting and perfectly reasonably engaging with many feminist articles without even realising it, solely because those feminists acted in a more respectful and engaging manner.

Sunny: Excellent evening, it certainly opened my eyes a lot. Thanks for organising it.

Lee: I’d love to have long hair – I’d love to have hair.

I’m not from *that* far away – Cambridge – however, that doesn’t mean the train can’t break down on the way home!

It was great to meet people in person for a change though, thanks for organising it Sunny

I’m sore I couldn’t make it down or send a representative ;)

Any chance of a future event taking place *outside* London?

A very good event…though I think it should definatly be a precursor for something longer so we can expand on all the issues….thanks for inviting me Sunny and putting the event on….

Someone shoot the photographer. Made you all look weird.

Someone shoot the photographer. Made you all look weird.

PT old boy. Do play nice, eh?

Very glad to see that Tim Ireland looks as bonkers as his obsession with Iain Dale and Guido.

Still I suppose someone has to take them down a peg or two…!

Praguetory (appearing here with an anonymous friend) is still smarting over making an arse of himself in this thread:
http://www.charliebeckett.org/?p=713

Tell me, Dominic, how often do you express an opinion on matters where you have no idea what’s going on?

Thanks for a very interesting evening Sunny. Sorry I had to leave early – I hope to meet everybody at a future event.

You are so lucky to be able to take such nice cheerful pictures (without any outside interference.)

“Why, then, are there so few young bloggers? Or, if they exist, why are they ignored?”

Because their views are facile and their writing immature?

More seriously, with a very few exceptions, most of the young, i.e. under 25, bloggers that I know are libertarians. However, that might be just the circles that I move in (although I do try to peruse lefty blogs, I don’t have so much time these days).

However, I would venture to suggest that young bloggers, often having little money and a lot of social awkwardness, are less inclined to turn up for such events for reasons of financial penury and a surfeit of embarrassment.

On the latter point, many adult bloggers are nervous enough at such events…

DK


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