Sunday, 17 February 2008

Some thoughts about blog conversations

There are blogs and there are blogs. Somewhere in the blogosphere I have a family/news/friends blog but here is the space for some thoughts.

I have been enjoying Confused of Calcutta's blog. It feels rather like a university seminar with densely packed thoughts being presented to its readers in rapid fire... and the conversation that goes on is clever, articulate and (most of the time) original. A recent discussion has been about "social objects" - (see Confused for more). But it has led me to wonder.... is the blogosphere, I mean here, the world of ideas, a man's world? How many women are involved in the quiet articulation of complex thoughts? It is hard to tell. But let me guess... I will guess that most of the commentators are men. Maybe women read these intellectual blogs, but do they comment - and get into the fray? I wonder. In a (fairly) recent discussion in Prospect magazine about racism, there were many, many comments and all, except one, were from men. So back to my question... is the blogosphere a man's world?

One of the truly brilliant things about the blogging is that you have no idea, only suspicions, through what they say, about who and what people might be . The glory is that we are all equally able to express our views and throw them into the pot.... and this is hugely empowering for many and provides many with new avenues of contact and thought.... but does it, in the end, not really permit inequality to disappear but entrenches it? The case is obvious when I think about the 'digital divide' - clearly those without computers, the very poorest are excluded, but this exclusion is not so obvious when we think about gender.

Do we find men gravitating to where they may always have been more comfortable - the realms of things (including the technical and ideas) -in which no social contact is required because it is all on line... and women gravitating to human blogging - about family and friends?

What does it mean, if that is the case - and does it matter? Well, for me the meaning is that far from the web being a democratising tool, it may entrench social stereotypes and be far away from the transforming instrument we tell ourselves it is. The question is still, as it is in life-out-there - are there reasons why women do not choose to participate, even if you remove the social structures which discourage women to participate? For here, in the blogosphere of ideas, is a place where these disincentives have been removed, as far possible.

I love the possibility of learning about ideas and interacting with people I would never come it contact with in my normal life, but I suspect of my gender and my age group, I am not in the majority.

Some provisional thoughts, interested to hear some comments.

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