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Book Review: Blogosphere – The New Political Arena by Michael Keren

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Dr Keren holds a Canada Research Chair in Communications, Culture, and Civil Society at the University of Calgary. His soon-to-be released book explores the murky world of blogging. It is an interesting book, and one piece of advice that I would like to pass on to any of Dr Keren’s students who might read this review is… Do not tell him you have a blog! Dr Keren is very critical of the blogging world, and its usefulness and truthfulness are called into question.

His assertion is that the blogosphere is an anarchy; no one is checking it, no one is in charge of it – therefore nothing can be trusted, and little of it is worth reading. In my opinion the same charge could be leveled at the traditional media: there are quality publications, and there are some less than quality tabloids.

"Blogs are often voyeuristic, gossipy, and creepy," he informs us. Bloggers "find refuge in verbal fetishism", he continues. Dr Keren’s assessment is that bloggers are a melancholy bunch, who revel in the minutiae of daily life, and add very little of worth.

The book looks at nine different blogs, representing authors of different sexes, age groups, ethnicity, and country of origin. The only common thread is the surgical precision with which the author uses to perform the dissection.

The first victim is Jason Kottke, who is a well-known blogger. Poor Jason gets ripped to shreds. He is portrayed as a self-centered computer nerd, who has sold out to the commercial world. Jason was one of the founders of the blogging world, but unfortunately over time he has crossed over from blogger to profit center.

Meg Hourihan fares little better, she is painted as an ineffectual feminist.

Pamela Ribon is probably the blogger I feel most sorry for. Dr Keren dissects her like an insect in a biology class. Although the quote is not directly pointed at Pamela, the intended target is obvious: “Whacked out and scary”. Pamela is a want-to-be Hollywood insider, her blog a sad tale of her trying to break into the big time.  

Interestingly enough, it is the North American bloggers that take most of the abuse; he is reasonably nice about a young Iranian girl and an Indian mother.

The carnage goes on page after page. It is not often that I read a book in a single sitting but this one I could not put down!

I may not agree with some of Dr Keren’s views, but it certainly is an interesting perspective on the subject. At under 160 pages it is not an exhausting read, and the URL’s of the ‘victim's’ websites are included so that you can read them and form your own opinion. While I agree with Dr Keren that the blogosphere might not be the Brave New World of publishing, I do believe it has a valid place in the world of news and information

This is a book from academia and as such is unlikely to make the bestseller list, but is worth the effort to track down.

Dr Keren has invited me to the official launch of his book and agreed to an interview. I am sure that we will have a lively discussion.

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About Simon Barrett

  • Maybe he just hasn’t come across the right blogs? Not that mine would be one of them, I’m sure he would have something horrible to say about it.

    Not sure I’ll read this one but it’s an interesting thing to write about/talk about. To an extent he is right, there is a lot of crap out there. But good stuff too. He should look a little harder.

    Good review, looking forward to the interview.

  • This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States. Nice work!