To me, the power of blogging is obvious. It was obvious the first time I started a blog back in the old days, back before comments and tracebacks and technorati. The simple act of public reflection seemed so revolutionary then, and the surprising thing to me is that it keeps being revolutionary now, six years later.
I thought all the people who were going to be got on the bandwagon back when the first blogathon kept us posting through the night. It felt then like we had hit market saturation, but clearly I had no idea. Because today I feel like we’re in a totally new blogworld.
There are lots of things that should have clued me in to this along the way. Podcasting, for instance. The sheer rise in the numbers of blogs. The fact that the word gets mentioned in the mainstream media so often you’d think we’re in their employ. But what really drove it home for me was the explosion of weblogs around the CBC lock out.
The background: The CBC is Canada’s national broadcaster. It is, essentially, a government service, with a mandate to provide news and programming to every region in the country. In spite of the government funding (and perhaps because of it), the CBC provides famously good, critical news and commentary. The CBC is our insurance that we won’t be swamped with American programming and news, which, if you look at the film industry, is perilously close to being a reality otherwise.
So the CBC management has locked out the union. The staff is all on the picket lines. In other times, what we would know would be only what the official CBC brass want us to know. But the time is now, and the CBC staff understands the power that the internet represents.
CBC Unplugged is another voice on the whole experience, and tonight (on my nice long walk out along the credit river), I listened to their first long podcast, created out of Vancouver. (I highly recommend it: you can download it here, or subscribe to the feed via itunes. I recommend it if you’re Canadian, or if you’re interested in labour politics in any way.) This is amazing; I’m learning things about this dispute I don’t think I would ever have had access to otherwise. Management has shut down staff email addresses. They talk about a “labour disruption” when it’s actually a lock out, they barred their employees from entering the building. They forced them out on strike. I got to think about this experience from their point of view; Bill Richardson talks about what it’s like to hear his own voice from the archives filling air time, as if he himself (his former self, the part already paid for by the CBC) is a scab. This is amazing.
They can bar access to one means of production, but the world is a slightly different shape these days. People can’t be silenced anymore.
Partly I feel like the right audience for these stories and rants and political outpourings, and partly I feel like a spectator. Part of what these blogs and these podcasts are doing is tying together a diverse and disparate staff. One of the podcasters says that it’s nice to see what’s going on in other cities through the photo blogs; she gets tired of walking around the same block over and over in Vancouver, but she can see that they’re doing that very same thing in Toronto. This is a new kind of solidarity, and I can only applaud the CBC staff’s thoughtful and conscious use of technology. The blogs give them up to the minute communication (audio, visual, text, emotion, politics, ideas, words, slogans) with each other as well as with their audience. The podcasts allow them to derail the “official” line on what’s going on, to put their voices back out there after they’ve been forcibly removed. They are speaking directly to us through every means they can, and they are showcasing not only their own resourcefulness, but also the power of the technologies their using to change the nature of every form of communication, including the managerial one. They even suggest that the blogs are even one way of communicating across the sides of this lock out: staff are reading the blogs of managers, managers are reading the blogs of staff. I don’t know that there’s any kind of precedent for something like this.
All of this has made at least one thing very clear to me; we’re not talking about information technology. We’re talking about communication technology. And that can make all the difference in the world.