BlogHer 2006: Mixed Feelings

I’m still in California, so the unsettled feeling I am experiencing can’t be attributed to jetlag; rather, I am feeling quite uneasy about some of what I observed and heard at BlogHer this weekend. On the one hand, it was a kick to be one of some 700 women bloggers for two days–the energy, humor and good will were palpable among the attendees–and some of the conference was very interesting and thought-provoking–facilitating the edublogging session with Laura and Barbara, for instance, was great; as was running into Stephanie Hendrik whom I had met at Blogtalk; hearing Dina Mehta, Grace Davis and Sarah Fordtalk about their blogging relief efforts; meeting the incomparable Nancy White and hearing her talk about how to set up and nurture online collaborative community sites; having J D Lasica of all people videotape our session.

But rumbling through the two days was, as Laura points out, a strong whiff of the almighty dollar. People were looking for hints on increasing traffic to their blogs, making money blogging, encouraging advertisers. In sessions I attended, and in the buzz around the pool, there was a whole lot of attention paid to getting people to your blogs. Fascinating.

Okay, so I learned that my world is indeed what I expected to find out–a bit out of touch. But I expected there to be a huge outcry against DOPA–after all, Danah Boyd spoke on Day Two. But no–NOTHING within my earshot. And in fact, as I went around talking about it, I found out that many, many bloggers, including those in academic circles, hadn’t even heard of it. How can that be? I was shocked and not a little bothered–we were surrounded by the sponsors giving us everything from zipdrives to condoms, fake flowers to souped up water; but no talk about legislation that will deepen the digital divide by making blogs and other social networking sites out of reach for kids without computers in the home, and force those who do use the sites underground to form their communities. Read Danah Boyd’s inspired research on MySpace and adolescents if you don’t believe me.

And so while I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people showed up for the edublogging session, and how they really wanted to talk about all kinds of Web 2.0 and learning topics (and how challenging so many of them felt sifting through the Web to find helpful sites on pedagogy and technology integration, on places for teachers to gather) I was dismayed by the lack of substantive talk about what’s going on with the Internet and kids. And in fact there were very very very few teens in attendance. And teens of color?

Maybe I just felt uneasy in a crowd of women who were basically having a ball blogging and meeting other women who blog and whose lives have changed through finding this means of expression. Maybe I’m too wrapped up in the future, on trying to reform education. Maybe I should have sat down with a couple of Yahootinis and stopped thinking about DOPA. But I can’t…it’s too big…

I threw this idea out there a while back, but now, now I’m convinced we’ve really got to figure out how to have an edubloggers gathering (K-16, and teacher-training programs), a face-to-face one where we sit down for two-three days and hammer out better ways for us to collaborate, to get materials and ideas to those who need them, and to talk about keeping the internet open to all.

And so, I’m gad, really glad, that I went to BlogHer, for it illuminated for me the current state of blogging, both the good and the bad. And it’s making me ever more determined to get out there and do what I can to get people talking about teaching and learning.


4 Responses

  1. Hi. How does one get invited to this next year?
    I just started blogging about 3-4 months ago and used a class blog for the first time this summer. Would love to hear other profs experiences using class blogs.

  2. I found your blog today, very interesting. Would you like to exchange links? My blog is (No Great Teachers left Behind)

    It is a forum where people can write about teachers who made a difference in their lives.

    I will add a link to my blog if you will add mine to yours!

    Curt Ingram

  3. Barbara, great to meet you at the conference and attend the edublogging session. I agree that DOPA should have had prominence. On the other hand, I applaud the conference organizers–this was a big task to take on. Just the logistics alone are daunting for these kinds of events. As that part gets more organized, I’m certain other things–like DOPA–will be emphasized. Even though it was bigger than last year, this conference was still on training wheels. I expect to see real leadership on important issues at the next one.

    Also, I love to see some women figuring out the business end of things. Again, I fully expect to see equal female representation in successful business uses of blogging and I’m happy about that. That shouldn’t curtail blogging for personal and educational uses at all.

    I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

  4. I actually did address DOPA at the end of my panel on Day Two (even though it was not directly related to the topic at all). I also asked Chris Nolan to address it in the final panel and was shot down. She told me that it was an inappropriate topic for a closing panel – it was far too political. ::sigh::

    But yes, i think that more of the blogging world needs to rally against DOPA… i’m just not sure how.

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