Let’s talk about development. No, let’s talk about blogging instead. Hmmm, let’s talk about the development of blogs. That doesn’t make sense. What about blogging about development then? Yeah, yeah, that’s it.
“Look at that fancy hipster blog, tsk tsk tsk..” said the Formal Publication to Official Communication
When I hear about blogging the first thing that comes to my mind is that of a passionate amateur. For instance, fashion bloggers know all about fashion but they are not Jean-Paul Gaultiers. Similarly, a football blogger might be in love with football but usually (s)he is not a professional footballer or a football pundit. They are people, ordinary knowledgeable people, with a passion, and a talent to communicate their opinions. Communicate their opinions publicly to an online community of people with the same interests.
Actually, the latter is the power that internet gives you. Especially, the power that the ‘crowded’ world of social media where people “share their thoughts and discoveries online” (Rettberg, p.14) gives you They share ideas about knitting. Or information about new clothing trends, or videos regarding the team’s last big win against their rivals. Somehow, we all have an idea about blogging for knitting, fashion, and football. But, what about blogging about development? How do bloggers write about development?
Well, with development blogging the story is a bit different from what I thought it would be
At least, it is a fuzzier and complicated one. While blogging is a powerful tool of development communication and discussion, at the same time it is not (or might not be considered as such).
On the one hand, development blogging seems to be primarily a concern of development professionals of different degrees of engagement to the field. Denskus and Papan (2013, p.465) write:
“development blogging often requires a relatively privileged position of being inside the development industry and that it often reflects a specific form cosmopolitanism and multi-sited engagement with the world”
Thus, the concept embraces all from development students and interns to academics, aid-workers and executives.
On the other hand, though, blogging development is not a fully recognized or formal form of communicating and discussing development, such as an academic paper or the official NGO communication. In that aspect, Denskus and Papan add (p.464):
“understanding social media is still in its infancy in many organizations”
“What exactly are we looking at?” Official Communication asked Formal Publication
As it seems, blogging about development produces a quite strange paradox.
It is written and disregarded at a professional level, simultaneously.
In this paradox, the one constituent enhances the democratization of the process, while the other smothers it. Blogging opens up development to a potentially wider, and global, audience, disregarding the voice of blogging restricts development writing to the formal publications and official communications. The latter comes with particular interests and certain burdens. Besides this, though, the paradox has an extra dimension. The motivation of blogging about global development complicates the concept a bit more.
Blogging about development happens for certain reasons. Reflecting experiences, developing ideas, protesting, networking and engaging motivate most blog writers. Actually, development blogging enables the writers to engage with an audience of people with very specific needs, an interested audience. Ferguson et al. (2013, p.320) highlight:
“bloggers engaged with a like-minded audience consisting of peers with shared professional practices”
Consequently, development blogs mostly refer to people with development concerns and development bloggers mostly engage with their community, their peers: other development professionals (practitioners, academics, students, etc.).
The paradox now becomes: blogging about development is written from and for development professionals while it is also disregarded by development professionals at the same time.
This defies logic at so many levels, well, that is actually exactly why you called it a paradox, one might say. Nevertheless, blogging about development offers much more than just the aforesaid paradox. It is accessible and facilitates the production of collective development knowledge. Also, it offers an alternative sphere for public deliberation about development. Yet, the question persists, has blogging about development a place in the formal development discourse?
Is this how formal streams of development see development bloggers?
Feel free to comment. Be judgemental even!
Need to know more about blogging development?? Then you should take a look at our latest look at contemporary #ICT4D literature blogpost