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Local to Global

Ole Tangen Jr.May 12, 2007

As the number of blogs around the world continues to climb, many blogs focusing on local issues are gaining a global audience in this hyper-connected media landscape.

Local issues are connecting bloggers to the wider world

A blogger in Turkey writes a post about religious expression and politics. The post is read, discussed and linked to by other bloggers and internet users throughout the Turkish-speaking world.

A graduate student in the US reads the blog, translates it into English and posts it onto another website. Bloggers from Bahrain to Australia then link to the translated post adding their own links and comments along the way.

Through the reach of the global blogosphere, one person’s casual musings have become an international topic for a virtual conversation about democracy, religion and politics.

"Through a blog, a local issue can become a global one," said Sokari Ekine, a Nigerian who blogs about African women issues at blacklooks.org.

One of the central ideas of globalization is that there is a growing interconnectedness between different societies as well as a greater desire to participate in a "world culture."

Brought together by little more than an internet connection and a desire to converse, blogs (short for Weblogs) have changed how local and global issues are discussed. And along the way they have become a reflection of this interconnectedness and an increasingly globalized world.

"Today blogs can impact governments and mainstream media," said Ekine, "and the more people who start blogging will hopefully lead to greater change."

Blogging by Number

Just by sheer numbers, blogging is still a virtual phenomenon. Technorati, an online blog tracking site, just released a report stating that there are more than 71 million blogs being written all around the world.

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Blogs started out as personal online diariesImage: AP

According to the report entitled "The State of the Blogosphere" released this month, there are about 120,000 new Weblogs created worldwide each day. That works out to about 1.4 blogs every second with about 1.5 million postings per day.

Contrary to popular opinion, blogging is not an exclusively English endeavor. Of all the blogs tracked, Japanese (37 percent) just overtook English (33 percent) as the most-blogged language. At third place, Chinese bloggers represent about three percent of the blogosphere while Farsi edged into the top ten with about one percent.

A tempered excitement among bloggers about the report was on display in comments on the Technorati site. Commenting on the report, the Center for Citizen Media Blog summed up the feeling; "There’s no question that blogs and other participatory sites have seen tremendous growth."

A Global Village?

A lot has changed in the more than 45 years since Herbert Marshall McLuhan first used the term "Global Village" to describe how electronic media has led to greater interconnectedness on a global scale.

Today "globalization" is the buzz word used to describe this phenomenon. And while the term remains a divisive one, even the people who campaign against corporate globalization benefit from its processes.

"One of the most optimistic aspects of globalization is that anyone can go online and make a friend from anywhere around the world," said Ethan Zuckerman who co-founded the site globalvoicesonline.org with Rebecca MacKinnon in 2004.

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Who is reading your blog? From where?Image: AP

Today the site calls itself a guide to the global blogosphere. Through a number of editors, the site posts summaries and excerpts of whatever topics are floating around the Internet in regions of the world that are often ignored by the media.

According to Zuckerman, most bloggers write about and discuss local issues, especially in places like the Middle East and Africa.

"When we feature a story on Global Voices, we are trying to open a local conversation to a global audience," said Zuckerman. While he calls himself a "globalization junkie," Zuckerman also considers himself a realist.

"There is this cyber-utopian illusion that we are all taking part of the same conversation. We may all want to talk to each other and get a glimpse into other cultures but we are still all very different," he said.

No Global Language

One of the greatest hurdles to a truly global conversation through blogs is language. Global Voices and Blacklooks both post mainly in English.

Markus Beckedahl originally thought about writing a blog in English but decided against it because there were no German blogs at the time covering the political aspect of the information society.

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What will the blogosphere look like in 10 or 20 years?Image: dpa

"Plus it is much easier to blog in your own language," he said.

So in 2004 he started the blog netzpolitik.org to enlighten Germans on topics like open-source software and digital rights through education and activism.

Beckedahl believes that in 10 or 20 years translation software will allow bloggers from all over the world to communicate, no matter what language they blog in.

Using the German word "kulturtechnik" (loosely translates as "culture technique"), Beckedahl described blogs as a tool that can connect users, or peers to others all around the world often bridging both language and culture.

"Every person sitting in front of a computer is a peer and together they are creating the global digital society," he said.