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Blogging the Adelaide Festival of Ideas, 2007 « Previous | |Next »
June 12, 2007

The Adelaide Festival of Ideas is back (5-7July) with its interesting theme of 'which way to the future'. It is also a very opportune theme in the light of climate change, the changes in industrial relations, reforms in healthcare, radical changes in the media and a public mood that suggests Australian citizens are deliberating about whether its time to consider changing the commonwealth government.The election can be interpreted as being about the future of the country.

I have mentioned the fifth festival in passing here at junk for code in relation to the history of the festival. One innovation in this years festival is the use of bloggers----Kerryn Goldsworthy at the wonderful Pavlov's Cat and Tim Dunlop of the innovative Blogocracy at and myself writing at public opinion at Thought Factory. Kerryn discusses the Festival of Ideas in relation to Writers Week and the Adelaide Festival of Arts.

Introducing blogging is an important development into the Festival format, given the squeezing of our public culture due to the decline in the quality of commentary in the media as it shifts to infotainment, and the struggle for survival by our little magazines. The internet opens up possibilities to broaden the festival beyond the face-to-face events in Adelaide and to continue the conversation amongst the audience that has been activated by the ideas introduced by the invited speakers.

People discuss the ideas amongst themselves and Adelaide audiences are intelligent, well informed, articulate and so equipped to engage in good practical reasoning about these ideas. The philosopher Michael Oakeshott, in an essay, The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation of Mankind, talks about the importance of a continuing historical conversation. He observes that a multiplicity of voices need to be heard, to be a part of the public discourse. However, that conversation has been blunted by the deceptions, untruths and spin of the publicity industry over the last decade.

So why not begin to use the comments technology in the blogging publishing system to enable a sharing of this conversation amongst those living outside of Adelaide? This kind of publishing system is much more of the moment than the commentary in the monthly Adelaide Review. That would enable the ideas to be kicked around a bit, hopefully winnowed and sifted by those participating in the conservation (including other Australian bloggers), an adversarial presentation of competing arguments, and maybe facilitating a connection of these ideas to other kinds of material.

Australian citizens deliberating about possible futures for their nation-state embodies a different understanding of democracy to the economic conception, which emphasizes voting for political elites as the central institution in democracy; or to parliamentary democracy's self-interested and coercive bargaining or negotiation associated with legislative changes. The deliberative conception of democracy is sustained and deepened by the national conversation, as it is one way to counter the media's poor performance of its watchdog for democracy function.

Blogging has been criticised by professional journalists and commentators in the mainstream media and dismissed in the name of ghost blogs. Blogging has its defenders from those who claim that the good work of the professional journalists is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere. That negative view overlooks the bloggers shared commitment to an active engagement in local, state and national politics and our public culture.

The Festival provides an opportunity to show what Adelaide bloggers can do by way of assessing ideas. It is not something that journalists are well known for. What the internet offers is that audiences need no longer rely on reviews by journalists or comment from familiar political commentators telling them how they should think on important issues. More voices have been added--their own.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:41 AM |