The recent Philippine Blog Awards drew hundred of bloggers to the wind-swept venue at the One Esplanade at the Mall of Asia complex last Sunday for an evening of celebrating the best in the Pinoy blogosphere. Food and drinks were good and plentiful. Senator Mar Roxas was the keynote speaker. Jayvee Fernandez gave an insightful closing speech on the transformative experience of blogging.
Despite technical glitches and other missteps common to events of this nature, a good time was had by all. Or so it appeared to me. I had a great time just people-watching and marveling at the variety of creatures who call themselves bloggers.
Congratulations to the winners and kudos to the organizers.
There will be detractors, of course, who will find fault in many aspects of the awards and the occasion itself. Much as Filipinos revel in awards-giving, an undertaking such as this would not be complete without one controversy or another to spice up post-event discussions.
The sight of so many bloggers all at one place got me thinking about whether bloggers can be a force for social change. A grandiose idea for now, I know, but it’s gradually happening, without our even being aware of it.
A timely article in BusinessWorld sheds light on the numbers involved.
Internet penetration in the Philippines is relatively small but experts note that those who have web access are those who have the spending power.
Nielsen Media Research estimates point to some 200,000 local bloggers to date, from just 40,000 in 2007, amplified by the popularity of some local networking sites where pages can be created quickly complete with photos, videos, and instant reactions.
The number of local internet users is expected to rise to 24 million this year from 14 million in 2006 and only two million in 2000, with access and personal computers becoming cheaper and more accessible.
Thus, the article points out, bloggers play a significant role as far as consumer protection is concerned, making businesses more aware of a potential blogger backlash for rendering poor service or selling shoddy or defective goods. Globally, people now tend to rely more on the internet than on television and radio advertising, according to U.S.-based Forrester Research, Inc.
“Customers are writing about your products on blogs and recutting your commercials on YouTube. They’re defining you in Wikipedia and ganging up on you in social networking sites like Facebook. These are all elements of a social phenomenon- that has created a permanent long-lasting shift in the way the world works.” say co-authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technology“.
All these point to the growing role of bloggers as shapers of public opinion.
But not everyone is enamored of the free-wheeling blogosphere. Andrew Keen, Silicon Valley entrepreneur, cultural critic and author of the book , “The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture” , laments the harm caused by the self-authored content of the internet for having brought about “an endless digital forest of mediocrity”.
If we keep up this pace, there will be over five hundred million blogs by 2010, collectively corrupting and confusing popular opinion about everything from politics, to commerce, to arts and culture. Blogs have become so dizzyingly infinite, that they’ve undermined our sense of what is true and what is false, what is real and what is imaginary. These days, kids can’t tell the difference between credible news by objective professional journalists and what they read on joeshmoe.blogspot.com.
But even Keen has to concede that the internet has broadened the world’s democratic space. The challenge for us is how to use this empowering medium responsibly, with due regard for the truth and genuine concern for others. Like it or not, blogging has become a potent social phenomenon to be reckoned with.