Iraq, media, web 2.0

Blogging Your Way To A Civil Society?

Papascott links to Jeff Jarvis, who believes that Salam Pax – the blogger who shared the sights and sounds of his life in Baghdad and is now writing a forthnightly column in the British Guardian – is an example of how sponsoring Iraqi blogging could create a true Iraqi Civil Society –

“What comes out of this: A hundred Salam Paxes. A thousand Salam Paxes. The intelligent, caring, involved future of Iraq will come online to share their experiences and opinions and hopes and fears and Iraq will be better for it; so will the world, for we will build bridges to Iraqis online. History has never had a better, cheaper, easier, faster means of publishing content and distributing it worldwide. Now is the time to take advantage of this for sake of democracy and freedom and nothing less than that.”

I am not too convinced that the outcome of setting up “blogspots” in Baghdad would necessarily be the creation of a happy modern all-Iraqi civil society, even assuming that enough people would care to learn how to use the technology. I suppose there is hardly anyone who would be able to tell how blogging would fit into institutionalised Iraqi patterns of societal communication.

Thinking of the almost violent way the pro-/anti-war debate evolved in the western blogosphere in the first few months this year, I would say that there is no guarantee that blogging does enhance the way any civil society works – just read my post about Rebecca Lucas below. In fact, remembering how Karl Deutsch has described long ago in “Nationalism and Social Communication” that increased communication does not per se translate into more understanding between the communicating parties, one might be tempted to think that blogging actually requires a significant amount of civil society and mutual understanding to start with in order to deal with all the Rachel Lucases around. Otherwise, it might just ignite a fire no one wanted to light.

I am not saying this would be the case in Iraq. But given the way a “modern/pseudo-socialist” authoritarian government has been superimposed on a semi-tribally-organised, ethnically and religiously diverse country I’d say that there is a certain chance for a negative development.

So while I think that the idea put forth by Mr Jarvis is clearly worth to be tested, those involved would have to be very attentive and careful not to become too hopeful about the possible positive effects of such a project.