Fieldwork at a Bloggers’ Summit in the Philippines
“You influence people who read your blog or tweet. You are an authority, whether you want to be or not.” –Jason Cruz, presenter at iblog9
Cruz’s statement above sums up the recurrent theme at the iblog9 Bloggers Summit in Manila, Philippines: that bloggers are the digital influencers in today’s growing online society. Iblog, a free event now in its ninth consecutive year, was modeled after a similar (and now defunct) conference in the U.S. The event is intended to cultivate positive interaction and support between bloggers at all experience levels. I attended this formal blogger gathering not only to establish contacts and conduct interviews with attendees, but also to gain a better understanding at how blogging is organized in the Philippines.
The summit prepared two days full of presentations from notable bloggers, social media professionals, and other experts in the digital field (for example, a lawyer presenting about how the law affects blogging). The first day operated around topics for bloggers, marketers, businesses and entrepreneurs curious about the commercial potential of blogs. The second day branched to everyone interested in blogging.
The best way to describe the event is fun, techy, and inclusive, and the best way to illustrate my point is the live tweetwall that organizers screened during Q&A sessions. Throughout the day, participants—both in attendance, and viewing through livestream—were encouraged to express their impressions and tweet their questions, tagged #iblog9. After one provocative presentation, “How Blogging is a Lot Like Dating,” in which the presenter likened his blogging experiences to his dating realities, the tweetwall that was screened behind him during Q&A began to fill with playful jabs about his dating life, and then on to public speculation about if the girl in question was in the room and who she was. The room was full of laughter for about 10 straight minutes while this continued and the presenter played along.
Beyond the markedly young, urban and techy interrelations being played and displayed at the event, I found the presentations themselves could tell me much about how the blogging community defines itself. Presentation titles like, “Blogging and Social Thought Leadership” and “Bloggers as Digital influencers,” both speak to bloggers’ desire for fame and audience, and also reinforce a consensus that these should be the goals of blogging. Another presentation, entitled, “Understanding the Blogger Psyche,” reinforced shared conceptions of the blogger identity: opinionated, passionate, and critical.
I interviewed many bloggers (novices to 10 years’ experience), blog group organizers, and social media professionals in casual conversations to gauge their conceptions about the possibilities that blogging might offer them and society in general. Everyone was more than willing to work with me, and many offered to extend their involvement further.
At the end of event, we all walked out of the auditorium with a notebook full of useful scribbles, a handful of new friends, and an iblog9 t-shirt designed after the Philippines flag.