First, the new Bruegel blog used the occasion to proclaim that Europeans can’t blog. To make their point a little stronger, they overinterpreted (on purpose, I assume…) my ad hoc findings that among the last 50 blog posts highlighted on Bloggingportal.eu only 20% were linking other blogs stating that:
“In brief, Europe has bloggers, but no blogosphere: it lacks a living ecosystem to exchange and debate. Of most leading European blogs, only 1 in 5 were linked to other online content.”
First, I did not choose “leading” blogs but a set of blog posts from a mix of smaller and larger EU-focused blogs. Second, I only said they were not linking to other blogs, not that they were not linking any other online content. The point I wanted to raise was that I found there was a lack of an inter-blog debate represented through links.
The first one to react to the Bruegel post was Martinned in “Europeans can’t jump“. While disagreeing with some of the arguments put forward by the Bruegels – especially to their claim that the lack of debate in European blogs was a general cultural problem – he still confirmed the general tendency of the lack of a genuine European blogosphere. He argues that the problem was that national topics would be more interesting.
What this ignores is the strange situation that I had only chosen blogs writing about EU affairs to make my claim. What I found and still find surprising is that even blogs who are very much EU-focussed (or EU-aware) do not really enter into debate.
Today, the Free Exchange blog of the Economist continued the argument from the Bruegel blog in “It’s easier to be heard in a crowd“. An important point is raise there:
“The trouble is, if you take the interactivity out of the blogosphere, you essentially eliminate most of its potential value. The interconnectedness of the blogosphere allows it to take advantage of increasing returns to scale—the more participation in the conversation there is, the more value there is to everyone to participating in the conversation.”
The post is closed with the claim that “given the worldwide interest in and debate over the crisis in Europe, now would be an opportune time for European bloggers to deepen their interactivity“. Now while I think this is a hopeful wish, I doubt that the economic crisis as such is the moment for a more interactive blogosphere.
The crisis definitely has helped to strengthen the European Public Sphere because more and more we all become aware how interconnected our politics are, how relevant it is to discuss votes in the German parliament in Greece or French presidential elections in Germany. But that is not really a sufficient condition for blogs to interconnect, not least because I do not have the feeling that there are so many economy-focussed blogs in the national spheres that could now start interacting. But this is just a feeling, maybe I’m wrong.
The solution proposed by Kantoos Economics is that the European blogosphere needs a “nucleus of bloggers with outstanding credentials” like Krugman in the US around which economic and other debates could develop. Maybe that is indeed true, but my guess would be that this again is not enough. What was needed would be a nucleus of well-read bloggers who would actually make the effort of linking other bloggers around the Union, thereby spreading readership and debates across blogs, across borders and even across subjects.
Update (last 223March 2012): More follow-ups on the unlinked EU blogosphere by Kevin Drum, German Joys, Spanishwalker (who is writing his MA thesis on the subject!), Beyond Brussels, The Parisian Sketches, the Social Europe Journal, Protesilaos Stavrou & Steffen Möller. In French: La Com européenne. In Spanish: Passaporte Europa, Politikon.