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On the road to #rp12: Synchronised yet unlinked #ACTA blogging in Europe

“We can maintain a European public if we observe synchronicity and issue convergence across national publics as well as political resonance on the part of supra-national decision-makers.” (Seifert 2006)

On 27 March 2012, the International Trade (INTA) committee voted against a referral of ACTA to the EU Court to instead vote on it right away in June. A summary of the discussions in INTA is provided by the EU Council Secretariat (p.6); parallel discussions were also held in the Civil Liberties (LIBE) committee (summary).

In the past and present, such discussions and votes in European Parliament committees seldom raised and raise the attention of any relevant transnational public. The focus on ACTA over the past months has shown however that politicisation raises attention to concrete European politics, and so one can observe quite detailed follow-up on political developments at EU level.

The blogosphere(s) is (are) one indicator for this attention and so I’ve done a little research on blog posts that mention the vote and/or discussions in the INTA committee, and I could find the following contributions:

German

Netzpolitik, cited by Der Ruhrpilot (DE), Kompass (DE), Campact Blog (DE)

English

Sköne OkeTechpresidentISP Review, cited by Ville Oksanen (FI); Falkvinge (EN)

Swedish

Henrik Alexandersson, cited by Nätverkssamhället (SE)

French

SersnowSlate

Catalan

Maria Badia

So we indeed have reactions from blogs in six languages, although I would have expected that the attention would have been larger given that the INTA decision actually means that the delay tactic of the European Commission to refer the matter to the Court will not work and that ACTA will be very dead or very alive very soon.

Nevertheless, getting coverage on European Parliament discussions and decisions at committee level still shows that there is a limited European public developing, and that this is happening in a synchronised fashion with all the blog posts highlighted above being published on the days around the INTA committee meeting.

Yet, as highlighted previously, this case again also shows that while synchronisation may take place over the same issues, this does not result in any considerable transnational or translingual linking, with one Finnish blog post referencing a UK blog being the only exception among the posts I’ve linked above.

This post is part of a series of blog posts in preparation of my talk at the re:publica 12 on 3 May 2012. Previous posts here (EN), here (German), here (EN), or here (EN).



11 Responses to On the road to #rp12: Synchronised yet unlinked #ACTA blogging in Europe

  1. avatar mathew says:

    Sorry to be picky, but there’s a risk of conflation here. Sychronicity does not imply agency.

    To me, the use of the word “synchronised” means – or at least implies – that there has been some degree of coordination. In which case we do have some sort of cross-EU public sphere emerging.

    If not, probably the best word would be “synchronous”, which (I think) means that activities occur at the same time without necessarily being actively coordinated. This can happens when the phenomena has a common cause – in this case a vote in an EP committee. Would one take that as evidence of a European public sphere, or just a number of national spheres all reacting to the same thing at the same time?

    Given the lack of cross-links, I suspect the latter, but you’re the one who did the research (hat-tip for this series of posts, btw), so you tell us.

  2. avatar Ronny Patz says:

    I won’t have the time to enter into a detailed argument about what can be considered a European Public Sphere, as the academic literature offers quite a bit of different operationalisations.

    However, if your argument above was correct, you would also have to say that, when 10 regional bloggers report about a vote in a national parliament without linking each other, those bloggers are just representations of regional public spheres and not of a national public sphere.

    I would argue that this is wrong, in particular because the posts linked in this article (as far as I remember) do not report this story with strong reference to national discourses. Synchronisation around a trigger like an event shows that this event at European level was relevant to several people in several countries at the time it occurred, which at least shows the seeds for European public sphere.

    This did not – in this case – result in a European discourse which shows that the sphere is be weak.

    edited

  3. avatar Andre Rebentisch says:

    The Babylonic divide is very fruitful for a multinational discourse. While the walled garden of a discourse may appear less efficient it also adds surprise and perspective, and makes management from the top more difficult.

    It is a bit like the “single phone number” of Kissinger: What is actually our benefit from simplifying US diplomatic channels? How does it increase our weight to “speak with one voice” instead of keeping a bit obfuscation and indifference?

  4. avatar Ronny Patz says:

    But I am not arguing against Babylonic discourse, I just remark that even when writing about exactly the same issue, blogs across Europe may not link each other – which means that there is no discourse.

  5. avatar mathew says:

    “this event at European level was relevant to several people in several countries at the time it occurred, which at least shows the seeds for European public sphere”

    True, but then I’m not arguing the opposite. This has in fact been the case for several years: the Brussels Bubble is not geographically defined, after all, as there has always been people located across Europe who paid attention to what was going on in the EU.

    But seeds are just seeds, and they remain dormant. We’ve been discussing this for years, so there’s not much to say. At least my gardening metaphor for the EU online public space seems to be taking root?! ;-)

  6. avatar Ronny Patz says:

    the Brussels Bubble is not geographically defined, after all, as there has always been people located across Europe who paid attention to what was going on in the EU.

    I would argue ACTA is different as this debate has clearly left the Brussels bubble, both in traditional and in new media. Although the blogs cited above may not be the best examples to make this case.

  7. avatar mathew says:

    It’s just one of those highly politicised issues which get people talking – after all, people are only going to be talking in the EU online public space about those topics which are worth talking about.

    So that makes your research interesting, because even an issue as politically hot as ACTA didn’t create a European discourse. If ACTA won’t get such a discourse going, few issues will.

    While the seeds may be there, in other words, the ground is infertile. Possibly not enough light and water (cf metaphor)?

  8. avatar Ronny Patz says:

    Well, with regard to this particular issue there was not much interaction in case of ACTA. In the height of the political debate earlier this year there may have been more interaction. I should check that.

    The question is whether this is lack of awareness of other voices, lack of time to research these, or lack of interest to link others even when one is aware of them.

  9. avatar mathew says:

    I’d say all three. Of course, the right infrastructure (i.e., bloggingportal, done properly) would help solve the first two problems, and the overall growth of the space should provide more and more motivation to connect the dots and be part of a wider conversation, particularly if the Institutions actually started shining some light.

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