I read through the BlogHer reports each year with a combination of envy/longing and indignation. And while my indignation, to be sure, is borne completely out of the envy, I still give it a little consideration as a valid reaction.
The exclusionary nature of the gathering peeves me. One must have certain resources (green paper resources, mostly) to be able to participate–especially when one lives in the east and the conference is always on the west coast.
Of course, if I could convince my family that this conference was a necessary trip for me to take for my research, I would be able to scrape up the money and babysitters necessary for me to be gone for a long weekend in the summer (read: rack up the credit cards and desposit the children with my mom). But because my research–the stuff that is fast evolving into a disseration project–is about blogging, somehow I find very few people (outside of my scholarly peops) who take what I’m doing seriously. However, when on the surface (from many reports), the conference simply looks like one big trip to CA for Starbucks, sushi, and lipstick, this makes it hard to convince anyone (myself included) that I should indeed be participating in the gathering.
There is something important, to be sure, in the BlogHer phenomenon: that even with the networks and communities that emerge in such online spaces, we still seek out (and envy) “real” interaction? A similar physical congregation of running bloggers in Chicago has recently emerged as well; while it is not of the proportions of BlogHer, it is similar: once a month a group of running bloggers meet for dinner to somehow “solidify” their online connections.
It makes those of us who participate in online communities because of the ease of access and lack of logistic constraints (we can participate regardless of where we are, or what time of the day it is, or whether our kids are with us or not, etc) somehow second-rate, that once the communities move past simply the blogging networks and into something “real,” those of us stuck in our houses are less-than.
Well. I didn’t mean for this post to turn into a whine fest. And really, if I had the $$ to go to BlogHer, I’d be there–but NOT without a second thought about the long tail (of which I am a part) of bloggers who must read about the sessions from afar, and how Andrew O’Baoill is right: the technology of social software does not afford users that ideal public sphere where stratifications are flattened.