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Edinburgh International Book Festival 2005 13 - 29 August
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Frontiers and the Internet
Reviewer Biull Dunlop.

Chris Atton's new book considers the ways in which the Internet has come to be used by those who are unable to gain a platform for their views in any other way likely to also gain them a wide audience. This a section of Atton's book is devoted the how the British far right use the Internet to communicate among themselves and with those who may not openly share their views. some of us may be a little uncomfortable with this, but as Atton pointed out, genuine freedom of speech must never become the prerogative of the virtuously politically correct nor those who regard their version of 'the good society' as the only one deserving of consideration.

Atton's passion is 'alternative media', although in his case the term takes in far more than the high-minded (in one sense or another) fuzzy-headed or liberal leaning. he argues for the unique position of native reporters and native reporting, of which this web-site is one example. It's one thing to sound off from the relative luxury of couthily comfortable middle-class Scotland. Elsewhere, and even in some circumstances here, web-logging (blogging to those who know about such things) can get folk in a great deal of trouble. Internet communication has, of course, been a victim of interference since it became available, but as it has spread, so has political concern about its potential to stimulate discussion and co-ordinate protest.

The writer Alison Kennedy affirmed the value of the web as a tool of democratic debate and source of differing viewpoints - not all of which may be completely reliable, but a range of which may collectively give a more accurate picture of events than what may be offered by filtered, 'cleaned up' high circulation newspapers and other media.

Kennedy in particular was keen to urge her audience to note sites such as Moveon, the information clearing house and others. For those new to the world of blogging - what's a blog? Oh, all right then, it's a bit like a continual version of the Edinburghguide reviews, but with more small p 'political' comment and more loose cannons - pro and anti hunting lobbyists, sexual libertarians, the opposite of sexual libertarians and .. you get the idea.

According to blog trackers, Technocrati, a web log is created every second. So there's been at least five put up since you started reading this. The number created doubles every five months. A great many are work related and critical of management. Waterstone's Joe Gordon was fired. Policeman, ambulance crew and airline personnel have all had more publicity than they expected or their employers have been happy with. Blogs, as Alison Kennedy made plain, offer open, blunt assessments of the state we're in. This blogging site comes with everyone's favourite tag - 'free'. So what are you waiting for?
©Bill Dunlop 27th August 2005 published on Edinburghguide.com



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