Mathew Lowry

2011 Annual Review

Time for my second Annual Review. Try to curb your enthusiasm.

The idea of an Annual Review started last year with the BloggingPortal-inspired EU Blogging Carnival, held in May. I thought then it’d be interesting to look back over the preceding 12 months of posts and to reflect on if and how my thinking on the European online public space had evolved …“an annual record summarising my ideas every May … should help ensure I develop new ideas, rather than repeating myself in the year to come” 2010 Annual Review.

So, did I?

Amusingly, I started with the intention to change by blogging style and write something short and sharp 4 times a week … after I got back from holidays. Give me abstinence, Lord, just not yet! Anyway, 7 more posts followed in the next 11 days … and then nothing until rage at Proximus got me going again in October.

Overall, the past 12 months yielded only 24 posts and 276 comments (including my responses, pingbacks, etc.). This followed a classic power law, with one post (Censoring Hungarian blogs during the Hungarian EU Presidency) generating 25% of all comments.

Scanning the titles, two patterns emerge: some further development of how social media bridges can be built between the EU Bubble and national conversations, and an increasing tendency towards middle-aged cynicism.

Growing Cynicism

In More social media experts stride forth in Brussels, for example, I ripped into the European Public Communication Conference and Network for their very Web1 approach to what was supposed to be about Web2.0. Aside: the sequel is this October, and has a Call for Proposals by email … no change there then.

In Oh, so it’s the media’s fault noone likes the EU I did the same to MediaCafé’s idea that national media should be forced to cover the EU. I also hugely enjoyed mainstream media ripping into Web2.0 upstart Devil’s Kitchen (In praise of ‘proper’ media), and didn’t have much time for the EU Parliament’s assertion they should use “all channels … to foster a favourable image and brand of the institution … not to be confused with fostering democratic and pluralistic debate” (see How narcotised and dysfunctional do you feel today?). Aside: nope, the author of that post never did get back to me…

I also issued a plea for the EU Institutions to Not lose sight of the basic Web1.0 work in their stampede to the more fashionable Web2.0, as best epitomised by the use of Twitter to ‘create a buzz’ about a Council meeting (#euco: damn, maybe we didn’t get through 2010 unscathed after all), and of the use of crowdsourcing to define the programme of a giant karaoke in front of the Parliament to make a few people in Brussels feel more European, as if that was necessary (Being Useful beats Being Tuneful).

That last post brought me perilously close to bringing my work too directly into my blog, something I also flirted with in QMS Audit today.

Building bridges

Why this cynicism? Perhaps because this past year has confirmed the course I saw EU social media taking:

“A sort of virtual version of Brussels is emerging, projected into social media but unconnected to much else, where people meet online to continue their conversations from last night’s Place Luxembourg cocktail party. The Bubble even has its own hashtag: #bxlsbbl.”

– The Brussels bubble may be growing, but it’s still a bubble

“… a tiny, hyperspecialised bubble, talking about EU arcana noone else understands – and, increasingly, talking about ourselves. With barely any bridges connecting us to other online conversations.”

Vacancies: Specialists required to build bridges

This would be a shame – social media offers the EU much, much more than providing just another place for the Eurocognoscenti to network.

The above two posts and a few others explored how this bubble was forming and/or how bridges between it and national conversations could form, including exploring what Clay Shirky calls the Fame Problem in Can EU social media scale to the EU?; the role languages play in building barriers in Why my beard won’t save Belgium ; the unfulfilled potential of the Lisbon Treaty’s “yellow card” subsidiarity procedure in Europe with a LiSP; and the importance of improving BloggingPortal as a tool for building these bridges (Bloggingportal2: What, Why, How … and When?).

The answer to the last question being “not yet”. Another reason for my increasing cynicism, perhaps.

I also pointed out the importance of an improved BloggingPortal in Blogtour: The Hungarian Presidency opens up the Council (updated). Apart from showing just how difficult it is to track EU-related social media conversations across the Eurosplinternet, even with BloggingPortal, it analysed the past year’s most important innovation to conclude that blogger accreditation and the RoI of social media engagement are two themes to watch. Both, ironically, probably require an improved BloggingPortal.

I’d like to work in Scienceblogs: an inspirationally cautionary tale for EU social media? (updated) to the above narrative, but I can’t. But then I never did properly write up that survey on why Eurogeeks blog (Why Blog Anyway?), either.

Maybe next year.

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  1. The fact that there’s a recognisable Brussels web 2.0 bubble to be cynical about is surely grounds for hope? 🙂

  2. Says the guy who set up the ultimate brussels bubble site! 😉

    Of course, you’re right – a bubble is better than nothing. But so much of it is hot air – building those bridges is where the real value lies for the EU project, but do you honestly see any efforts being made in that direction? Or just more of the same?

  3. Rather than bridges out, I see web 2.0 being in the vanguard as reality presses in on the EU: if they engage, they’ll get get a fairer hearing. If not, they’ll be building their own scaffold.

  4. Engage with whom? The Usual Suspects in the Brussels Bubble, talking to each other via Twitter and Facebook in an echo chamber?

    If the EU Institutions remain reactive, then that’s all they’re going to get. And I doubt the Bubble denizens are going to be building any scaffolding.

    The rest of Europe isn’t coming to Brussels. If the EU Institutions want to engage beyond the Ring – to go where the audience is – then they’re gonna need them bridges to carry that Outreach.

  5. Hmm, they might be: I’m not sure that there aren’t people planning a Tahrir-style camp on RP Schuman… 🙂

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