Net Culture

Is the UK falling behind?

Everywhere I look at the moment there are people working in the same areas as me going to conferences and festivals. God I’m jealous. They’re going to BlogTalk in Austria or they’re going to Digital Genres in Chicago or they’re going to Reboot in Copenhagen. But apart from my desperate overwhelming desire to go to all of these events (particularly after the world-expanding experience of ETCon) there’s only one thing I’ve really noticed about all these events. Absolutely none of them are happening in the UK.

But it’s not only conferences that we’re lacking. With a few limited exceptions, I think that the UK is beginning to fall behind (or is not moving fast enough to catch up with) the US in talking and developing the kind of thing that is being discussed at these events. Weblogs are a trivial but obvious example. The States has developed a certain amount of respect for the possibilities of the form, to the extent that acclaimed journalists feel comfortable starting weblog-style sites. And these sites seem to be gaining widespread core appeal from the rest of the country – weblogging has gone mainstream in the US so quickly and effectively so that it’s almost commonplace for writers of an equivalent standard to Julie Burchill to start their own sites.

In the UK, the only major newspaper to talk about weblogs in any ongoing or serious fashion is The Guardian. In the States (and in the international news media – ie. International Herald Tribune TV) it seems much more widespread. In the States’ tech community (ETCon for example), weblogs are also fairly central to people’s research into how information technology and the internet are affecting people – how potentially they could empower them (or – on occasion – discussing whether they’re disempowering them). Both AOL and Microsoft are working on – or rumoured to be working on – weblogging tech.

There’s a lot less of this stuff in the UK, and I think it’s a terrible shame, since we should be in a much better position than the rest of Europe to be at the head of this trend (since weblog software and weblogs themselves are often English-language). There’s a hell of a lot of potential for business around this stuff as well – so why isn’t it happening here! In fact there’s a whole exciting new raft of people thinking about, talking around and working in these areas, and none of it appears to be happening here in the UK… I think maybe that’s beginning to get me down…