I’ve been menaing to watch Chuck Olsen’s Blogumentary for a while now and finally took some time this afternoon to watch it on Google Video. I had been following Olsen’s project for some time via his personal blog and knew that Olsen was an avid blogger who had a lot to say about this new medium. I think Blogumentary works best as a short video history of blogging, in providing an overview of how blogging fits within a rapidly changing media ecosystem. A few highlights for me:

  • A segment featuring an interview with film blogger Matthew Clayfield, whose blog I’ve been reading regularly for a couple of years.
  • Blogumentary is really good on the role of blogging in connecting people who might not otherwise meet. During one segment, Olsen describes meeting people andmaking freinds through links on his blogroll, concluding that “finding a blog you like is like making a friend.”
  • Olsen spends much of the documentary discussing whether blogs are a form of citizen journalism and how many bloggers define themselves against what often gets described as the mainstream media. Noting the role of bloggers in challenging racist comments by Trent Lott and in questioning the authenticity of the 60 Minutes report on Bush’s Air National Guard documents, Olsen explores this complicated relationship between print and television journalism and blog commentary. And the documentary is careful (and correct) to differentiate blogging from genuine journalism.
  • One of the more compelling segments of the documentary featured an interview with Stuart Hughes, a BBC journalist and blogger who was wounded during the first few months of the invasion of Iraq. Hughes eventually had part of his right leg amputated and credits his blog audience with suporting him through the recovery process, Olsen also describes a similar story of being able to counsel a friend who was going through an emotional crisis, again emphasizing the role of blogs in creating and sustaining communities.
  • An interesting discussion of the role of blogging in the Howard Dean campaign. I’m still relatively ambivalent about the contributions of blogging to the public sphere, and while I certainly embraced Howard Dean and Joe Trippi’s message of “people-powered politics,” I’m still skeptical about the degree to which political power has been decentralized, and the merciless attacks on the Edwards campaign bloggers, both of whom were eventually forced to resign, leaves me wondering to what extent blogs have shaped political discourse for the better (Olsen’s discussion of this controversy is quite good).
  • Olsen also addresses the blogging “gender gap,” the observation that while over half of all bloggers are female, most of the so-called A-List bloggers are male. I think this is an important question, but I’m also sure that I can’t do it justice in the space of a single bullet point.

I’m usually relatively resistant to anything that seeks to define blogging primarily as a tool for grassroots politics and citizen journalism, but Blogumentary does a good job of balancing those definitions with the role of blogs in keeping people connected and in fostering community. I think it’s a valuable contribution to our on-going discussions and definitions of blogging.

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