EU Media - Blogging about EU Media and Blogs

Some EU bloggers, from time to time, tend to promote the use of Web 2.0 tools – social media – to develop a so-called European online public space.

Web 2.0 EU Bullshit Generator

Actually, they are easily recognizable for using that kind of expressions which I extracted directly from the Web 2.0 Bullshit Generator:

  • “post semantic weblogs”
  • “engage A-list mashups”
  • “tag rss-capable web services”
  • “engage user-contributed network effects”

(I invite you to try it. It is a very funny tool to play with.)

In any case, I would say that these EU bloggers are partially wrong.

The gap between the EU institutions and European citizens won’t be filled thanks through technology. The problem doesn’t come from the medium. Actually, it comes from the inherent lack of interest of the European citizens. One of the reasons is certainly the way member states which didn’t do their job into educating the European citizen and better promoting EU activities and policies.

Believe me, I have nothing against this bunch of idealist eurogeeks (and I hope not to have offended anyone). They should just tackle the problem differently. Any idea? Talk to the citizen in real life. There’s no other way I’m afraid to convert someone to the EU.

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  1. Change the way the EU is built by establishing democratic government, I would say.

    But in the meantime, any discussion and scrutiny of EU activities sheds some light on what the institutions are up to.

  2. Thanks for your comment Ralf.

    Just a guess: How many of your readers are not already EU geeks? Don’t you have the feeling never to reach the European citizens with articles like “EMU: Stability programme Finland”?

  3. I know exactly what you’re talking about, which is why I argue that:

    no dazzling technologies are required

    – … when adding web2 to the communications mix, not replacing everything with web2! See for example my little rant about self-appointed social media experts. Recognise anyone?

    – and above all that:

    … social media will really matter to EU policy … not because a few impassioned bloggers write about EU affairs for each other … But because people, who are engaged with each other anyway via social media, integrate the EU angle … into their conversations.
    (When) Does EU blogging matter?

    After all, you can’t meet everyone in Europe personally!

    But to get to the above point, you need early adopters, like the eurogeeks you dismiss so casually. Don’t be so critical, Pierre-Antoine. One has to start somewhere.

  4. PAR,

    My impression is that students, teachers, businessmen, journalists, people from EU institutions and national administrations are among the bigger groups of visitors, in addition to engaged citizens.

    The citizens last mentioned can probably be divided into two groups: the ones who are interested in a certain subject area (such as the economy, information society etc.) and the ones we could call EU geeks in a narrow sense.

    You are right about the low level of interest among EU citizens in general, despite the growing importance of concrete decisions and long term convergence at EU level.

    National politicians are elected and work in a national context. The lack of information is more a structural weakness than a manifestation of ill will.

    As I said in my first comment, the way the European Union is built and how it works make it hard for people to understand, both generally and with regard to single issues (lack of transparency and responsibility).

    Democratic, politically responsible government would get citizens more involved, although the questions rightfully decided at European level remain more distant than local, regional or national decisions.

    Technology plays a limited, but important role.

    Without the sources available for free on the web, I could not follow press conferences live, find the needed documents in real time and follow scores of news outlets and social media with minimal delay.

    Not that many years ago, we had to rely on mail and the media.

    On the other hand, I would not be able to communicate facts and opinions to readers globally (in practice mainly Europe and North America) without the means of my blog(s).

    I am perhaps not the techno-EU-geek you seem to have in mind. My aims are primarily educational. I try to help people find mainly original sources of information and, depending on the circumstances, offer some additional information about the context, so the reader I have in mind is a bit more serious than the ordinary viewer of the evening news.

    Besides facts, I also offer opinion formed in the course of many years, which means that my blog is critical of the EU as it is and works currently.

    Visitors arrive and read voluntarily, which means that I don’t reach the EU citizens as a collective, but interested individuals.

    How many are going to read about the stability programme of Finland? Not many, I guess. Official publication happened more than a month from the actual decision and the stability and convergence programmes are not particularly “media sexy”.

    If I continue my series on these, it has more to do with my personal view that I should discipline myself to read the whole bunch.

    On the other hand, my blog posts have a long tail. Each month some 1,100 or 1,200 different posts are accessed (out of some 1,700) so many of them have an afterlife long beyond publication.

  5. “On the other hand, my blog posts have a long tail. Each month some 1,100 or 1,200 different posts are accessed (out of some 1,700) so many of them have an afterlife long beyond publication.”

    Absolutely. Google is a wonderful thing!

  6. Mathew,

    I think you are right about people integrating the EU angle into their discussions. It does not happen to a large extent, yet, but the brighter ones start to notice that many political issues cannot be discussed as if contained in a national test tube.

    These people seldom see themselves as “EU geeks” (an expression I am not especially fond of), but before long they need some sort of basic knowledge about how the EU is structured and how it (mal)functions.

    The early adopters you mention have the role of explorers during earlier centuries. Their discoveries led to new trade routes, mass colonisation etc.

    Naturally, some of these early adopters have a bent for new technology and experiments. Some gimmicks turn out to be worthless, but others may prove to be useful.

    I agree with you: No need to put down youthful enthusiasm, though, despite the cabbalistic language of some.

  7. @Ralf Grahn and @Mathew, thanks for your comments. I would be interested to see other EU bloggers interact on this particular point.

    My stance is deliberately controversial as I feel everyone seems to see social media as the new panacea to reach the “European citizen”. A sort of new communication paradigm leading to a very hypothetical online public space, very idealistic and quite dangerous in the end.

    I know that I am critical. It’s just that – except maybe from you Mathew – I have not seen a real reflection on the strengths, weaknesses and limits of social media in the context of EU communications.

  8. @Ralf, thanks. I don’t like the EU geek label either, but they do exist, even if they don’t recognise themselves. As long as they just talk amongst themselves – online, or in Brussels cafes, it makes little difference – the gap between Europe and its populace won’t narrow.

    @Pierre-Antoine, what you’re seeing is the absolutely normal cycle of the introduction of novelty. There are always early adopters and sceptics, for example.

    And among the early adopters there will always be those who go starry-eyed, believing that they have Finally Found the Answer. They, of course, are not only wrong, but also provide excellent ammunition for the aforementioned sceptics.

    Other early adopters will claim that the New Thing is The Answer for less starry-eyed, idealistic reasons – they can make money out of it. Hence the arrival of ‘social media experts’ in Brussels.

    This is a subject that comes up again and again (Digital Tonto’s 6 ways to spot false gurus is an excellent recent example; I added a comment on the Brussels scene). These creatures are actually more dangerous than anyone, as they exploit ignorance and enthusiasm in equal measure to rip people off – I’ve seen companies in my sector charge the Commission shameful amounts for things as basic as setting up an Adwords campaign or a Facebook page.

    But the emergence of an EU online public space is not a dangerous ideal. The phrase itself is simply shorthand for increased conversations about EU affairs than reach out beyond the “Brussels Bubble”. It’s not some dazzling, centralised IT project.

    If it doesn’t happen, then that would be a very worrying symptom of increased disconnection between the EU and its citizens. If it does happen, then that gap will be reduced.

    But it’s not the answer to everything. EUROPA still matters, and its state is still a cause for concern. As discussed on Tony Locket’s Waltzing Mathilda post, the choice between web1 and web2 is a false dilemma for the EC.

    – Mathew

    PS You couldn’t help out with tweaking the Waltzing Mathilda blog, could you? 😉

  9. @Mathew. Thanks for sharing the article of Very insightful.

    I know what you’re talking when you mention Web 2.0 gurus in Brussels. I have even talked to someone pretending to be a Web 4.0 consultant. Pitiful. I would not even mentioned the lack of skills of communication officers within EU institutions. I sincerely hope that the situation will improve in Brussels.

    You said it… Reaching beyond the “Brussels’ Bubble” while building an EU online public space is the issue. I would be worth a thesis. And so far, the EU institutions still haven’t manage to achieve this goal, the main obstacle being paradoxically the member states or sometimes stakeholders. So many times, I have seen that worth EU initiatives to reappropriated by member states at a national or local level without even mentioning the role of the EU… This is the fatality of intermediation in EU communications.

    Btw. I would be very interested to participate to the Blogging Portal. Is it still possible to become an editor?

  10. I like Ralf’s answer, I just wish every EU blogger did this kind of “coming out”: why are we blogging about the EU, what for and for who? This might help to understand why and how bullshit 2.0 is becoming so popular these days in the Brussels hyperworld…

  11. Thanks Cédric.

    I guess the reason why bullshit 2.0 is becoming so popular is that simply a market is merging. However, while the demand is increasing, the offer is currently so bad in bad… Web 2.0 gurus are flourishing. But what about skills?

  12. Bullshit 2.0 is also and above all a great opportunity for wannabe communicators who can easily ask for a lot of money for ultra-basic services like Mathew mentioned, eg setting a Facebook page, etc…

  13. Btw. Which consultancy in Brussels can seriously propose social media services? Except Digimahti of course… 😉

  14. Folks, one of the essential things for opening up the EU bubble is to blog in something else than English, I’m quite convinced of that. I don’t get the same public at all on my English blog and on my French blog although it’s the same EU-related content.

  15. Thanks for your comments Europasionaria. I think – indeed – a part of the problem lies in the multilingual aspect of online communication as already mentioned by Mathew on his blog.

    In any case, it’s good to see that EU bloggers are commenting on this article – which I must confess – is quite controversial. Actually, my objective was just to start some self-questioning about the way we communicate online.

  16. One final comment.

    I guess that some EU bloggers certainly must certainly feel offended by the tone of my article. What I feel is that when everyone agrees on the same principles, when everyone is actualyl thinking alike, there is no room anymore for creativity. In other, the death of the critical thinking. So, for those who feel offended, please accept my apologies and get into the debate. As previously stated, I am only looking for deeper self-questioning regarding the way we communicate online.

    For example, I feel that there are alternative ways reach the European citizen online. For instance, combining social media with SEO can be very effective base on my professional experience. And why not producing and diffusing short “video posts” on a dedicated YouTube channel? It could be a video where someone asks a question about EU in his country like: What the EU has ever done for me in Estonia? Indeed, I think video is a medium that could have a stronger impact than sophisticated articles about EU policies.

    In any case, I will try to write in the coming days a more constructive article about the improvement of online communication.

  17. Hi PAR, while your article did offend some people, I wasn’t bothered – I’ve had a lot worse … 😉

    Moreover, I totally agree with your most recent point. What you are describing there is groupthink, and it’s pretty rampant in Brussels.

    It’s precisely why we need to pierce the walls separating the bubbles where most people writing online about the EU reside. They are echo chambers, where everyone agrees with each other most of the time and – most importantly – the frames of reference are never shaken.

    As I mentioned in the post referenced above, studies of group psychology show that:

    “Put similarly-minded people in the same environment … for long enough, and watch extremism rise as all members reinforce each other’s worldview and raise the volume higher and higher to be heard.

    … I don’t think for a moment that eurosceptics like these are the only ones prone to it. Go into any cafe within shouting distance of the Berlaymont here in Brussels, after all, and you’ll find yourself in a large group of similarly-minded people, most of whom have been in the same environment for a very long time …

  18. Hello Mathew,

    I could only agree with your comment.

    This is a “social fact”. EU bloggers way of considering online communication is unconsciously structured by external cultural norms preventing from looking abroad. This sometimes explains a sort of ‘circular thinking’ – rather unproductive – within certain closed groups.

    This is also the reason why there will certainly never be a real (constructive) dialogue online between Europhiles and Eurosceptics. Therefore, in the case of, it’s not only the problem of the neutrality of the infrastructure – back up by – but also the determinism you mentioned when you referred to group psychology studies.

    Actually, I discussed with Julien Frisch about the real meaning of influence on last Friday. In simple terms, we came out to the conclusion that the real influential blogger is the one that is followed / supported by its whole community but the one who manage to make circulate an information from a community to another one. This is also the difference between an opinion leader and a gatekeeper from a sociological point of view.

    To come back to my article, the reason of my apologies was that I had not been constructive – as pointed out by a friend (Cédric). It was simply a “coup de gueule”. That’s also why I decided to dedicate my next articles to this question: How SEO can help building a better online European public space? SEO – as a unique tool – might sound a bit restrictive but this is where lies my ‘expertise’.

  19. Congratulations PAR, Matthew and others for this good discussion.

    Some eurosceptics – not me of course 🙂 – would claim that the EU itself is good at generating buzzwords that normal mortals don’t understand…
    (pls note I’m not saying the subtance itself is bullshit)

    So: web 2.0 on EU matters is at high risk indeed of being fully opaque.

    Keep up fighting for clarity!

    As I try since a few months on just few topics, here:

    Cheers! Christophe

  20. I could only agree with your comment.
    Congratulations PAR, Matthew and others for this good discussion.
    You are right about the low level of interest among EU citizens in general, despite the growing importance of concrete decisions and long term convergence at EU level.
    thanks for publishing such a masterpiece

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