E-punditry & Mr Worrier

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Earlier this month I dropped in on a seminar at Edinburgh Napier University’s department of Informatics presented by Lallands Peat Worrier, a leading blogger on Scots law and politics. The seminar was part of Napier’s Informing the Good Society research project. One strand of this project is to investigate e-punditry: the rise of the blogger and their impact on op-ed in the print media.

The Scottish referendum has unleashed a little wave of pro-independence bloggers, and Mr Worrier is one of the best, combining legal erudition with pawky prose. His perspective is self-described as “Robespierrist Neo-Jacobin” and the style is somewhere between the kail-yard and Bute House with its Georgian shutters. Having attended enough post-modern seminars on the slipperiness of online identity, I was expecting that Mr Worrier would turn out to be either Edinburgh University’s Professor MacQueen moonlighting in the fifth estate or a single parent asylum seeker. Disappointingly Mr Worrier is an academic legal scholar completing a PhD on constitutional law.

An interesting question in the study of online activism is whether the rise of the blogger represents a democratisation of political discourse, allowing a wider range of voices to be heard, or whether the barriers to gaining an online audience and the difficulty of monetising blogs with established audiences will limit the significance of this branch of citizen journalism. I think it was Samuel Johnson who said: “No man but a blockhead ever blogged, except for money”. The need for money leaves successful bloggers prey to the blandishments of public relations; authenticity is a finite but marketable commodity. Mr Worrier said that his ambition would be a column in a mainstream newspaper, but the price of that would be restrictions on what he wrote about and how he wrote about them. Mr Worrier’s rococo vocabulary is partly what makes his online writing distinctive; I look forward to the day when a sub-editor on the Daily Record caves in and allows him to get the word “spelunking” into mass circulation.

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