In pursuit of his Master’s degree at Auckland University of Technology last year, Dev Capey submitted a thesis entitled Blogging for social change in Papua New Guinea: A case study investigation of The Namorong Report. Plucked off the net by an eagle-eyed Martyn Namorong, you can read the complete thesis online. In this extract, minus the citations, we reproduce Mr Capey’s analysis of the role and functions of PNG Attitude
NINE of [Martyn] Namorong's July  posts were syndicated, or 're-blogged', on PNG Attitude (asopa.typepad.com).
Almost all of them were his longer, more carefully developed posts: seven essays, one piece of political commentary, and one anonymous post featuring an environmental report, were all re-blogged on PNG Attitude in July.
Farrell and Drezner argue that within spheres of blogs with common interests, certain blogs become 'elite' blogs and subsequently become important nodes of activity in that blogosphere.
All blogs are a networked phenomenon that rely on hyperlinks and recommendations from fellow users: "blogs interact with each other continuously, linking back and forth, disseminating interesting stories, arguments and points of view".
Elite blogs, however, are often aggregators of content, and demand the most attention in a particular area of interest. In the PNG context, Keith Jackson's blog, PNG Attitude, fits that mould.
Jackson first went to PNG from Australia as a teacher at aged 18, and eventually became head of planning and policy for PNG's National Broadcasting Commission. He now operates his own public relations company, specialising in PNG-Australia relations.
Jackson is an important figure in the PNG blogosphere and for PNG writers in general. He helped set up the Crocodile Prize for PNG literature that Namorong won in its inaugural year. He recently initiated writing fellowships for young Papua New Guineans.
Jackson's blog, PNG Attitude, operates with roughly half Australian and half Papua New Guinean authored content. Readers of PNG Attitude reportedly include politicians from Australia, PNG, and further abroad, among other influential people.
Farrell and Drezner, argue that a particular 'blogosphere' can benefit from a single, active 'focal point blog' like PNG Attitude; they say that such blogs often operate as filterers of other interesting blog posts thus creating "an important coordination point that allows bloggers and blog readers to coordinate on a mutually beneficial equilibrium.
Furthermore, Farrell and Drezner argue that focal point blogs then become an important intermediary to the traditional 'mediasphere' as journalists and other opinion makers gravitate towards the consolidated atmosphere of focal point blogs that are constantly reiterating and reinforcing key ideas and issues.
The networked structure of the blogosphere allows interesting arguments to make their way to the top of the blogosphere ... the media only needs to look at the top blogs to obtain a 'summary statistic' about the distribution of opinions on a given political issue.
Another feature of Namorong's syndicated content on PNG Attitude are the discussions that commonly ensue. Two of Namorong's posts were among the 11 most commented on articles on PNG Attitude for the month of July.
Namorong had a significant presence - as a contributor and a commenter, on PNG Attitude during the July data period. Nine posts were syndicated from The Namorong Report, and Namorong was mentioned by others in articles and comments in posts not authored by Namorong 11 times. He himself was also a frequent commenter, especially in response to comments on his own articles.
Namorong's presence on PNG Attitude is important because of the significant presence of PNG Attitude in the PNG-Australia blogosphere. Importantly, he also appears in the minds of other readers as a key figure, as one commenter noted: "Real change in PNG can only come from the people and Martyn Namorong and his compatriots are examples of this".
Another significant aspect of PNG Attitude is that whole blog posts are written in response to other writers' posts. A series of blog posts then come to constitute a whole discussion in itself, and in the comments section, further clarification, rebuttals and additional arguments are put forth.
John Fowke, an "ex-colonial masta", wrote two entire posts in response to two of Namorong's syndicated essays. Fowke was explicit about challenging Namorong, addressing him directly in his opening paragraphs.
For example, Fowke begins:
In his recent writing for PNG Attitude, Martyn Namorong displays views which are penetrating and noteworthy, and which he expresses to great effect. Martyn has many friends and supporters but seems to have reached the end of the road of reading the entrails of Papua New Guinea's past and pronouncing upon the failures of the present.
Fowke goes on to praise Namorong, but challenges him to take control, look to the future, and be among those enacting change in PNG:
To achieve a result which will be both valuable and personally satisfying, Martyn, and the many others like him in PNG, must look to the future and ponder upon it. You must link with each other across physical, tribal and occupational barriers on the basis of your common interest and your common level of education and understanding of the principles of change.
Namorong's response in the comments section below this post is telling, as he defends and re-articulates his vision. In his comment, Namorong argues it is essential to consider the historical context, or the story of development, leading to the present situation. He also expresses a way forward: by realising PNG's National Goals and Directive Principles, as the template for development in PNG.
Blogs are frequently talked about for their democratic, conversational character, but this is not evident on The Namorong Report. Namorong is afforded a space to write largely unchallenged, while selected blog posts are debated, scrutinised, and praised when re-blogged on PNG Attitude.
PNG Attitude represents something wholly different from The Namorong Report. There is significant discussion in the form of not only comments, but debate through successive blog posts. PNG Attitude marketed itself on Twitter in this way, as Jackson tweeted: "See Namorong's response to an ex-colonial Masta on tomorrow's PNG Attitude".
The social dynamic of PNG Attitude is one of interaction and debate, whereas The Namorong Report is not, suggesting that different blogs, despite having the same capabilities, grow into different roles. PNG Attitude is an aggregator of content and a significant site of discussion: a 'focal point blog' in Farrell and Drezner's terms.
PNG Attitude, having a wide range of regular authors, is a key site of discussion for readers and contributors from Australia, PNG, and Papua New Guineans abroad. Namorong's is a (typically) single authored blog, which even though has the same technical capability for discussion (comments section at the bottom of each post), discussion is almost non-existent.
Despite having very similar options, very few readers comment on The Namorong Report website. The Namorong Report is a wholly different rhetorical artefact, one in which a single author writes unchallenged by his readers.
Namorong's posts on the aggregate blog, PNG Attitude, are a significant component of his web presence. PNG Attitude is potentially the site where Namorong receives his largest readership.
While the statistics are not available to back this up, he is clearly in the minds of contributors and commenters, and his posts provoke significant discussion, debate and responses albeit on other blog site.
It is in his long, carefully constructed blog posts that Namorong's core ideas are fully expressed and most clearly articulated. And it was precisely these strong blog posts that were syndicated, or re-blogged, on PNG Attitude.
You can access the complete thesis, ‘Blogging for social change in Papua New Guinea’, by Dev Capey here. It is a rare piece of work on PNG social media, a well-researched and pleasantly written document and well worth a read