It has been a little over a decade since Peter Merholz coined the word “blog” from Jorn Barger’s “weblog.” As tech-savvy hands nimbly explored this platform that facilitated personal diary-like entries, newbies caught on, and so did developing countries. Certainly the world has witnessed the transformation of blogs into strong political and social platforms; it is interesting how much Africa is advancing in its garnering of avid bloggers, one of them being Ghana-based Swedish lecturer and freelance writer, Kajsa Hallberg Adu.
Adu is the founder of GhanaBlogging, “a group of bloggers in/outside Ghana who blog about Ghana,” the site clarifies.
A few weeks ago, I got the chance to conduct an e-mail interview with Adu about her experience as a blogger in Ghana as well as her thoughts on the future of blogging in Ghana:
What's your professional background?
I have a Masters in Political Science and currently teaching at a small liberal arts college in Ghana, Ashesi University College.
How and why did you get into blogging? And why Ghanablogging?
In 2006 I was living in Paris and started blogging to keep in touch with family and friends and write about my impressions of my new life. At the time, some Swedish friends had blogs at home. I have always loved to write and thought it was a brilliant forum, but couldn't really find my own tone or topic. However, when I knew I was going to move to Paris, I found myself reading blogs, not books, about Parisian life. I think that spurred the decision to start blogging myself.
In Paris, I was invited to a blog meet-up, hosted by blogger Petite Anglais (who later got a book deal out of her blog). It was great to meet with other bloggers and it turned out two of them worked within the same big organization as me at the time!
So in 2007, when I moved to Ghana I continued blogging and was always on the lookout for Ghanaian blogs. When I had found enough of them, I organized the first meet-up with a friend. It was in July 2008, and eight bloggers came. We decided on the name GhanaBlogging as we wanted the action in the name. We are all doers.
Where do you see the future of blogging in the context of Ghana?
It is just starting out. The first year of Ghanablogging we grew from 8 to 61 blogs, and now…well, we are struggling with handling all the applications to come onboard. As Internet gets more accessible, more people in Ghana are given the opportunity to blog. Ghanablogging is this year going to register as a legal entity and I hope that with that we can apply for funds and maybe hire someone to help us out in organizing ourselves better. We would also like to educate young people and journalists on blogging, spread it even further!
Personally, I love the shift from online presence to real life meetings. I have gotten more friends out of blogging than I ever hoped for!
What are you referring to when you say you love the shift from online presence to real life meetings?
When people think of blogging, they think about a lonely person in front of a computer, when in reality it really is a network! Blogging comes with belonging somewhere, blogging is an activity that has strengthened my relationship to Ghana. So yes, my blog is online, but many real life meetings have come out of it!
What happens when Ghanablogging becomes a legal entity? Will anything change?
Yes, we can do projects with budgets. Maybe in the future we can hire someone to manage the now large group of bloggers that are members and maybe think about new ways of providing them service. With a formal structure, we can also be clearer towards the world about what and who Ghanablogging is, we get invited to many programs and initiatives, but at the moment do not have the capacity to attend all of them or the founding documents to judge if that program is something we want to do.
How do you think active blogging can affect Ghanaians, especially if Ghanablogging.com is able to accomplish its goal of creating more bloggers?
I just think more voices needs to be heard. There can be political effects if many Ghanaians realize they are not alone about thinking something. Then there is also the issue of creating local content online, as of now, many things Ghanaian are not reflected online. So many great Ghanaian blogs have not been written…I'd love to read the blog of the water seller, the boarding school student, the university lecturer, the fashionista, the father, the chop bar owner…
Do you consider yourself a writer, blogger or journalist? What are the differences in your opinion? What is your take on the debate about journalism vs blogging?
Oh, what do I consider myself? I feel like a woman who loves writing and currently does so mainly on a blog. On my blog I call myself “lecturer, freelance writer and blogger in Ghana”, this means that apart from blogging regularly, I also do academic writing and sometimes sell my texts, for instance to the newsletter University World News and to Swedish publications.
Is there a debate on journalism vs. blogging? I think too few journalists blog in Ghana, I just know of a handful, and maybe too few bloggers sell texts? Ideally there should be no division. Same thing with academics and bloggers, I think more academics ought to blog!
Does your not being a Ghanaian native influence your tone in political pieces?
My first years of blogging in Ghana, I had expressed [a] positive view of the country, something I have now purposely changed as I cannot feel positively about everything in Ghana. I do not hesitate to write what I think, something I feel many of my Ghanaian blogging colleagues are more cautious of…I think so they will not be put in a box or because they just have more knowledge and are more entangled in all kinds of issues. For instance, it is easy for me to write about how the traditional belief in witchcraft in Ghana hurt women and is a serious human rights issue.
Then at other times, I also feel disconnected, like I do not understand the society fully and that hinders me from maybe criticizing certain political issues. But then again, then I might write that “I don't get this!” like my recent post on one year of paying road tolls, yet the roads are deteriorating…
This week, I'll be writing my 500th post, and I think this interview is a good way of celebrating in advance. Thanks to you and to Global Voices for your interest in us!