This week has been unbelievable. Actually, this year has been unbelievable. It’s just been one incredible experience after another. I’ve eaten great food, read good books, been to amazing concerts, heard fantastic lectures. I’ve had fun with my friends. I got into uni, then got a scholarship. Plus, there’s whole world of blogging, which I just love, and Twitter, which excites me greatly. Oh, and that’s without even beginning to get into the great music I’ve been listening to… trust me, you REALLY don’t want me to embed Gifted again. I’m getting really involved with a not-for-profit I absolutely adore and believe in. And my house looks really pretty.
AND I met Ben Self and got to hear him talk about the Obama campaign. Tomorrow, I’m going to see Joe Trippi speak- another incredible opportunity.
Phew. That’s a long list of good things.
But here’s the thing: it gets better.
I’m sure I’ve recounted the story of how I came to blog before- first, how I came to start reading blogs. But I’ll tell it again.
I started following Obama early. Not early like 90s early, but around the ’04 DNC Convention, which is early for an Australian. I started reading about him where I could. In my downtime at my old job, I’d search for interesting articles about him. One day, it lead me to The Atlantic, to Joshua Green’s article on Hillary Clinton called “Take Two: Hillary’s Choice“. It was just after it was published, so it must have been late ’06 or early ’07. I printed it off, took it home, and read the whole thing.
And it began.
I was, of course, supporting Obama at this point, though he’d not even officially announced his nomination. I remember the day he did. I was so happy. It just thrilled me to see a candidate with such talents who actually seemed a chance.
And The Atlantic, though that Joshua Green article, became my first stop for politics news. A year later, Andrew Sullivan wrote his seminal article, Goodbye to All That: Why Obama Matters. And that’s when I first started regularly reading Sullivan’s blog.
It feels such a cliche, to have been introduced to the political blogosphere by Sullivan and his ubiquitous blog, particularly since his political philosophy by no means resembles my own. But it was so exciting to read it, and I quickly became hooked. I started reading the other blogs on The Atlantic. Matthew Yglesias, Ross Douthat, Megan McArdle, Marc Ambinder and James Fallows. Then I wandered further afield, and found Ezra’s blog. I kept wandering, clicking on links, and finding things that interested me. Now my Google reader (well, indirectly, via Feedly) defeats me on an almost-daily basis.
But I always keep up with my Atlantic blogs. Yglesias has moved on, which means I now have to read both his blog at his new location, and his replacement, Ta-Nehisi Coates. My feedly is filled with Atlantic and ex-Atlantic bloggers.
I’ve pretty much made up my mind what I want to do with my life now. I want to work for politicians, political causes and not-for-profits who work for causes I believe in, helping them use the internet. Not in a social media consultant-type way, more in a “how can I help you use technology to do what you need to do” way. One day, I hope to start a business doing just that. Thus the reason why meeting Ben Self was so exciting. And why tomorrow’s Trippi talk should be great.
So I decided to go back to uni. I actually applied to go and do Digital Media studies. But my heart wasn’t in it. I kept reading blogs and articles, and watching every episode of Bloggingheads.tv. Some episodes repeatedly. Then, the US Studies Centre hosted a night at the pub, a conversation about Obama’s election. It was three days before I left for China for Christmas.
But the time I’d run to the bus stop in the pouring rain and sheltered as best I could, I’d already made up my mind. I was going to do US Studies.
I put in an application as soon as I got back from China. I knew exactly what I wanted to do: I wanted to specialize in digital media in American politics, and look at blogging and digital organizing, and the role of the new, almost insurgent media. As I’m doing a Masters by coursework, there’s not a lot of opportunity to focus on this, but I should be able to customize it to some extent, with the view to do a PhD in the topic later.
So, yesterday I got my scholarship. Today, I got the generic USSC email, announcing their new website, a new event (which I cannot attend, because I have class that night, much to my disappointment), and a new chair of media studies.
That’s right. James Fallows. Of the Atlantic. The very James Fallows whose blog was one of the first I read. The James Fallows whose blog talks about China, politics and Mac computers, three things that interest me greatly. On his advice, I helped my parents set up a sweet VPN to speed up their internet access. His tributes to his father around his death in November last year moved me to tears.
Now he is coming to teach at the centre where I am to learn. And teach about media, the very topic I am so deeply interested in learning about. Plus, he has experience both as a traditional journo of the highest calibre, but also as a blogger, and at one of the traditional media outlets that has best adapted to the modern media. I was just watching a BHTV episode the other day with Conor Clarke from The Atlantic talking about how well they have adapted to new technologies. Fallow’s recent writings about F-22s and some of the controversy surrounding them have been illuminating and, frankly, more authoritative than one generally expects in a blog. Plus, having his perspectives and insights into China was wonderful, both for advice to pass on to my parents in Shanghai, and bits of information about Beijing ahead of my trip there. In fact, when I was on the plane, I had a conversation with Mum about Fallows, and she kept saying I should email him. How very funny.
I honestly can’t believe how fortunate I am. This is just incredible!
More on Fallows here (it’s the official USSC press release, and it’s a PDF). I know I don’t link to him as often as I do Klein or Yglesias, but I honestly cannot imagine a better person to have the possibility of learning from. Honestly, it feels like a dream.