Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Tue 5 Jul 05 21:42
Candidates are of course very busy but I think it's really just a matter of priorities. After all, in the end, they aren't too busy to try to communicate with voters, and so they make time for press conferences, speeches, TV and radio appearances, interviews with reporters, and so on. Blogs apparently aren't as important as those other things, but that could change.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 5 Jul 05 21:58
> Howard Dean did not win in Iowa or New Hampshire. True, but Dean has gone on to build an organization that's taking control of the Democratic party. > The online subculture is an elite. The Pew Internet and American Life Project's statistics show that almost 70% of American adults are online, and that percentage is growing. A recent breakdown of who's online is available here: http://www.pewinternet.org/trends/User_Demo_05.18.05.htm It's precisely because adoption is high and increasing that the Internet is now a significant factor in elections. Check out http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/150/report_display.asp for more info. > Multinational corporations own a big chunk of the net and the > other new technologies. Their mass news media outlets have > co-opted blogs and webspace. No one actually owns the Internet. I'm not sure where you get the impression that "blogs and webspace" have been coopted. David Sifry notes that there are 40-50 thousand new blogs every day, or one every two seconds (http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/002752.html), and I'd say most of the top 100 blogs are still independent, as are most blogs in the blogosphere.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 5 Jul 05 22:01
> Blogs apparently aren't as important as those > other things, but that could change. I agree, and I think that'll happen as we get more candidates who are comfortable posting their thoughts online. I look forward to the first candidates who are experienced bloggers.
Thomas Armagost (silly) Wed 6 Jul 05 04:42
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Thomas Armagost (silly) Wed 6 Jul 05 05:02
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Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 6 Jul 05 05:39
Other relevant data points: the percentage of actual voters who are online (I don't think anyone's gathered that statistic), and the percentage of political influentials that are online (see http://www.ipdi.org/UploadedFiles/political%20influentials.pdf). >>> Howard Dean did not win in Iowa or New Hampshire. >> >> True, but Dean has gone on to build an organization that's taking >> control of the Democratic party. > >That's a good thing? Unless I misunderstood the issue you were raising, whether it's a good thing or not is irrelevant. If you're questioning whether Dean was effective in building support, you have to look past the primaries, and you have to consider other factors... e.g. though his supporters were organizing effectively online, those efforts didn't really mature in time to have an impact on the primary, but they continued after his losses, and organized the precinct-level support that led to his current role as leader of the Democratic party. > Most of those "almost 70% of American adults" are not Howard > Dean fans and will never support him no matter how hard you > try to win them over. Er, maybe so... but that's not really relevant to the discussion. The discussion here is about politics, democracy, and the Internet. Regardless of our political preferences, the relevance of Howard Dean is that his campaign demonstrated how the Internet might be used to organized grassrooots support effectively and build a following that is more "emergent." > Who do you think owns high speed cable access? High speed cable access isn't the Internet, though, it's just a mode of access. In fact there's a movement to facilitate "freedom to connect," which isn't just about an individual's freedom to connect to the Internet. It's also about the freedom of municipalities to offer network access to their citizens, and the freedom of smaller service providers to offer network access and services using existing networks. I think I alluded to this above. There is a significant movement to expand access to broadband and ensure that access is not ultimately controlled by a few monopolistic (or duopolistic - phone and cable) service providers. (e.g. see http://savemuniwireless.org) As for blogs, there's not much data to show us how well they sustain, who reads them, or how they're read. I asked Michael Cornfield of the Pew Internet and American Life study recently if they were planning to gather data on how readers read blogs, and he said they're just getting into a study of bloggers... they haven't got to the point where they're considering readers. I think I mentioned earlier in this discussion that we don't really know enough about how people read blogs, and how assumptions about the meaning of blog stats are suspect until we have that data. We also don't have a real understanding of the power law distribution of blog readership, but the long tail is clearly relevant - i.e. significant mindshare is committed to the millions of little-read blogs. Though a few "a-list blogs" have appreciably more readers than blogs below, the *aggregate* of blogs below the "a list" is where much of the action is.
Ari Davidow (ari) Wed 6 Jul 05 07:28
I dunno. I can see blogs as disruptive, and I can see otherwise incendiary folks getting very popular by telling people what they want to hear (which may actually be cutting edge news, but more often will be the next Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh), but I just don't see very many blogs having very much say on the political process. We haven't changed as a society, we've only introduced a new medium. I don't know that blogs will change the general power structures any more than desktop publishing did.
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Wed 6 Jul 05 09:01
The Dean campaign famously proved that on online campaign is an effective way to raise money and recruit volunteers. So at least one thing has changed. On the other hand, Steven Levitt apparently wrote some papers (summarized in Freakonomics) showing that raising money in politics may be less effective than conventional wisdom has us believe. Apparently, when the same two candidates run against each other in consecutive elections, the amount of money they spend makes little difference. "A winning candidate can cut his spending in half and lose only 1 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, a losing candidate who doubles his spending can expect to shift the vote in his favor by only that same 1 percent. What really matters for a political candidate is not how much you spend; what matters is who you are."
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 6 Jul 05 09:37
Ari: I think the value of blogs is less visible if you think of them as individual projects. The alternative is to think of them as an aggregation of voices. I can't think of a single blog that's made a political difference, but I can think of situations (e.g. calling attention to Trent Lott's implicit racist remarks, Sinclair Broadcasting's alteration of "Stolen Honor") where many bloggers focusing on the same story or issue had an impact. Brian: candidates raise money primarily to buy effective broadcast campaigns; the question is whether the top-down broadcast model will prove less effective than a more bottom-up, grassroots approach mediated by effective use of interactive applications on the Internet. The thinking behind Deanspace was to build many sites for Dean supporters organized by geography, affinity, or whatever... community sites that could be networked effectively to support Dean's candidacy. As I implied earlier, I think that effort didn't work, not because it wasn't potentially effective, but because it would take more time. Deanspace sites were appearing too late, and there were too few of them, to have the intended effect.
from ALDON HYNES (tnf) Wed 6 Jul 05 09:59
Aldon Hynes writes: Thanks for the kudos, Jon. Brian is right about the matter of priorities. Blogs havent gained the level of importance as other forms of communication. Any good politician will employ a wide mix of modes of communicating with voters. Blogs are important, so is door knocking. Some of the reason blogging remains a smaller part of the media mix is the perception of the online culture as being an elite subset. Jon is right to point out the importance of the political influentials as noted in the Pew report. However, I like to encourage political bloggers to step outside of the traditional circles and try to connect with other parts of online culture, such as mommy bloggers, food bloggers, etc.
Ari Davidow (ari) Wed 6 Jul 05 12:20
Jon, I'm still not convinced. Bloggers as a smartmob is/was a phenomenon, but I'm less convinced that we'll see blogs have as much influence, even in aggregate, next cycle. By then it will be something new. Already, it does seem as though people speak more cynically of what bloggers say or do. On the other hand, tools like Drupal/CivicSpace do provide a neat framework, at least in theory, for enabling non-profits to do a better job of fusing online/offline presences in a good way. I guess what I'm saying is that I see blogs as one element in the ways that we enmesh each other as intersecting sets of community, but that I'm not convinced that they represent such a big change (other than the leverage Dean got in being the first to figure out how to use the internet to tap grass roots). Or, a better interim answer to the question might be connected to what/how MoveOn.org, or organizations like it, is doing in terms of organizing these days. Are they still as visible relative to paper fundraising/crowdraising as they were a year ago?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 6 Jul 05 12:54
Ari, blogs are just starting to catch on with campaigns, and it's got so that my company seldom gets a request to build a campaign site that doesn't include a blog as a prominent part of the infrastructure, and you saw Sifry's numbers above. Blogs aren't exactly new, they're just web pages, after all. What's new is the lack of friction in publishing online... virtually anybody can be an author/publisher with the blog applications available today. I think you'll also see more applications similar to meetup, and more house parties, i.e. more offline conversations that are facilitated by online applications. CivicSpace looks promising, though it's not quite what you would call easy to use at this point. That's the goal, though. MoveOn has been very effective at raising money and collecting email addresses, and it's still rocking on. However it tends to be an extension of the top-down broadcast approach to politics. I don't doubt that you hear cynical remarks, even from bloggers, but there's always cynics.
Thomas Armagost (silly) Wed 6 Jul 05 14:15
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virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Thu 7 Jul 05 14:57
What strikes me as most interesting on the "extreme democracy" front is not what exists now or did exist recently (hence, not the pros and cons of the Dean campaign), but what might exist soon and thereafter. It seems to me that blogs don't have to take the place of The New York Times for it to be true that blogging dramatically changed political discourse. The most interesting prospects are how blogging and meetup-type tech and whatever things come next intersect with the big, traditional mediasphere and with politics as usual. The social networking pieces in the book deal with that, as does Blaser's "The Revolution Will Be Engineered" (in a different way), and your own "Virtual Bonfire." Could you expand on the themes there a bit, Jon?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 7 Jul 05 16:48
Britt's engineering the revolution via his new company Open Resource Group, LLC (ORG) and its product-in-development, ORGware, which he describes as "a web-based framework for organizations that want to attract members and which are brave enough to cede control to the edges of the groups that form, spontaneously, around their organization." He's been talking about a Vote Delivery System (VDS): "VDS is a supply chain. Currently there are two competing supply chains for votes, each owned by the local political parties: hence their tyranny over people running for office. Sure, the politicians spend a gazillion dollars trying to route around the local parties, hyping themselves with expensive ads. Broadcast politics is like the direct-to-consumer ads that transformed Big Pharma in the 1990s. But like Big Pharma's sales force schmoozing the physicians, politicians can't ignore the local parties' power to prescribe for its user base. "Let's transform retail politics as Amazon transformed retail. Like Amazon, the trick is perfecting the VDS fulfillment system, as package delivery has been innovated into an obvious and hassle-free appendage to the eCommerce experience. Our new company, Open Resource Group, has devised an architecture to deliver voters to their polling places as systematically as UPS puts an Amazon book in your hands (not as reliably, but as systematically). Like Amazon, we don't care what book you buy, based on what value system. We do care that the online experience brings out your preferences and causes you to invest in delivering your vote to the right polling place on Election Day." (From Britt's blog, Escapable Logic, http://blaserco.com/blogs/) That's one future technology, and it come from Britt's thinking about a "campaign in a box" (as he refers to it in his chapter). This is where you see more than new technology transforming politics: Britt's technology development is an expression of his vision of a politics that is really of the people. In the same item on his blog, he says "Let's make American politicians as irrelevant as the British monarchy." The politicians become less relevant because the people they represent carry more of the energy of the political process, and the politicians are decreasingly isolated from their constituents, because we have more channels for communication and more voices to communicate. We don't toss the governance framework we have, because it's really workable. We fix it by augmenting the process with technology that facilitates civic engagement, citizen input to the political process. We insist that legislators listen and respond... but we also have to figure out how to do that without overwhelming them. Am I answering your question? There's a lot to say... we could also talk about blogs and journalism and how they relate, shall I get into that?
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Thu 7 Jul 05 18:57
W.o.w. I'm reeling a bit, and trying to turn off the synaptic firings that amount to a voice shouting "Vote buying! Fix! Fix! Corruption!" in my head. Can you say something about how Vote Delivery System differs from paying for votes? (Or maybe Mitch wants to -- I gather he's landed.) And, yes, I'd be interested in learning how the loop is closed with journalism in the new media.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 7 Jul 05 19:41
I think you misread that one, Bruce. The Vote Delivery System is about getting *your* voters to the polls, i.e. the people who already support your candidacy. If you have 65% support, but only 8% of your voters show up to vote, you'll lose the election, despite the fact you were more popular. (To that end, the concept of "customer relationship management" has been adopted as "constituent relationship management" by political campaigns and nonprofits. *** You might think that bloggers and journalists are natural enemies, but that's not the case. Journalists are beginning to see bloggers as another source, and may partner with them in the future. (That was the vision of Krista Bradford's Center for Online Investigative Research - http://coir.smartcampaigns.com/). And, of course, there are various experiments in citizen journalism, such as Dan Gillmor's Bayosphere (http://www.bayosphere.com/).
Thomas Armagost (silly) Fri 8 Jul 05 04:48
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out of the pseud closet (silly) Fri 8 Jul 05 05:07
Hopefully, the Online News Association's blog will be of interest. <http://www.cyberjournalist.net/> "How technology, blogs and the Internet are changing the media" says writer/editor/publisher Jonathan Dube.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 8 Jul 05 06:05
The piece in the book most specifically relevant to blogs as journalism is Jay Rosen's "The Weblog: an Extremely Democratic Form in Journalism." He says "the genius of the weblog was not in any technological leap, but in completing the last mile in the two-way highway the Web has become. The form favors individual voices and self-publishers, most of whom will have no media institution behind them, and no hope of profit. What they are after is free speech and the enhancement of public life. Or as Tim Dunlop puts it, 'an environment where ordinary people can use argument to increase their knowledge.'" He goes on to say "Weblogs potentially explode the world of authorship far enough that we can at least imagine a sphere of debate with millions of productive speakers, where there was once an audience of millions listening to a few speakers dominate the debate."
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Sat 9 Jul 05 12:30
Voter delivery isn't just get out the vote, though -- or not just get-out- the-vote-of-those-who-spontaneously-agreed-with-your-well-thought-through- positions. The whole campaign in a box is interactive, and it's about connecting with potential voters in ways that motivate their support at the polls (and their support in motivating others' support). In the "chaste" version of such a process, the motivation comes about because the candidate and voters agree on policy. But that's true of the "chaste" version of the electoral system we have: candidates advertise their views, and voters choose the package they prefer. What keeps the whiz-bang, peer-to-peer version of electoral politics from being unclean in all the ways the current system is (and new ones, too)? Why would candidates avoid barter of some form? Isn't it tailormade for multi-level-marketing-style abuse?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 9 Jul 05 12:43
I can think of several ways to respond. One is that, in the peer-to-peer approach, we look for a higher degree of transparency, so the snake oil should be very visible. Another is that we're looking for a degree of participation such that social pressure to behave in ways that are "chaste" would be greater. But like current system, this form of politics will be both clean and unclean. It's not a panacea - people will be people and we'll always have ethical lapses, errors in judgement, etc. As I said earlier, this is a messy and inefficient form of governance we're talking about. Facilitating broader participation in governance is not something you do because it's easier, because it's way harder. You do it because it's right, because it's consistent with the democratic promise we keep making to ourselves and the rest of the world.
John Payne (satyr) Sat 9 Jul 05 19:39
Jon, what's the potential for using a reputation system to cut through the babel of fact, fiction, opinion, and spin on the net?
J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Sat 9 Jul 05 22:45
I think it would be somewhat helpful to be able to see how each different interest groups rates the reputation of each communicator. It's something I've started suggesting gently to people at technorati. So when you see a post, you can immeadiatly see how the poster stands with: - Pat Roberston - The New York Times - Technorati - Jon Lebkowski - Your mother = Etc.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 10 Jul 05 08:36
Reputation systems are definitely in the mix, though they can also contribute to the echo chamber effect, e.g. if we assign reputation based on agreement rather than more objective determinants. And let's say you have a system wherein users assess and assign personal reputation based on the quality of posts, and someone makes a few posts that aren't well-regarded. Their reputation is set low, therefore users no longer see their posts, and they have no opportunity to reclaim reputation. Slashdot's system is good - reputation is assessed by moderators for individual posts rather than users, and metamoderation provides a check on moderators' judgement.
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