Blogging Vox

If you’re in London on 14 July, I know what you want to do: Attand the Voxpolitics Seminar: BLOG RULE, where James et al asks Can Weblogs Change Politics?. To answer this question, they’ve invited Steven Clift, Stephen Pollard, Pernille Rudlin, and Tom Watson MP.

I’d really like to be there, but can’t make it over to London. If anyone cares, here’s my take on the question: Can Weblogs Change Politics?

Blogs don’t change politics, people do. Mkay? 😉

Having said that, I must hurry and say that I think blogs are hugely important to e-democracy at large. In fact they’re so important that I refer to a third generation e-democracy, which consists of blogs and what follows.

The first generation e-democracy was stuff like Minnesota e-Democracy. The second generation was when we saw projects like the Kalix R�dslag and occurance of e-democracy companies to run stuff like that.

The third generation e-democracy is distinct from the previous generations by demonstrating a much more loosely-coupled democratic practice.

Tara Sue Grubb got famous when she ran for congress by running a blog, and since then we have seen more and more politicians blogging. In Denmark, we have (at least) Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, our former prime minister, and Morten Helveg Petersen, MP. (Danes: Send me more links and I’ll make a directory of Danish blogging politicians). Although there are some positive things to say about politicians as bloggers, this is not where I see the real news. To get to that, a bit more on the blogging phenomenon.

A blog is a simple CMS for publishing on the web. But the commodified, more advanced blogging tools are also publishing a lot of XML and web service stuff, and sending a number of messages around in cyberspace in cool new ways. For example, when I in my blog use a city name, I can check a button and have the blog tool go and find a map of the city and post it as illustration to the blog entry. I can get the blog to fetch a few related news, a book recommendation, and much more. Some of the XML that flows around also end up in a number of repositories and databases. We have seen many innovative services, such as Technorati.

Enter the Blogosphere: the emerging Media Ecosystem: “Bloggers and Journalists form a blogging biosphere that has become an ecosystem in its own right”.

Basically, we are getting new possibilities for a new kind of communication online, which we could call C2C, Community-to-Community, and related P2C (person-to-community), etc. For example, when I post a blog entry, I can set “trackback autodiscovery” on, and have the blog tool send a message to blogs I talk about, thus making my voice “heard” all over the place.

We have only seen the beginning here. A few predictions/trends:

  • Moblogging, i.e., blogging from wherever you might be, via mobile phone or handheld device. We will see an increase in location-aware systems.
  • Community blogs, like LA Blogs, but much more than just directories.

The Emergent Democracy Paper by Joi Ito is bringing in the concept of emergence to the democracy domain. Well done, Ito-san.

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  • Thanks John! btw – i agree with your three stages of e-Dem model. Tom and I are going to try and write something before the event; if we do can we send it to you for a once over?

  • James, I’d love to read and comment on your writings.

    Re. stages of e-democracy, I wonder if anyone has done something along these lines??

  • As I prepared for the VoxPolitics event I went back and forth in my mind about the impact of blogging in politics. I essentially said blogging has a lot more potential as a political tool than as a democratizing medium.

    For most, blogging is an enhanced form of “Hyde Park.” Most who speak tend toward the extroverted side and are comfortable with the visible publicity blogs offer. If a majority of Internet users had blogs, considering the exciting tools and patterns that now connect them, blogging would be a democratizing tool. Fewer than 1% have them now.

    On the point of e-democracy generations, part of E-Democracy 1994 and subsequent online campaigning by candidates and political parties might represent phase one. Phase two would incorporate online advocacy. Phase three online consultation hosted by government. Phase four blogging. Phase six, what I call “public net-work” where e-democracy tools are used on the implementation/output side of government. Phase seven citizen-based e-democracy. 🙂

    I think Minnesota E-Democracy remains an outlier based on its interactive, non-profit, non-partisan model. Most blogging is an extension of the individualistic/feudal model of Net activity. In many ways, blogging is less democratic than many-to-many online forums like e-lists and web forums. It is much easier to establish a sense of elite among bloggers with tools like daypop then one can in simple e-list land. E-mail is also the one medium where almost all users have a sense of ownership over what they send and receive (we are all land owners so to speak.)

    As e-lists/web forums/blogging blend together such that users can more easily control their interactive relationships – what they receive in their e-mail, what they have personally presented/tracked via a headline reader/web view, and what they decide to seek out on the web – the real challenge for e-democracy will be institutional. Who is the host? Who defines the places people can meet and participate politically? How are efforts passed from one leader or a group of convenors to the next? These are the questions E-Democracy is trying to answer through current and future activity.

    Steven Clift

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