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December 3, 2003

Blogs That Matter

I originally planned for this to be a quick "link and comment" to an academic article on blogging and the news media, but some of the ideas suggested by the article's premise have touched a nerve.

First the story: I just came across what looks like an interesting acdemic article on the role of weblogs in bringing down Trent Lott after he praised Strom Thurmond's segregationist policies. The article, available in PDF, was published in gnovis, a peer-reviewed communication, culture and technology journal out of Georgetown.

I haven't had a chance to read the article just yet (so the following comments aren't intended as a response to the author's arguments), but I'll try to offer a reading of it later. I do think that online communications (whether blogs or Moveon.org) were instrumental in resisting the outrageous attempts by the FCC to further deregulate the media, but I have to admit, I'm a little suspicious of the hype about blogs as political tools right now. I'm not sure that blogs can have the direct political effect that I'd originally hoped, especially given the ways in which, as Jason J points out (in a post that's pretty ancient by blogosphere standards), the blogosphere tends to organize itself into "echo chambers." I think the "echo chamber" dynamic holds up more in the widely-read blogs, but my original optimisim that weblogs could serve as a kind of independent media is fading fast.

Some of my pessimism could be self-critique or self-reflection after finishing my article on weblogs, but I've found myself feeling resistant to reading more overtly political weblogs lately. I think my lack of interest grows out of this "echo chamber" dynamic, the sense that very few political blogs are doing anything new with the medium. I think this distaste might grow out of the sense that some bloggers almost compulsively blog every story that comes across the wire, often without adding much of a reading of the story (and, quite frankly, I'd rather have my Krugman straight, no chaser).

I do think the potential of using weblogs as a means of building community is worthwhile, and perhaps the echo chamber can be used to positive effect (a la Howard Dean's campaign blogs), but the noise is really drowning out the signal right now.

Posted by chuck at December 3, 2003 9:30 PM

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Jason's "echo chambers" gives way in his The Salt Box entry to thoughts about blogging and egocentrism.

Individual. Authentic. Immediate.

translated as

Particular. True. Pause enhancing.

gives me a picture of the politics of selves and cells. Blogging is about using certain partitionings of publication space-time to re-invent selves. Rather political if you ask me. Or ask Anne Galloway. Or Jill Walker. Or Buringbird. Am I hinting at gender politics? Perhaps, it is after all the various versions of feminism that have pushed over that last generation or so for a deep reconsideration of the quotidien as a site of political struggle. Blogging is like doing the dishes. Doing the dishes as if every plate counted, every glass and utensil mattered. Blogging is a hands-on obligation to bridging the domus and the socius. Fancy way of saying that blogging is a duty to connect the personal and the political (and show the synapses too). It is Liz Lawley's recent post about sudden death that made me realize that blogging is truly a mitvah, a duty. To model how to blog on borrowed time is a deeply political and ethical gesture. Faith that the efforts sustain other effort sustainers brings patience.
And patience gives one the long view and the international perspective while doing the dishes.

Posted by: Francois Lachance at December 6, 2003 7:29 PM

On my more optimistic days, I am enthusiastic about what blogs can do, but sometimes, I have a bad habit of looking at the wrong people's blogs. I agree with your observation that blogs allow people to reinvent themselves (and the feminist implications of that potential--the interplay of the personal and the political). And, of course, Anne, Liz, and Jill are among my favorite bloggers (I need to spend more time visiting Burningbird).

When I wrote this more pessimistic entry, I had just finished the blog paper, and the energy of writing was giving way to exhaustion and uncertainty. Now, with a few days of yummy food and end of the semester parties, I'm feeling better, and my enthusiasm is returning. I do believe that blogs allow the "deep reconsideration of the quotidien as a site of political struggle" that you describe and that this reflection on the everyday is an urgent duty. Sometimes I just forget.

Just like I forgot to work through the phrase "blogging on borrowed time" in my paper...

Posted by: chuck at December 6, 2003 7:55 PM

Forget the forgetting! *grin* I'm sure you worked through the thematics of "blogging on borrowed time" in some fashion at some level in the paper. May be some future paper will feature an examination of the unexplicit in blogs :)

Posted by: Francois Lachance at December 8, 2003 10:51 AM

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