Monday, February 1, 2010

The Blogosphere Democracy

Dr. Levinson's chapter on blogging was very interesting. I think the incorporation of his personal experiences with the "new new media" platform definitely enhanced his analysis of the medium. More than that, I think the use of anecdotes was smart way to convey his points, since blogging is a rather recent phenomenon without many measurable, quantifiable effects as of yet.

On page 22, he discusses the democratic nature of blogging, specifically the commenting tool's ability to "serve not only as a voice of the people but as conveyors of truth and correction," "epitomizing the democratic alternative to expert-driven information." In many ways blogging is a much more democratic than the traditional publishing and journalism industries: the opinions of everyday people can be heard, not just the contributors to the WSJ or New York Times editorial pages; there is no editor posing judgment or directing the content in any way and there are little to no monetary-based advertiser interest to keep in mind. Individuals are empowered by their ability to contribute to the world and influence society in some small way. Because of new new media, the monarchy-like hierarchy of traditional publishing has, in many ways, been overthrown.

On the surface, this seems like a great thing, kind of like when American colonists broke away from England years ago with dreams of a fully participatory democratic state. In the years since then, however, political scientists and ordinary observers have realized that a full-fledged democracy sounds great on paper but lacks realistic application. It is the classic "too much voices drown each other out," in that it is very difficult to get anything accomplished when you need the approval of every single individual. This is why America transitioned to a representative democracy and this may be the eventual fate of the blogsophere.

While the comparison is not exact, I tend to feel that there just may be too many voices posting online and that this influx of voices is actually making decision-making and objective research more difficult. It is becoming harder and harder to decipher what is a news item and what is a blog post even on major news websites, who now run just as many blogs and regular articles. I also really struggled trying to find objective information while writing my senior thesis last semester, constantly evaluating the credibility of online sources. Young people today are being inadvertently trained to resist "the expert" in favor of the "guy in his pajamas," which devalues the hard work and years of dedication the expert has that the latter lacks. Overall, the benefits of blogging are obviously positive, easy to see and exciting to analyze but there are costs and complications which I think also deserve attention.


  1. I think the largest point you discuss is the sense of democracy in blogging. Everyone can have a voice and use the internet as a forum to voice their opinions. It's a great tool for everyone with something to say, but can always be abused.

  2. Agreed. In the future, could there be a point when blogging will become "professional," where blogs will be supported by numerous individuals to fact-check, verify and potentially keep the posts neutral? On the other hand, however, that sounds a lot like the way in which newspapers are going digital.

  3. The tension is between democracy and elitism, the expert and the crowd, and what they call crowd-sourcing. I agree that what's needed is some kind of balance. Or put another way, we have plenty of information, what's needed is a way to synthesize and evaluate all that data we're collecting.