Blogging and participation

CommentIsFree is undergoing a bit of self-reflection. First of all, Oliver Kamm with this thought: “Error-strewn, insular and parasitic, political blogs tend not to enhance but poison healthy debate”. He goes on to say

Blogs are providers not of news but of comment. This would be a good thing if blogs extended the range of available opinion in the public sphere. But they do not; paradoxically, they narrow it. This happens because blogs typically do not add to the available stock of commentary: they are purely parasitic on the stories and opinions that traditional media provide. If, say, Polly Toynbee or Nick Cohen did not exist, a significant part of the blogosphere (a grimly pretentious neologism) would have no purpose and nothing to react to.

Lots of entertaining feedback.

And Jonathan Freedland has separately been commenting on the comments that follow on from the columnists’ pronouncements. His main worry is that the chat gets dominated by loud mouthed males

Some interesting (and non-abusive!) comments – discussion of identity while commenting, anonymity and maybe even having two types of forum: CiF-type commenting, and a ‘letter’ page, where there is more vetting of the identity of the contributor. And of course criticism of the way CiF authors generally do not take part in whatever debate they generate.

Of course it’s old hat to worry about the nature and impact of online debates (I’ve even done it, here and here), but it doesn’t stop it being a worthwhile debate.

The question is: if you were going to research the impact of blogging on politics and e-participation generally, where would you start? And where would you stop? As Wainer Lusoli asks: Do the internet and web2.0 support participatory culture, rather than self-expression? What if new media in fact supports self-representation?

One could go on to ask whether blogging in fact reduces participation by encouraging everyone to become their own isolated minority-of-one, to use George Orwell’s phrase?

About Peter Cruickshank

Lecturer in the School of Computing and a member of the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland. Interested in information systems, learning, politics, society, security and where they intersect. My attempts at rounding out my character include food, cinema, running, history and, together with my lovely wife, bringing up a cat and a couple of kids.
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2 Responses to Blogging and participation

  1. jameshigham says:

    Nice take, Peter. You’ve no doubt seen mine.

  2. HI James. Thanks for the comment. Yup – I read yours earlier today. I was amused by your quote of reactionary snob’s take on Jack Maconnell.

    For other readers – you want to look at James Higham’s Blogspot entry here

    In fact, following some of the references to Oliver Kramm on technorati will provide some amusement. Not sure how much notice one should take of all those (mostly male) political bloggers though 🙂

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist that)

    Keep up the good work.

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