In a great little
interview talk between David Weinberger (“Everything is Miscellaneous“) and Markos Zuniga (dailykos.com), Markos discusses the characteristics of weblogs and their political implications. Of the things Markos said, one point in particular stuck out for me: The blogosphere, in contrast to traditional media, favors the kind of bottom-up, discussion-based and somewhat chaotic process of forming and articulating opinions that the Democrats build their identity on. In stark contrast, the Republicans tend to use a more top-down approach, which leads to a more unified impression, a singular message being repeated and reinforced over and over – while the Democrats tend to looking somewhat like a bunch of loosely joined splinter groups. (Ok, I’m over-exaggerating here to stress Markos’s point.) All this, of course, only applies if seen from an external viewpoint through the traditional mass media model.
The blogosphere, in contrast, with all its diverse opinions, discussions, threads and clusters, sort of makes a strength out of the chaotic discussion-based structure of the Democrats – it’s sort of the natural turf of the Democrats. That way, according to Markos, it kind of levels the playing field.
There are some good points in there. But I wonder how well it translates to other political systems, or at least other countries? In Germany, the Social Democrats also where ahead when it comes to using weblogs during the last federal elections, or so I’d say. (Disclosure: I was somewhat involved in an early stage, but was living abroad during the election campaign.) And there’s a second question, too: How about effectiveness? While having that kind of discussion culture online is indeed very good by all different kinds of standards (from political theory to simple transparency, among others), does it lead to voting results? One of the lessons of the 2004 US elections was that the Republicans’ top-down communication style in the voter mobilization phase at least turned to more votes than the bottom-up Democrats’ style.
No doubt, though, the blogosphere is by far the superior tool when it comes to finding points of view, and shaping opinion, as it allows a wider field of opinions to be articulated, clustered, distilled and discussed than any other mechanism/system/platform/public sphere before.