Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Blogosphere's Contribution

Time soon for an assessment of the Canadian blogosphere's first real election as it slowly winds to its conclusion on the 23rd. In all, the medium has certainly had a noticeable impact, if only for calling attention to various stories and serving as a source of timely analysis and commentary.

This is all to the good - even if some high-ranking members of the media remain (hilariously) unconvinced. Cosh rightly calls out the absurdity of Ibbitson's "books not blogs" position, reminiscent of the disdain that his colleague Jeffrey Simpson showed for the blogosphere in his otherwise brilliant talk in London I attended last May. Journalists going forward ignore the possibilities offered by the immediacy of such commentary at their peril.

Still, the blogosphere has not caught on in the larger manner I might have anticipated. Too often it still resembles only the glorified echo chamber with little impact outside its own membership. Note that Dean and Trippi tapped the blogs not just for information, but (more crucially) to raise money and help the most committed activists contribute in areas where they were needed most. The commentors on "Dean for America" even played a substantial part in shaping the direction of message and advertising that was then used in the mass markets. Thus far, no party or candidates here seem to have attempted to capitalize on the Internet to substantially mobilize the most committed to help in specific ridings. No party seems to have used the access of the Internet in airing policy ideas or pre-screening marketing strategies. Or even (gasp) to elicit suggestions from their own grassroots.

The campaign "war rooms" certainly have their historic place. But the presumption favoring a hierarchical structure of consultant-dominated message delivery has been shown up. If a more participatory system is truly what we seek, it needs to emerge not only in the way we are governed but also in the how we go about selecting our leaders. In short, it is further reflection on the "Candidates as Hubs of Connectivity" theme Thomas Friedman explored back in the summer. The first Canada political party (or candidate?) to truly tap into the new model could have an advantage.


Blogger Andrew said...

Well, the Green Party did have a wiki for Canadians to help write Green Party policy etc, I was rather saddened to see that they had to take it down due to legal reasons.

Loving the idea and seeing there was no real non-partisan way for ordinary Canadians to help join in on policy, I decided to correct the problem. I grabbed a copy of MediaWiki (otherwise known as the software that powers Wikipedia) and setup http://www.canadianpolicywiki.ca to try and provide a non-partisan wiki for Canadians from every political background.

1:37 AM  
Blogger The Tiger said...

Really, though, James, that's the main thing about the power of blogging -- it reduces somewhat what used to be the main arbitrary power of the mainstream media outlets: the ability to frame issues as they see fit.

Anything else is just gravy. But it was darned funny to see the Liberals take their talking points about property rights from a conservative-leaning weblog...

10:03 AM  

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