The Future Will be Blogged

May 26th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

There is a long and interesting article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education on the role of blogs in contemporary politics. Here is an excerpt:

Media attention to blogging has exploded, in part because of a number of what I call blogthroughs, events that allowed bloggers to demonstrate their powers of instant response, cumulative knowledge, and relentless drumbeating. Those incidents included bloggers’ role in challenging the memo about President Bush’s National Guard service revealed on CBS, which may have led to Dan Rather’s resignation as anchor of the network’s evening news; video logs of the tsunami in Southeast Asia; and the high-profile use of blogs by Howard Dean’s campaign for the last Democratic presidential nomination. Now, according to various measurement and rating services such as Technorati and BlogPulse, tens of millions of Americans are blogging on all kinds of subjects, like diets, relatives, pets, sports, and sex. Bloggers include journalists, marines in Afghanistan, suburban teenagers, law-school professors, senators, and district attorneys.

Of greatest interest to modern students of politics are the blogs that focus on public affairs. Mainstream political news media regularly check what blogs are saying about a given story — or how they created it. Surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and other organizations have found that most contributors to those blogs follow campaigns and political debates and are extremely likely to vote in elections. Politicians and activists are naturally eager to get their message to such a target audience while also bypassing the mainstream media’s editorializing and heavy fees for advertising. Yet, as one political consultant I know put it, “The $200-million questions are: What are blogs? How can we use them? What exactly are they good for?”

Even experts cannot answer those questions because political blogs are in a state of flux. Are they a revolution or an evolution in political speech and activism — or a return to the more partisan press of the nation’s early days? Will political bloggers challenge or complement traditional politics, political work, and politicians? Are bloggers representative of other Americans, or are they a minority of politically active citizens? How much impact will blogs have on political discourse and, ultimately, on voting behavior? Are they further Balkanizing American politics, with liberals reading only leftist blogs and conservatives reading only rightist ones?

The author of the article is David D. Perlmutter, of Louisiana State University, who runs a blog here that discusses blogs in politics among other subjects.

One Response to “The Future Will be Blogged”

  1. Jim Clarke Says:

    In my opinion, blogs are not a revolution unto themselves, but just a part of the communications revolution that started with the basic internet and is expanding exponentially! I believe this to be a tremedously positive thing.

    Balkinizing is really a symptom of a lack of communincation, not too much communication. It is certainly possible, but increasingly more difficult to close out all other points of view when surfing the net. While the average user may visit the same sights for years, eventually they will follow a link to something new and be exposed to new ideas. 100 years ago, a person could be born, live and die of old age without ever hearing opposing viewpoints or a different world view. Not any more.

    The biggest problem now is too much information. How do we know what is good information and what is bad? Again, I believe that this too will become easier in time, as search engines mature to the point of not only providing links, but providing context. We will be able to see all the evidence and glean all the opinions in a realtively short period of time, then decide.

    Certainly there will be issues, but the direction communication is going is positive and unstoppable. It is a very exciting time to be alive!