Following up on Rayne’s previous post and filchyboy’s addendum, my sense is that while Billmon is clearly thoughtful and a great writer, he makes the same mistake Klam made in the Times magazine cover story, which is to view the A-list, top-of-the-power-law bloggers for the whole shmear.
Of course some will cross over and sell out. Of course the “golden age” will end and blogging will be assimilated (although I’ve long been amused by the way Internet denizens can wax nostalgic for, say, six months ago). I remember when it happened to the web in the mid ’90s. Everyone said the independent, funky, arts sites would disappear because they couldn’t compete with Yahoo, et al.
Well, maybe they were eclipsed, harder to find for newcomers etc., but generally it’s just as easy now to host a funky cool website as it was a decade ago.
There is too much emphasis on mass success and not enough on the culture of collaborative media filtering and blogs that David Weinberger calls the tail of the power curve:
Thus, the tail of the power curve – which is probably at least 5 million blogs long – gets erased. In fact, the tail is where blog are having their most important effects. That’s where self and community, public and private, owned and shared are re-drawing their boundaries.
One response to “NY and LA Times articles miss the big picture”
I also found the NYT piece too narrowly framed. Here’s an excerpt from my post:
Klam uses the conventions and his subjects as a snapshot of the state of political blogging. That makes for a manageable and plausible story. But just as it’s a mistake to construe the New York Times and a handful of other “national” newspapers as emblematic of the state of newspapering, looking at a few A-list bloggers in isolation can be equally myopic. If blogging is an upstart movement,and the A-list is moving into the establishment, the question becomes whether there are new upstarts on the horizon, and what will their impact be?
I think that Joi Ito is right when he argues that like the Internet itself, the deep impact of blogging will long-term, not short-term, as bloggers learn to report news and make arguments in forms that can be successfully presented across an array of digital platforms — particularly light-weight, low-cost cameraphones.
Consider this historical note: the transistor radio became an invaluable tool in the propaganda battles of the Cold War, because it facilitated the dissemination of ideas across oceans, desserts and mountain ranges. Middle Eastern politics expert Fouad Ajami argues that it was a key precipitant of the anti-colonial revolutions of the mid-20th century.
Similarly, online communications has contributed both positively and negatively to political developments in both disturbing and hopeful ways. There’s the grassroots blogging of the groups such as Deaniacs, the fact-checking freepers, muckrakers such as Russ Kick, and the urgent, distant voices of the Baghdad bloggers. On the other hand, there are the ideologues and manipulators and terror-mongers for whom the blogosphere is yet another instrument of war.
But alongside all of that, there are bloggers striving for new definitions of community, working on problems that run deeper and go beyond the current election cycle or the current narrowly-conceived debate that pundits pontificate about on the Sunday-morning bluster-fests. I read bloggers such as Earl Donouvant because he is thinking hard about what it means to be black, to be a man, to be an American, and a citizen of the world — and he’s getting people to engage those issues.
I read Baghdad Burning for similar reasons. In the middle of a war, with her country crumbling around her, she is using her voice and not, as far as I know, grenades, and allowing the responses to help shape her thoughts about self and other. In all of her justified rage, there is reason and hope. She knows that not all Americans are alike. She can tolerate differences. She draws her news from both Al-Jazeera and Juan Cole. If the nightmare of the US adventure has any hope of a positive ending, it will be because of people like her.
As much as this election matters, what will matter in the long run is the way we define ourselves and our connections to each other. That, I think is what Ito is talking about when he speaks of “Emergent Democracy.” And that’s the real story of the potential of political blogging, still waiting to be told.