Oh the (cyber) places you’ll go

I thought it fitting for our last class blog to discuss… the blog.

I came across this article in The Atlantic that compiles columns that appeared over ten years ago in mainstream newspapers trying to explain blogs when they first started being introduced.

Much of the commentary focuses on the elaborate interlinking of blogs – as written in a New York Times article in 2000, “Web logs (blogs) are elaborately cross-linked, with Web loggers (bloggers) reading and commenting upon one another’s sites, creating a kind of fragmented conversation.”  A network is born.

A piece from the LA Times (2002) notes, “the most popular bloggers build a sense of community by linking to each other and writing in a voice that cartwheels off the page, as a distinct alternative to what they see as the distant, establishment voice of newspaper journalists and others.”  Even at the start the importance of the network was noted and the resulting rise of a global public sphere and networked public voice.

In The New York Times (2002) it was described as “an online news commentary written, usually, by an ordinary citizen, thick with links to articles and other blogs.”  And, in The Wall Street Journal (2002) “thousands of independent information entrepreneurs are informing, arguing, adding information…. Blogs may one day become clearinghouses for civil support and information when other lines, under new pressure, break down.”  The author Peggy Noonan recognized the power that blogging was giving the average citizen in giving them a voice – being able to share the news that they found most relevant, add their opinion, and become as such a sort of news editor for their followers, dramatically altering the news media landscape.

Sure, in the beginning blogs seemed to be viewed merely as personal diaries published online and most of the writers weren’t concerned, however there were a few that questioned what the implications of blogs would be for the future of news media.

(Sounds kind of familiar to early criticism of Twitter as an “epic waste of time” and then debate on, “The First Twitter Revolution?“)

Throughout our course we have often talked about the changing environment for communication and what that means.  We have particularly focused, and especially in our last review session, on the diffusion of power as new means of communication provide more means for people to have more access to information and form new, powerful actors.

Going back to review the emergence of the “blog”, something that is so commonplace now in our gathering of information, reminds us of the shift we have gone through – in making news more accessible, empowering citizens either independently or as part of a network of non-state actors, subsequently shifting power away from nation-states and their media as the only sources of information.  Power becomes diffuse because the source of information is diffuse.  Now, the question is how these actors are going to function together or maybe, what we’ll come up with next.



2 thoughts on “Oh the (cyber) places you’ll go

  1. Great post Z’leste! By differentiating themselves from blogs and twitter, the established media gave them the freedom to grow and thrive in ways that surprised almost everyone (kudos to the WSJ for recognizing the potential though). They allowed the creation of a public forum to grow and, as you said, diffuse power through an increasing number of actors in the public sphere.

    Interestingly, though the diffusion of power could be conceived as a generally weakening of power in general, in this case the actors with new-found power have coalesced to a certain extent and formed a new power base that is now counter-balancing the control of the establishment. We’ve seen this in the Arab Spring and in #occupy movements around the world.

    You’re also right as well about the next question: what next? How do these forums take the energy and influence they have to create significant impacts on states? To a certain extent, we’ve already seen this in the United States with blogs like DailyKOS that used their influence to help Barack Obama become president, particularly in the primaries. And this year twitter was an important tool for coordinating protesters everywhere from Tahrir Square to Wall Street.

    They’ve shown the capability of allowing people to shift the balance of power, but can they build a new paradigm following this shift. Once again, the newsmedia has been largely skeptical, and they have reason for the most part. Once occupied, very little has come from the camps on Wall Street to suggest that they have a viable alternative to the current system and SCAF still has significant power in Egypt.

    Part of the problem may be that Twitter and the blogs do not allow for people to flesh out complex ideas, and the other part of the problem may be that with the diffusion of power among all these new actors, they all have competing ideas that they may not necessarily agree upon. How or if the “alliance” of the 99% maintaining coordination moving forward will certainly be interesting to watch.

  2. I really enjoyed this post. I think you bring up great points, it reminds me how quickly our media landscape is transforming. Sometimes I think I will have to explain to my niece and nephew that we used to use paper maps to find out where we are going in a car, or that I didn’t have a cell phone or the Internet growing up–they will probably think I am crazy.

    I also like the point you bring up about the under estimation of technology, from blogs to twitter. I think the trend is to bash all new and unfamiliar media tools, I think it stems from fear of change.

    I recently went to a talk by David Gregory the host of Meet The Press,he reiterated the point that just because you have blog, it doesn’t mean you are journalist, he continued that journalist hold themselves to principles and standards, and hold each other to those standards. I wonder how if it is possible to make that distinction anymore? Are bloggers journalist?

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