week 5 readings

In Karpf’s article, he concludes that the effect of YouTube alone on political matters is not as great as it is thought to be, but rather the involvement of the campaigns and political organizations with Youtube is what makes an influential impact on American politics. I have to argue against this conclusion, as Karpf does not provide substantial evidence; by providing 2 case studies, it does not grant a generalized conclusion to his argument. He also leaves out a lot of other possibilities/variables as to why one Youtube video received more attention than the other.

The two case studies Karpf presents are of “Macaca Moments”, or political gaffe moments, by George Allen, and Michele Bachmann. Karpf attempts to demonstrate that the amount of coverage they received on Youtube is reflective of the Netroots DailyKos political community participation. Karpf tries to argue that George Allen’s gaffe moment was more popular than Michele Bachmann’s due to the Netroots political community’s involvement and lack of it, respectfully.

However, I would like to argue that since only 2 case studies were presented, Karpf’s conclusion may just be coincidental.  In addition, Karpf also did not look at whether one gaffe is actually more entertaining to watch than another. Personally, I would think that Allen’s racial slur is more “gossip-worthy” than Bachmann’s small diss on Congress. It is very subjective of Karpf to equate the gaffes at equal entertainment level. Also, it is important to discuss at which time during the election campaign these statements were made, as a period where horse-race is prevalent could increase the citizen interest, and vice versa. For example, if Allen made the politically incorrect statement during a time where there is a political climate of high citizen interest in the election, there may be more attention brought to it than if the gaffe was made in a less exciting time during the election. Moreover, there may be a difference in population and politically informed citizens between the two states in which Allen and Bachmann came from, Virginia and Minnesota, respectfully. In turn, this is another variable that may have affected the amount of attention it received, and Karpf isolated it.

As such, Karpf does not provide enough evidence to argue his claim. Yes, case studies are great in the sense that it allows a thorough and deep analysis of cases, yet it is not generalizeable. He also leaves some variables out of the picture, which may have a big impact on the conclusion he makes. I would have suggested that he not only provide evidence of case studies, but also do an experiment which controls for variables to generate a more cause/effect relationship.

This leads me to lean more towards Pasek’s argument which argues that site-specific website use, particularly different types of social networking sites, is largely correlated to the encouragement or hindering of social capital.  Unlike Karpf, he provides evidence through a survey and controls for independent and outcome variables. He used many items to tap a general understanding of political knowledge, civic engagement, and interpersonal trust of internet users and compared them to non-users. With this evidence, he is able to conclude a more substantial argument.

Pasek’s article led me to wonder: If certain social networking websites attract certain kinds of people, in terms of their social capital, and at the same time the differences between social networking sites have the ability to encourage social capital, does this create an Internet society that is stagnant and class-structure based?

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