Week 8

After reading Trippi and Shirky and weighing the suggestions made by each author, I question whether there are different uses for blogs (inherently biased conversational tools, as suggested by Shirky, and yet a tool that carries the promise of political power, as suggested by Trippi) that neither author seems to acknowledge.

Both Trippi and Shirky argue compelling points, which are in direct opposition of one another.  Trippi mainly argues that blogs were essentially a godsend and a strengthener for the Dean political campaign.  Conversely, Shirky argues that blogs were one of the monumental downfalls of the campaign.

Trippi was very passionate that the Dean campaign’s use of blogs afforded individual’s involvement unlike traditional media, and consequently strengthened the campaign.  He argued that blogs were a gathering space and a way for individual political voice’s to be heard.  Trippi stated,  “If our leaders weren’t going to debate the war and the Patriot Act and other things, doesn’t mean that Americans have to be silent… biases are right out in front for everyone to read.  Hell, a blogger is his opinions and biases- that’s the whole point.”   Moreover (and a bit contradictory), he suggested that blog interaction allowed all people to feel they were making a significant difference, that people were involved because they wanted to do something.  In other words, people needed this feeling of being a part of something bigger, a monumental and communal revolution.  Concluding his argument, Trippi explained that the people gathered in Bryant Park (for the Sleepless Summer Tour) were exuberant and euphoric essentially for themselves.  That for the first time in a political campaign they felt like they were part of a revolution to “take it (the country) back.”  Trippi suggested that a good portion of Dean campaign’s (perceived) success was due to the empowerment afforded by the blogs.

Shirky breaks down the Dean campaign’s use of blogs into six major areas that, in total, he suggests lead to the campaign’s demise.  “Fervor Isn’t Votes” was an extremely interesting segment.  He explains that blogs are simply conversation tools and suggests that voluminous postings turned into white noise.  Frequent, eloquent, or decorated posts/posters and sharing political opinions is not synonymous with voter conversion.  According to Shirky “Talking the loudest or most or even best means nothing”.  Essentially, Dean’s robust blog should not be confused with a winning campaign’s blog.  Similar to the beliefs of Karpf, the number of people involved should not be confused with the strength of the strategy / campaign.  Along the same lines, Shirky points out that blogs bring together like-minded people (topic dependent) and that Dean supporters flocking to Dean blogs to post pro-Dean mementos were preaching to the converted, rather than to the undecided.  Shirky concluded by stating that in retrospect and in actuality, Dean accidentally created a powerful movement rather than a campaign, and again, they are not synonymous. “We ourselves were supporting a movement rather than a campaign.”

In essence, both authors claim that blogs in the Dean campaign lead people to feel like they were part of a larger forceful revolution, though Trippi argued this as a positive, and Shirky it is a negative.  Fundamentally, each author is coming from a different place.  Trippi: the Dean campaign was highly successful in part because blogs were a ground for people to rally behind their politician.  Blogs were political tools.  Shirky: the Dean campaign was destroyed by intentionally biased, information sharing chatter.  Blogs are conversational, information sharing tools.

Blogs as a political tool infer a conversational / information sharing aspect.  However, blogs as conversational / information sharing tools do not infer a political aspect.  While it seems that each author is discussing Dean’s official campaign blog, this is never actually stated.  If this is true, what about all of the impact of other blogs that cropped up during that time?  They do not seem to explored or taken into accounted.

Do you believe there are different ways to classify blogs, or different types of blogs?  Should different meanings and uses of blogs be further deconstructed and examined as a possible aide to future political campaigns? Do you believe the classification / type of blog used in future political campaigns affects the outcome?  Is new terminology needed to help define and describe various kinds of blogs? Do you believe we’re splitting hairs and that blogs are uniform regardless of their use?

Layne Steele Paddon

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