A Soapbox for Your Thoughts

4 May ’06

Jeff Jarvis liveblogs from the We Media conference on yet another interesting address from Tom Glocer, CEO of Reuters (notice that Jeff doesn’t kvetch about unconferences when he’s listening to Glocer?). This passage in particular got my attention:

He emphasizes the speed at which both development and debate are evolving. He’s quoting lots of Technorati stats (Dave Sifry, across the room, is visibly kvelling): in the last two months, 5 million people started blogs, which is as many as live in centra London. He points to Technorati’s hockey-stick chart and says, “This doesn’t tell me that the world is lazy, that the world is apathetic, that people don’t care about debating serious issues.” But he points then to statistics of falling participation in elections. “It’s not because of an apathetic electorate. People are engaged…. Look at the almost violent debate in the blogosphere… Maybe it’s that people feel their voices are not getting through in the political process…. People seem to feel that they are getting more investment in blogging…. than they are by simply going to the polling place.” In other words, he’s asking whether citizens’ media is becoming a proxy for civic participation. I’m not sure voting is the only gauge of civic engagement; it’s an important one, but it’s not the only way to participate.

There’s no question in my mind that Glocer is right, and I’ve also no doubt that people are right to feel that their vote is ultimately a meek way to express their views about the issues of the day. Given the narrowness of the spectrum represented by our political process – even more so in the U.S. – the multitude of issues on the agenda of any government of the day, and widespread disaffection with the political process generally, using the ballot box to get your point across is a little like whispering in a crowded subway station.

What’s still up in the air is whether blogging matters to the political process. The canary in the coal mine on this is the political blogosphere in the U.S., and my sense of that grand experiment is a definite maybe. Much heat and light, lots of noise in the echo chamber, and some evidence of results, but it’s still very early days.

Want to discuss this some more? Well, come to mesh, and sit down with Warren Kinsella, Andrew Coyne, Paul Wells and Brad Davis, the National Director of Policy and Internet Strategy for the Michael Ignatieff Leadership Campaign.

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