A professor asked me to put together a reading list related to blogs and politics, for his upcoming course at the New School. I’ve divided up the list into sections, and have added some comments on why I think each post/reference is important. As you’ll see, the main focus is on Daily Kos, as it’s scope, size, and influence (both online and off), at least for me, really make that site the center of what’s happening in the political blogosphere today.
How to Define a “Blog”?
The following readings get at the definition of a “blog,” as the term is often misused, and the medium is often misunderstood. The first two are more or less definitional. The boyd essay goes deeper into theory, referencing the manner in which a blog blurs the boundaries between written and oral speech. The Jenkins essay examines the history of bloggers from a perspective of “fan cultures,” noting how sci-fi fans were able to transition their communities from the paper-based world to the Internet. The Wright article isn’t necessarily about bloggers, but draws out the connections between Web 2.0 (of which bloggers are certainly a part) and oral traditions.
Blog. (September 25, 2008). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved September 28, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog
Daily Kos. FAQ. Retrieved March 2, 2007 from http://www.dkosopedia.com/wiki/DailyKos_FAQ
boyd, d. (2006). “A blogger’s blog: Exploring the definition of a medium.” Reconstruction 6(4). Retrieved December 8, 2007 from http://reconstruction.eserver.org/064/boyd.shtml
Jenkins, H. (2002). Interactive audiences?. In Harries, D. (Ed.), The New Media Book. London: British Film Institute. (Also available in Jenkins, Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture: http://books.google.com/books?id=-gcLB-7FkBQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=henry+jenkins)
Wright, A. (2007, December 2). Friending, ancient or otherwise. The New York Times. Retrieved March 15, 2008 from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/weekinreview/02wright.html
The Importance of Community
While the top-name bloggers often get the spotlight, a blog such as Daily Kos would be nowhere without the strong community of participants that drive the site. The first two links below are “guides” to the community on Daily Kos. The next is a recent example of how the DKos community helps and supports each other. Putnam’s well-known essay is included, as well as Howard Rheingold’s work, to facilitate discussion around what exactly is meant by “community,” and whether or not it equally applies online and off.
buhdydharma (2006). New users guide to dkos, by the pony express. Retrieved December 8, 2007 from http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/6/13/154937/426
RenaRF (2006, November 30). The renaRF guide to daily kos. Retrieved March 3, 2007 from http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/11/30/115042/21
katanalori. Homeless Diarist MiscastDice: HELP IS ON THE WAY! — http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/12/1/144034/165/264/665881
Putnam, R. (1995). Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. Journal of Democracy 6(1), pp. 65-78.
Rheingold, H. (2000). The virtual community: Homesteading on the electronic frontier. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. (Also available online: http://www.rheingold.com/vc/book/intro.html)
Bloggers and Politics — Practice
In the following, I selected a few readings that I think illustrate the impact the political blogosphere has had on our society at large, as well as draw out how the practice of blogging “works.” The first is the story of how Daily Kos came to be; the next, from several years later, demonstrates the impact political bloggers have now not just on national politics, but (and even more so…) also in local races. In the selection I chose from my blog, I attempt to describe the interesting set of dynamics that formed during the 2008 political campaign, and the impact it had on the “netroots.”The next two articles focus on how the political blogosphere has finally “arrived.” (The dynamic between the press and political bloggers is in itself a fascinating story, and could be the subject of an entire post such as this…) Finally, Peter Daou’s “triangle theory” is presented, along with two other posts that examine the issue of political power/relevance.
kos. A Brief History. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/8/5/35451/65527/473/42251
Moulitsas M. (2007, February 7). Local bloggers are the future. Retrieved March 2, 2007 from http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/2/7/04746/77229
Scannella, C. A brief history of obama and the political blogosphere. https://cscannella.wordpress.com/2008/07/04/a-brief-history-of-obama-and-the-political-blogosphere-draft/
Melber, A. (2006, June 13). Politicos court netroots at yearlykos. The Nation. Retrieved March 4, 2007 from http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060626/melber
Fairbanks, Amanda. The Year of the Political Blogger Has Arrived. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/24/fashion/24blog.html?_r=1
Daou, P. The Triangle: Limits of Blog Power. http://web.archive.org/web/20080125194528rn_1/blogreport.salon.com/synopsis.aspx?synopsisId=147a2536-4de0-4716-9cc0-6c681e095ffd
Bowers, C. Obama Closes Daou’s Triangle On Electoral Strategy. http://www.mydd.com/story/2006/6/28/132718/681
Bowers, C. Why Should Anyone Respect The Netroots? http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=8262
Blogging and Politics — Theory
Here are a few academic works that, while not necessarily about “blogging,” are relevant to the subject at hand. boyd’s essay includes the notion of “networked publics.” Gillmor and Jenkins are both excellent studies of participatory journalism and culture. Manovich’s work is essential to any theoretical approach to media. McLuhan and Ong both provide the foundation of “medium theory,” and their work continues to provide insight to the media of today. Clay Shirky’s latest book is helpful in understanding Web 2.0 organizations and organizing. Finally, Turkle’s study of identity in the computer age is relevant when considering how bloggers construct and maintain their online identities.
boyd, d. (2007b). Why youth (heart) social network sites: The role of networked publics in teenage social life. In D. Buckingham (Ed.), MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning – Youth, Identity, and Digital Media Volume (pp. 119-142). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (PDF available: http://www.danah.org/papers/WhyYouthHeart.pdf)
Gillmor, D. (2006). We the media: grassroots journalism by the people, for the people. Beijing: O’Reilly.
Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.
Manovich, L. (2002). The language of new media. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
McLuhan, M. (2002). The Gutenberg galaxy; The making of typographic man. [Toronto]: University of Toronto Press. (Originally published 1962).
McLuhan, M. (1994). Understanding media: The extensions of man. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. (Originally published 1964).
Ong, W. J. (2002). Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. New accents. London: Routledge. (Originally published 1982).
Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody: the power of organizing without organizations. New York: Penguin Press.
Turkle, S. (1995). Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the Internet. New York: Simon & Schuster.
The Future of the Political Blogosphere
There are three main ideas in these readings. The first: What is the implication of practicing our politics (and living our lives) online? Bowers raises the question of where he ends and his blog begins (blogger-as-cyborg); Levy examines the potential of living virtually; Carr provides a counterpoint to a virtual life. The second: What’s next for online politics? Pesce’s description of a “hyperconnected” mob seems simultaneously optimistic and foreboding; my article for techPresident illustrates one possible mode of organizing political action online, Rheingold formulates a “smartmobbed” democracy. The third: Critical theory. These three essays, all taken from the March 2008 issue of First Monday, examine the downside of Web 2.0, and their implications can all be applied to the blogosphere.
Bowers, C. (2006). Being and blogging. Retrieved December 6, 2007 from http://www.mydd.com/story/2006/12/11/1517/3275
Lévy, P. (1998). Becoming virtual: Reality in the Digital Age. New York: Plenum Trade.
Carr, N. Is Google Making Us Stupid? http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/google
Pesce, M. (2008, June 25). Hyperpolitics (american style). Retrieved October 19, 2008 from http://blog.futurestreetconsulting.com/?p=61
Scannella, C. (2008, July 9). Get FISA right: Nomadic democracy. Retrieved October 19, 2008 from http://www.techpresident.com/blog/entry/27163/get_fisa_right_nomadic_democracy
Rheingold, H. Smartmobbing Democracy. http://rebooting.personaldemocracy.com/node/41
Jarrett, K. (2008, March 3). Interactivity is evil! A critical investigation of web 2.0. First Monday, Volume 13 (Number 3). Retrieved March 14, 2008 from http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/2140/1947
Petersen, S. M. (2008, March 3). Loser generated content: From participation to exploitation. First Monday, Volume 13 (3). Retrieved March 14, 2008 from http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/2141/1948
Scholz, T. (2008, March 3). Market Ideology and the myths of web 2.0. First Monday, Volume 13 (3). Retrieved October 10, 2008 from http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/2138/1945