A Political Blogger’s Reading List

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

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6 responses

  1. Excellent list! I would also add in Susan Herring et. al.’s “Women and Children Last: the Discursive construction of the blogosphere” and Amy Alexander’s “The Color Line Online: Minority Bloggers Fight Inequality”. In terms of the future, something about the “Motrin Moms” would be great as well — my post at http://www.talesfromthe.net/jon/?p=279 has links.

    1. Thanks, Jon. I will definitely check out the links!

  2. This is now required reading for students everywhere. Wow.

    1. Thank you, Dan. I appreciate the kind words — I hope it’s helpful!

  3. Nice list. I’d also include the Power and Politics of Blogs by Drezner and Farrell. Also, any investigation on the future of the blogosphere should include a null hypothesis: it ceases to be relevant as a term of analysis.

    These links provide some skepticism that is a useful counterweight to the usual blog triumphalism.

    http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2008/11/blogging-rip/

    http://votewiththis.wordpress.com/2008/12/10/an-interface-for-politics/

    As for the Theory section, I’d recommend some Castells and Habermas, in addition to a little Sunstein. Otherwise, totally badass.

    1. Thanks for your comments and links!

      You’re right, I should have a bit more skepticism in there, so your links are appreciated. I read Carr’s post when it came out…I do think he has something of a point, but on the other hand, subsections of the “blogosphere,” such as the political blogosphere, especially on the left, has never been more vibrant and influential. (Not at all deterministic in terms of our politics and outcomes, but certainly more influential than ever before.)

      Thanks again.

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