Archive for April 2008
I’ll be in London Thurday and Friday for a conference at Royal Holloway, University of London, called Politics: Web 2.0. I am presenting work-in-progress on ‘The Labors of Internet-Assisted Activism: overcommunication, miscommunication, and communicative overload’. Based on some field research I have done on the role of new media in primary campaigns here in the US, I want to give some push-back on the notion that new media simply lowers the costs of communication. While that is certainly true, and has been argued forcefully, most recently by Clay Shirky in his very, very interesting book, Here Comes Everybody, I want to add to that the complications that follows from precisely that–when costs of communicating are low for every individual, and the number of platforms of communication is increased, there will simply be more communication, and the aggregate transaction costs are not easy to keep down, and this creates all sorts of complications of overcommunication, miscommunication, and communicative overload.
my paper is available here. Comments are most welcome!
MPSA was pretty good. My panel was great, good fellow presenters in Jane Anna Gordon, Laura Montanaro, and Antony Lyan. Lisa Disch was a great chair and discussant.
Other pearls include fascinating work on ‘Strategic Obfuscation by Members of Congress’, analyzing what information political websites choose to divulge and what to withhold, despite the low costs of putting it up. David Lazer, Kevin Esterling, Michael Neblo, and Curt Ziniel has gathered a mountain of qualitative and quantitative data for this, and it will be interesting to see where it goes.
Had a chance to meet a couple of Danes, Henrik Bang and Anders Esmark, and their co-conspirators Michael Crozier, Mike Jensen, Brian Nelle, and John Altick for an early Sunday-morning panel that turned into more of a roundtable. It was interesting.
Oh, and Chicago was great.
I’m going to the Midwest Political Science Association’s 2008 Annual Meeting over the weekend. Four days of political science, rather overwhelming. Hope to get a chance to meet Shanto Iyengar and John Zaller, who will be presenting. Grad students Timothy Kersey (Indiana) and Bryce Dietrich (Kansas) also look like they will be presenting interesting work. I couple of friends (Amy Styart and Tom Ogorzalek) are also on the program. Oh, and so am I–work in progress on the public, rather exoteric stuff on John Dewey, Walter Lippman, and Jürgen Habermas, I’m afraid–one of these days, I plan to rewrite that paper to put my own argument up front, illustrate it, and downplay the exegesis that helped my make it. But time, time is scarce these days.
I was at Media Re:Public in LA over the weekend, a conference co-hosted by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the USC Annenberg School for Communication.
It was very interesting, and a number of people have blogged about it in an intelligent fashion, including Martin Moore, Richard Sambrook, Victoria Stodden on the Internet & Democracy Berkman Blog, David Weinberger, and Ethan Zuckerman.
The conference aimed to bring together scholars and practioneers and survey the state of the field of participatory media (or citizen media, or public media, even the terms are unclear) within the overall news and information environment. The conference demonstrated its own necessity, so to speak, in that most of those present seemed to leave mostly confused at a higher level–that’s great, of course, nothing against sophisticated confusion, but also a great illustration of how murky the waters still are, and a great illustration of why the project is valuable.
They have a blog here.
Given it is at least as necessary a link in the chain that brings people from geographically disenfranschised areas like New York City to where electoral activism actually matters as social software tools, I demand more respect for the bus as a medium for political participation.
Like the telephone and the postal system, the bus is such a mundane medium for political participation that it is easy to forget how it and other technologies of everyday life are integral to much political activism. Like voting machines, they become visible only when they are not working or missing—when activists are waiting for the bus that just does not come, when the organizer can’t get reception, when someone has forgotten to buy the envelopes for those direct mail letters.
We tend to discuss the relationship between technology and politics in terms of the most recent additions to our arsenals, but the clipboards, signs, and–well–busses, are necessary too. New forms of organizing are extensions and rearrangements of elements, many of whom are old and familiar. Anyone who has spent anytime in any campaign knows how paralyzing it is when the mundane technologies go missing. Smaller campaigns would probably loose more of their punch if their bus crashed than if their facebook group went dead.