View Thread > Internet & Society > Internet & Society Conference > Compare and contrast with broadcast media
This December, the Berkman Center and some friends are hosting the next in our series of Internet & Society conferences. A placeholder site is here:
This year, we're taking a skeptical look at whether the Internet is transforming politics. We're interested in global themes, in campaigns of all sorts and all levels, and not just the US presidential election.
We'd love your help in pulling together the panels and discussions. What would be most helpful at this stage is to come up with the hardest, most interesting questions that might serve as the organizing principle for a specific panel or discussion session on the primary day of the conference, December 10, 2004. An example might be: 'Are campaigns more effective at engaging young people in campaigns by using Internet technologies?' Give us a better one.
We talk a lot about the power of the web to mobilize voters and raise money. These activities are certainly one way to quantify political participation. But what about a more qualitative view of political participation that involves discourse, dialogue, and a shifting of perspective? Does political discourse actually happen online, or is the web more effective just a tool for rallying people whose minds have already been made up? Is its effect purely polarizing?
I would think that a comparative presentation using representative sampling from both the broadcast media and selected weblogs on the same topic could highlight this question nicely.
Seeing the web as just a tool for fundraising and organizing is the litmus test for those that just don't get the ability of the net for bottom up self organization. Howard Dean and others have talked about this very issue. That the quality of community and discourse stimulated by online political weblogs can be nothing short of revolutionary.
We can look at things qualitatively, but numbers are important too. A quick look at web/household statistics using Nielsen and other sources shows that roughly 50% of americans are online in 8/04, but that basically 95+% watch TV (97% of poor households have a color TV). The number of average hours/day online at home is about one hour/day, while for TV it's about 5 hours/day. Work changes that for online, but probably not by too much. So, discourse online? I doubt it. But as a way of mobilizing people who have made up their mind, but who aren't being active I think there's a real change taking place. At least my own personal anecdotal evidence is that moveon.org is rallying folks who would otherwise just tear their hair out. But is that real? Don't know. I'd like to think that rallying people whose minds are made up is a good thing, we need rallying in helping to rally others.