I only followed this only very tangentially, but from what I can
gather, I think Geert is right. In many ways, this is old news. It's
a classic case of a community where all members used to have all
the rules internalized, i.e. they were 'voluntarily' adhering to
them, thus there was no need to enforce them. As the community grows,
people join who do not repress in the same way their ideosynractic
urges. Now, the community comes under stress how to deal with them.
The illusion of voluntary consensus has been shattered. They have to
find a way how to transform their "undifferentiated openness" into
something structured without killing off the community dynamics. One
might call this "sustainable openness". We've seen that with usenet,
email lists, online forums, and now blogging. Pretty similar issues,
including misogyny.

However, it's not a simple re-run in all respects. There's also
something that is definitely different from the earlier cases.
Blogging has become so big that it's not only attracting destructive
energies but it begins to matter in a main-stream way (usenet, email
lists, online forums never did). At least in the hypersensitive US
political scene, "a-list" bloggers wield considerable influence (or at
least, political operatives believe this).

As a consequence, these bloggers have to decide how to deal with their
growing power and the politics than come with it. In other words, they
are slowly being transformed from observers into actors, from being
independent, honest commentators to becoming part of the inner circle.

Almost all candidates in the US presidential race are trying to
enlist bloggers in their campaigns, as paid staff members. Even
those bloggers who remain nominally independent suddenly have their
postings examined under strategic considerations, ie. readers and
other bloggers are beginning to wonder if there are hidden preferences
and secret deals. And even these bloggers who remain truly independent
have to watch out what they say, otherwise some "provocative" posting
will come back to haunt them should they decide to become full-time
political consultants at a later point. This just happened to two
bloggers who had to resign from the Edwards campaign.

This, actually, strikes me as much more critical than some people     
spewing hate in easy-to-control comment sections. Monitoring comments 
is a task that can be accomplished easily and cheaply. Slashdot has   
done that years ago.                                                  

The real issue with respect to political blogging is this: how to
exert real mainstream influence without becoming subsumed under the
existing logic of power? Quite difficult to pull off.

My hunch is that political bloggers will turn into affiliated
advocates more or less aligning with the current power (and
counter-power) structures. Running a successfull blog is the ticket
to enter the establishment (be it the political or media one, if one
cares to differentiate between them).


--- http://felix.openflows.com ----------------------------- out now:
*|Manuel Castells and the Theory of the Network Society. Polity, 2006 
*|Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks. Ed. Futura/Revolver, 2005 

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