Monday, August 07, 2006

Blogs and More Blogs

Sophrosyne at Nova Townhall Blog takes the bull by the horns and adds a few "best ofs..." to self-submitted selections in this week's Virginia Blog Carnival. Sophrosyne caught my entry about the Virginia sales tax holiday, which I neglected to submit to the Carnival on my own. (Thanks for the plug!)

One of the posts mentioned in the Carnival talks about using MySpace and other social networking sites as a campaign tool. In it, Jason Kenney writes:

On a broader scale, does an interactive internet presence really do anything for a candidate? Blogs have begun to play larger roles since the 2004 cycle and this year will really shows whether or not netroots activism really works. MySpace and other networking sites are just extensions of that, other tools at the netroots activist's disposal. The difference is the potential target audience. People that use MySpace and Facebook are primarily 15-25 year olds, a demographic that rarely determines the outcome of elections (which is a sad fact in and of itself). Blogs, on the other hand, have no set age demographic and are a lot more inviting to people seeking information on a candidate or campaign. They also go a lot farther in lending themselves to the "echo chamber" that drives some of the larger stories and get more traditional media attention.

Could having a MySpace presence hurt a candidate? Potentially. By using MySpace you associate yourself with MySpace's public image baggage. I'm sure MySpace loves campaigns using their site, it gives them a bit more credibility and standing. Perhaps it does more for MySpace than the candidates themselves in that respect.
Speaking of blogs and politics, the Christian Science Monitor reported a couple of weeks ago about a survey of bloggers that seems to show that politics is one of the least likely topics to motivate bloggers to blog.

The article, by Tom Regan, begins:
In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 people. When Scottish artist Momus used that phrase back in 1991, he might have had the blogosphere in mind. But even if he didn't, a new report on American bloggers released last Wednesday by the Pew Internet and American Life shows that he was right on the money.

The study indicates that the average American blogger is not a member of the so-called "pajamahudin" who furiously post a dozen or more comments a day expressing a particular political viewpoint. Instead, most bloggers are people who just want to share their everyday experiences with a relatively small group of family and friends, and perhaps a visitor or two who might surf by and find their writing enjoyable - an "audience of the willing," as head Pew researcher Amanda Lenhart describes it.

In other words, as one pundit put it, the average blogger is a 14-year-old girl writing about her cat.
Those bloggers who care about public policy and about influencing a large number of people are in a distinct minority, according to the Pew study:
Americans, it would seem, yearn to be creative, and blogging provides them with an outlet. Seventy-seven percent of the 233 bloggers who took part in the survey said they write a blog in order to have a place to express themselves creatively.

They are not, in fact, writing to attract a large following; 52 percent said they blog for themselves. Another 37 percent said they did it in order to keep up with family and friends. Most bloggers, 59 percent, said they only spend an hour or two a week on their blogs.
I suspect that a larger sample than 233 bloggers would come up with different conclusions. In fact, I think the reason people blog is a combination of the reasons given in the Pew study. Think about it: Why would somebody "blog for himself"? Someone who writes for him- or herself can simply keep a diary on paper. A blog is a public document. That doesn't mean that some bloggers don't write for an extremely limited audience (family and friends, for instance, or the Neighborhood Watch team). But blogs are by their nature not meant for their creators' eyes only.

At the same time, those of us who write entirely or largely about politics and public policy have to realize that we are, really, in the minority. Most people, for good or ill, simply don't care about the topics that animate us. That's no reason to end the conversation, however. For those of us who do care, talking about politics is educational, challenging, enlightening, and fun. We may be a minority, but we are a dedicated and close-knit one.

Update: The latest Carnival of Liberty is now online, too. The song-filled 57th entry in this series can be found at the Socratic Rhythm Method, explained thusly:
You're enjoying the new Socratic Rhythm Method, a new site from the proprietor of the former New World Man blog. The Socratic Method is a method of instruction involving questioning the student so that the student can arrive at the most defensible, persuasive elements of the truth. Often, Socratic instruction fosters an adversarial relationship between instructor and student, and there are hard feelings. That more or less sums up my relationship with readers. The Rhythm Method is the name of a drum solo by Neil Peart.
I never knew about that drum solo. My knowledge of the Rhythm Method dates to this joke, popular in my Catholic high school:
Q: What do you call people who use the Rhythm Method?
A: Parents.
Times change.

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