A loose association of “center-right bloggers” recently jointly published, in all their blogs, an “appeal” about the House Republican leadership contest in reaction to the recent lobbying scandals. They write, in part:
We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.
We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.
Among the signators are such well-known bloggers as John Hinderaker of powerlineblog, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, Hugh Hewitt, Ed Morrissey of CaptainsQuarters, Michelle Malkin, Mike Krempasky of RedState.org, and Bruce Carroll of GayPatriot.
There are many lonely blogs out there, people who get few or no readers, but in a metaphorical sense no one blogs alone. One of the keys to blogging is groupness and group identity, as in, “I am part of this group; I oppose these enemies.” Blogrolling, hat tipping, citing, and formal alliances of bloggers create senses of group. There are also formal groups of Iowa liberal blogs, black conservative blogs, and so on.
In terms of politics, this is significant because while democracy is held to be based on and favor “individual” rights, democracies in fact tend to operate through the agencies of voluntary associations, that is, so-called “interest groups” like unions, the Sierra Club, the oil industry, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and, now, groups of bloggers self-aggregating to champion a cause, reveal a scandal, or pillory a politician. Such “voluntary associations” have always been foundations of the democratic experiment.
Obviously some communication communities within cyberspace are truly interactive: you play a monster game such as City of Heroes and you and your band of avatars co-create the resulting outcomes, including, say, the end of the world. New media technology allows not only an individualistic revolution in media but an interactive one; everyone can add to the message, that is, treat information as “open sourced.” We used to think of mass media as a “closed source” broadcast: somebody distributes a television program, for instance, and lots of people choose to see it or not. But “open source” implies communities of meaning that recode data or code their own, not just decode it. Think of those Star Trek fans who are now videoing (with remarkable special effects that would have astonished Gene Roddenberry) new episodes of the original series (with the old cast members and writers!) Or the Flickr sticky mobs, people who happen to take images of the same event–for example, the London 7/7 bombings–upload them, and find them all grouped in the same Web space. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, allows anyone to contribute entries and change them.
All of this fits in with the considerable amount of writing in last few decades on the “wisdom of crowds.”
The blogswarm, the cumulus cloud of many bloggers posting on a particular issue, is the most sensational case of blogs working together if not actually in point-to-point cooperation or coordination.
While there are many individual influential blogs, such group associations will in the end be one of the most important keys to political power for blogs, bloggers, and blogging.
Originally posted January 17, 2006 at PolicyByBlog