Can weblogs change politics?

07/06/2003

Are you interested in the political implications of weblogs and social software? Then come to Can Weblogs Change Politics? – an event held in the House of Commons on July 14th. Here’s an quick excerpt from the proposed topics of discussion:

“Weblogs (ëblogsí) and associated “social software” tools have been this yearís big news online. But can they be used politically, and if so, how and to what end?”

I’m really looking forward to discussing this component of the programme, because I think that it’s one of those statements that could only be made by someone directly involved in politics. The assumption seems to be that the weblogging publishing system is a tool created that one could use to effect political change – presumably by allowing MPs to communicate more fully with their constituents or by being a point to actively campaign around. What’s completely missed are the potential implications of a massive group of people interacting with each other and with information and news in massively more active ways. We’re not in that kind of world yet, and indeed we may not ever be, but if large blocks of the citizenry started to organise their relationships with each other, with information provision and with government and mass media then that would have a dramatic effect on political life in this country. When we see the whole Trent Lott debacle in the States, and the effect and importance (for good or evil) of people like Glenn Reynolds who quickly became politicised loci for massive numbers of warbloggers, then the question stops being “Can they be used politically?” and starts being, “Are they changing the nature of the citizenry?”. And if you need some help with that one, check out GW Bush’s presidential campaigning website and particularly the middle panel of this page

So anyway – it should be a good debate, even though (typically) all the invited parties seem to be relatively short-term webloggers who are employing them as tool to facilitate their day-jobs. It’s a shame that there aren’t any representatives of the culture itself on the panel. I’d have liked to have seen one of the UK’s directly political (or community ‘embedded’) webloggers (the Politx crew for example) represented. But the UK has always been more suspicious of trends and behaviour that emerges from the masses than the States has, so I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised…