Thursday, March 01, 2007

CNN Effect & the Blogosphere

I've been giving some thought to how what goes on in the blogosphere expresses and explains world events and to what extent this form of free expression shapes world events.

I have absolutely NO illusions that my humble little Mind-Muffins has much impact. I have a dozen or so faithful readers and then get the odd assortment of folk who do a google search looking for something else entirely but are somehow led here. (I really must apologize to all those people who are trying to research Elliptical machines and keep getting directed to my posting about my beloved assembling the one he bought in January.)

I've also found that there is apparently some porno star who goes by the name Belladonna... not something I was aware of when I took on the appellation. I was thinking more of the Stevie Nicks album when I adopted the pseudonym.

At any rate, my little blog if far too mundane to generate much serious interest, and I'm OK with that. I'm always flattered when I get linked by more serious writers than myself, but I have no illusions of grandeur.

All that being said.... there are SOME blogs that have a readership of thousands, elite sites that appear to be shakin' up folks ideas and attitudes on a whole range of topics.

So what I'm talking about here is more along those lines.... not the hundreds of teen-age angst blogs or the rude/crude nonsense crap that pollutes the Web. Not the contemplate my navel introspection kind. Rather, I am recognizing that there are several blogs which do more looking OUTWARD than inward. As an observer of community trends, mores and values, I'm just a bit curious about the impact that is having on our culture.

Back in 2002, there was a flurry of talk about the "CNN EFFECT" , referring to "the effect that continuous and instantaneous television may have on foreign policy, in the making of foreign policy and the conduct of war." (see link for source).

Since that time, the amount of political commentary on blogs by both private individuals and professional journalists has grow exponentially. The main difference that I see is that CNN does have a staff whose sole job it is to verify claims before they are aired. Bloggers, in contrast, make up the entire spectrum when it comes to reliability and ethics of what is reported. With no peer review or editorial chief to answer to, all too often words go tumbling out without regard for the questions my grandma used to say we should all ask ourselves before we say anything:

1) is it true?
2) is it kind?
3) is it necessary?

Things get said that are none of the above on a daily basis. I cannot help but ponder a bit on the consequence of that.

Knowing what and whom to believe in this murky quagmire of words can be quite daunting.

However, it appears that there are those movers and shakers who are increasingly paying attention to what bloggers have to say, using the more elite blogs as a sort of pulse of what things the grand populous is concerned about.

From The Power and Politics of Blogs by Daniel W. Drezner and Henry Farrell:
"In 1999, the number of blogs was estimated at under 50; at the end of 2000, estimates range from 2.4 million to 4.1 million. One study estimates that by 2005 more than 10 million blogs will have been created."

Ok. So here we are in 2007. The blogs on the airwaves are like stars in the sky. They seem to be endless.

Also, like the stars, some are dim, some shine brightly. Some flame out as comets. Some provide guiding lights you can depend on for direction, like the northern star.

But how to tell which is which in this grand astronomy of words?

I'm rethinking which blogs I read consistently and which ones I pop in on from time to time.
I'm re-evaluating WHY I read as many as I do...some are like a sweet visit with a dear pal. Others are definitely hard core study. Both have value... they are just very different.

Yet beyond how I allow this profusion of words to affect ME, I am pondering how our free expression in the blogosphere effects our world.

What do you think?


Marie said...

I certainly agree that there is way too much information floating around to ever absorb. However, I don't read many "serious" blogs. While I'm intrigued by the ability of serious journalistic blogs to subvert the agendas of the major news outlets, I am also wary of the lack of editorial review. It's often hard to get at anyone's true agenda (except Fox TV's), but most everyone has one, whether conscious or un, whether network or joe blo.

I think of the blogosphere as a bunch of phone conversations. I continue to talk to my family even though they rarely have anything Important to say about life -- I talk to them for the sake of connecting, of getting things off my chest, of learning of family goings and comings. This is just a new format, and one that allows anyone to theoretically join in on the conversation. I think I'm like most of my fellow casual bloggers in that I don't go out looking for new blogs to read and I don't actively advertise my blog outside my circle of friends -- I just putter along, writing in my online "journal" for the benefit of anyone who's interested or just wants a diversion. And if no one reads it, at least it was good therapy.

I hope the serious bloggers of the world can succeed in their quests to change the world for the better. The challenge for those with Important things to say will be getting themselves heard over the din created by the rest of us clowns. I wish them well, because while I like this democratic Internet, pure democracy is chaos. Thank goodness America isn't a pure democracy -- I can handle the chaos online, but I need my reality to be a bit more stable. And if the chaos of the Internet bleeds over into reality too much, we will have to start cracking down on the Internet. It will be interesting to see what happens. Internet fascism to counter the chaos?

Mimi said...

I think that this sums it up (and are the rules of a good friend of mine with her kids):

1) is it true?
2) is it kind?
3) is it necessary?

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