Responding to David’s presentation at DCI this past weekend, esteemed commenter eury 13 asked the question that we should all be asking ourselves:
So how do we avoid the bubble effect? How to we make sure that we’re actually connecting with the real world and not just reinforcing what’s already in our own heads?
The only answer I can think of is that we need to, well, connect with the real world. A lot. As often as possible.
Blogs are a terrific medium for discussion, for intellectual ferment, sometimes for organizing and fundraising. But let’s face it: Bloggers and readers are a self-selecting group: Some are drawn to the possibility of conflict (trolls and rubberneckers); some to read ideas they can’t find other places. But these folks all share a few characteristics: 1. They’re politically and intellectually engaged and active, even if only at the computer, and 2. They have time to spend at the computer, and do so.
Needless to say, there are a lot of people who don’t fit that description. Some people don’t have the time to read blogs; some don’t have the interest; many folks are turned off by politics as a whole; many folks are turned off by blogs (too wordy, too terse, too pompous, too nasty, too partisan).
If we want to have influence over our communities and politics, folks who read blogs must simply make a sustained effort to find these folks. We need to develop and sustain social skills, in other words; we need to actively seek out opportunties to talk to folks who are not exactly like us. And we need to be the kind of people who are influential. A little Dale Carnegie might do us all a bit of good, because in the end, blogs are not the story. We’re just a forum.
I’m remembering back to when Lynne started Left in Lowell. She had been posting here for a while. She was (and is) heavily involved in a number of community-activist projects in Lowell. She wondered out loud what she would write about, but the answer was obvious: She was the story. And so she writes about things that she does.
Also, look at our esteemed commenter Cos, who seems to work on every special election legislative campaign from Medford to Foxborough — and beyond. He writes in to tell us what’s going on from his perspective, but really, he is the story.
And so is everyone who reads this, who goes to local meetings of Democratic Town Committees or activist groups; who meets candidates for DA or State Rep or City Councilor, at an event or in line at the grocery store; who has a story to tell about health care or crappy service at the DMV; etc. etc.
It’s all fine and well to read the papers and blog on the big stories covered by the professional media. Like everyone else, bloggers are utterly dependent on a strong, professional, skeptical, relevant media corps.
It’s worthwhile to ask what blogs can do for campaigns. Yes, it’s been demonstrated that blogs can raise money for candidates; it’s somewhat less obvious what blogs can do to organize people on the ground. As commenter EdinArlington so eloquently said, “campaigns are shitwork, campaigns are shitwork, shitwork wins”. Are there ways to use blogs to make campaign work more innovative, more exciting, more genuinely interactive with the public? How do we get campaigns to talk with people, not so much at them; to help voters feel respected by campaigns, and not like heavily propagandized sheep? Can a blog be used as a feedback mechanism for campaigns seeking new ways to influence and be influenced by voters?
Again, blogs are not the story. They are interesting, useful, and powerful, but in terms of politics and policy they are still only another cog in the machine. The real story is still happening when people meet each other face-to-face.