Date: Wed, 28 Jan 2004 14:17:14 -0500 (EST)
From: Art McGee
I’m sorry, I’m just having trouble understanding why you can’t see through the most important problem with electoral analysis: the assumption that distribution of support for a candidate will be equal across all states, and therefore, if you lose these initial states, that means you’re out of the race.
More importantly, the manipulations of electoral politics by Capitalist media seem to me to be something that make the entire process fraudulent. Have you ever seen a literal horse race in which people were able to bet after the race started? No? Then why do we allow that in our elections? The very nature of the reporting about the race and the speculation about possibilities of winning for particular candidates is a blatant manipulation of the process itself.
In effect, U.S. Presidential elections are invalid by default, but maybe I’m not grasping the sociological underpinnings of why we run them this way.
Date: Wed, 28 Jan 2004 12:32:36 -0800 (PST)
From: “Robert M. Tynes”
No need to be sorry. I couldn’t agree with you more…except for: “why we run them this way.”
WE don’t run them any more than the person at a slot machine runs the casino. See Karl Rove and the Texas shift from Dem. to Rep. See the lack of unity in the Dem. party, hence the opportunity for the press to run the show and not give us a coherent and understandable picture of the issues(i.e. the lame and fleeting Dean scream that makes for better news than foreign policy positions).
Who’s we, and why do we think their is an us? Constitutional mythos?
I wish there was a we.
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2004 13:46:29 +1100
From: Jonathan Marshall
I don’t know if people saw Weinberger’s response to Shirky. Weiberger wrote “small peices loosely joined” and is Dean’s web campaign person.
The arguement seems to be the old one. The Net leads to fantasy, or online satisfaction, rather than real world action (Shirky) vs. the Net challenges everything and is a new public space going to forge new social alliances [social software](Weinberger).
At the moment this seems to a matter of assertion. Weinberger asserts the Dean campaign would be nowhere without the Web and it has allowed the raising of funds etc.
It would be nice if we could actually get beyond these kinds of dichotemies even if it was just to ask “what kinds of offline social interaction is furthered by the Internet, and which is not?”
It may be that established powers are not yet threatened by the net, they can use it better etc. It may simply be that people forget that the Net is embedded within a society which has very specific conflicts and dominances and is thus not simply going to escape those dominances, who are as good at colonising new spaces as ever.
However it might be worth asking if there some aspect of power – what Michael Mann calls ‘interstitial power’, which is invisible to the dominancies and thus able to be organised through the net?
Or is it simply that we old folks, have not yet got into the habit of integrating online life with offline? Is the perception of the gap the problem, both ways….?
Oh well, nothing useful i guess..
From: “Ren Reynolds”
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2004 14:46:00 -0000
I’ve been meaning to post about the same thing, the assertion in the
piece that found most _interesting_ was this:
“We know well from past attempts to use social software to organize
groups for political change that it is hard, very hard, because
participation in online communities often provides a sense of
satisfaction that actually dampens a willingness to interact with the
Is there data to back this up ?
I would imagine that it would depend on the community that was created.
Certainly some research on Virtual World communities seems to indicate
that membership of the community is empowering and can make people more
politically active. So does any one here have the data to share the ‘we
know well’ assertion ?
From: “Joao Vieira da Cunha”
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2004 09:55:13 -0500
Ren and fellow AoIRs,
I conducted a study of the use of a newsgroup in a company during a large scale change that was threatening to employees’ identity and found that participation on the newsgroup, on-line and off-line lurking all had a cathartic effect, ie. They reduced people’s willingness to resist change. There were even textual rituals enacted on the newsgroup at the highest peaks in tension during the change process, which consisted in people posting blank messages at rates over 100 messages a day.
Without posting the whole paper, I’ll share with you a quote from one of
[O]ne of the functions of the [Newsgroup] was that independently of bringing people closer, of helping them develop, of the role it played, it was a very powerful instrument that was favorable to the company in the sense of being the escape valve for a lot of stuff […] It was a very useful escape valve that the company did not value.
I’m currently working on writing this up, but I’ll be happy to share it once it’s done.
Hope this contributes to the discussion,
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2004 08:56:16 -0600
From: Nancy Baym
In response to the Clay Shirky piece, Ren comments:
>I’ve been meaning to post about the same thing, the assertion in the
>piece that found most _interesting_ was this:
>”We know well from past attempts to use social software to organize
>groups for political change that it is hard, very hard, because
>participation in online communities often provides a sense of
>satisfaction that actually dampens a willingness to interact with the
>Is there data to back this up ?
I had the same reaction to the same line and was surprised that in
the comments reacting to the piece no one questioned this assertion.
I find it implausible that people who are using the internet to
retreat from offline life would choose a political action online
community in which to do so. Perhaps some of the air-l readers whose
work speaks more directly to political engagement can clarify this.
Certainly in the interpersonal realm, those who use the internet most
for interaction seem also to be those who communicate most
face-to-face and on the telephone.
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2004 17:01:56 -0500 (EST)
From: Art McGee
> I find it implausible that people who are using the
> internet to retreat from offline life would choose a
> political action online community in which to do so.
That’s never been asserted. What’s been said is that the
dependence on online technologies can lull some people into
a false sense of security.
Look folks, this isn’t aerospace engineering. There are a
whole range of factors that determined why Dean is where he
is, and none of them are simple. I don’t understand why
people assume they are.
I have some questions:
1. Why do we assume that Iowa and New Hampshire speak
for the entire country? I live in California, and don’t
understand why other states get to decide the field of
candidates before I’ve even had the chance to vote. For all
we know, Dean could have 100% support in other states, but
due to the nature of the primaries, people get knocked out
before we can discover that. Anyone here done some research
on the flaws in that?
2. Most of the focus on Dean was about the internal
organization of volunteers and core supporters, but little
was said about voters not a part of the campaign (that
includes people who didn’t have time to waste going to
MeetUps). Dean’s strength was his staff and volunteers, but
that can’t be equated with votes. Too many people made the
assumption that one would lead to the other or that they
were one and the same. Why?
3. Dean would be nobody without the net. Why is there an
assumption of failure? If Bill Clinton was running with the
same figures as Dean, that would be failure, but that would
also assume that he was somebody already. Dean was a nobody,
who used the internet to become a somebody. That’s not
failure, that’s incredible success. Why do the idiots like
Clay Shirky and all of you smart researchers wholly swallow
the false paradigm of failure that Capitalist media feeds us?
4. Why is everyone ignoring the politics? Why do people
assume that the reason people didn’t vote for Dean was
something other than his politics? Lots of the people
who were assumed to be Dean supporters don’t really like
him or even know who he is. Remember the article talking
about the lack of support among African-Americans for
Dean? Did Clay Shirky and the rest of those blog idiots
have much to say about that? Well, African-Americans are
one of the core constituencies of the Democratic party.
If they weren’t all that enthused how do you think other
people might have felt?
5. Too much of the focus on and of Dean’s campaign was
about youth. That’s nice, but youth don’t vote. Youth aren’t
stupid, they’re just rightly cynical about the lies fed to
them by Capitalism. While Dean had tremendous youth support
that doesn’t mean that he had lots of eligible voting-age
support. Too much high-tech focus on youth and gadgetry and
not enough on the offline old folks who actually go to the
polls and those city council meetings consistently (which
are important, whereas a MeetUp don’t mean shit to them).
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2004 16:28:43 -0600
From: Nancy Baym firstname.lastname@example.org
> > I find it implausible that people who are using the
>> internet to retreat from offline life would choose a
>> political action online community in which to do so.
>That’s never been asserted. What’s been said is that the
>dependence on online technologies can lull some people into
>a false sense of security.
To the contrary, that is more or less Shirky asserts: “We know well from past attempts to use social software to organize groups for political change that it is hard, very hard, because participation in online communities often provides a sense of satisfaction that actually dampens a willingness to interact with the real world.”
My question (and I think Ren’s) was not whether this is an accurate
explanation of what’s going on with Dean’s campaign, but whether
there is any evidence to support this claim in general — what is the
evidence from the use of social software to organize groups for
political change that participation in online communities results in
less willingness to interact in “the real world”?
Date: Fri, 30 Jan 2004 10:33:41 +1100
From: Jonathan Marshall
For what its worth, my experiences with online groups who tried to
organise anything, and its only subjective and limited, is that it
is exceedingly hard to translate online enthusiasm into actual
*sustained* action of any sort – taking the action offline makes
it even harder.
Furthermore it seems that stuff eventuates when it can be largely all
be done by one or two ‘fanatic’ people – or it can be done through
personal ties between a few list members, or there is already some
kind of offline organisation propelling people.
I think this would be harder still when you are going against
established power or communication systems, or when your class of
members is largely not able to do what you need them to do – say if,
as Art suggests, Dean’s web campaign attracted people who were too young to vote, and not enough of the voters.
These kinds of effects may well be of social origin, not innate to the
Net. Ie to use an old term, in a place were people are already alienated from action, then talk may well be the only action people are
willing to take or risk.
But as i suggested earlier this may also vary with the kind of social
action we are discussing, and the kind of resistances to it. It is not
necessarily an all or nothing thing.
Ie with Dean, it seems much easier to find the mainstream media’s
coverage of the ‘i have a scream’ thing and how it disqualifies him
in some people’s eyes, than to find out anything about what he
actually said. That probably has something to do with already
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2004 19:16:05 -0500 (EST)
From: Art McGee
[Tell Clay Shirky and his ilk to blog this.–Art]
The Black Commentator
January 29, 2004 [Issue 75]
The Awesome Destructive Power of the Corporate Media
“Howard Dean has joined the list of victims of U.S. corporate
media consolidation. …The Dean beat-down should signal an intense reassessment of media’s role in the American power structure. The African American historical experience has much to offer in that regard, since the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements were born in a wrestling match with an essentially hostile corporate (white) media. However, there can be no meaningful
discussion of the options available to progressive forces in the United States unless it is first recognized that the corporate media in the current era is the enemy, and must be treated that way.
Copyright (c) 2004 The Black Commentator. All Rights