Is Digital Democracy only for the left?

Is Digital Democracy only for the left?
One of the biggest triumphs of the Internet is that one can attend important gatherings without actually being there. A case in point was the Digital Democracy Teach-In yesterday in San Diego. The Webcast was outstanding and well worth the time.

In a nutshell, this event was a gathering of some of the top minds in the U.S. on the subject of the Internet and politics. Joe Trippi’s session was fascinating, but I especially enjoyed the panel with Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis and Dan Gilmor. The subject was “Gatekeepers No More? The Grassroots Challenges the Journalist Priesthood.”

Rosen was his usual brilliant self, and he nailed the subject repeatedly.

The production of silence has been a role of the mass media.

Op-ed argument by journalists is not at the same level as bloggers.

The model of professionalism is coming undone. People view journalists themselves as insiders and that erodes their authority. They’re going to have to find a way to more legitimize their authority in ways that are more transparent, interactive, and open. Pointing to information will become an essential journalistic act.

Bloggers do it for love, which is a very powerful thing. Professionals may love their work, but they do it for pay. Amateurs are a threat, not because they’re going to take over, but because they have a different motivation.

Despite the valuable insight provided, there were two things that troubled me about this event. Nearly everyone who took the stage was decidedly left of center politically. Some people chose to use the platform to loudly spout anti-Bush sentiment, which I suppose is their prerogative. But when segment after segment continued the theme, I was simply disappointed. Organizers told Jarvis that they had tried to get speakers from the right. I don’t doubt that, but the whole event would’ve felt more like a teach-in and less like a political rally had they been successful. And since one of the criticisms of blogging and the political Web is that it produces a vast echo chamber of those preaching to the choir, it would seem that they would try a little harder next time.

The second thing that bugged me was the inane questions and commentary from the floor. Many people used the occasion to make speeches or hawk their own wares. Putting these types of people together with microphones is an incredible service to the world, but the whole thing comes crashing to the ground when some jerk decides it’s time for his opinion. During the aforementioned panel, for example, one questioner droned on for six minutes with his take on the subject. Who cares? His perspective was shallow and he never really asked a question. Granted, this is the stuff of blog comments, but in this format, it was inappropriate.

One interesting aside in all of this. The event was held at the Westin Horton Plaza San Diego, a very nice hotel/conference center. The hotel has a T‑1 line, but this event overwhelmed the bandwidth at times. The audience was filled with bloggers who were writing and posting through the sessions via the hotel’s WiFi connectivity. The folks running the audio stream were smart enough to avoid WiFi, but the stream was constantly competing with the bloggers for bandwidth. This is only going to get worse downstream, something of which the hotel business is likely well aware.


  1. interesting…

  2. There were more than a couple of us out here in the blogosphere who would have attended that conference if political conservatives had been fairly represented, or at least acknowledged. Conservatives have been blogging as much as liberals, and the political blogging community — particularly the self-appointed blogger-elites — is far bigger than the Deaniacs

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