Net Activism – Another Flip-Flop

I don\'t know what this means, but I think it has to do with my post. from hugovk\'s flickr

I don't know what this means, but I think it has to do with my post. from hugovk's flickr

OK, so here’s a little foot in mouth: in my earlier post about net activism and the Obama I was perhaps overzealous in dismissing some of the potential relevance of net/blog activism.

This article from the New York Sun on the education blog Eduwonkette makes me reconsider some of my initial thoughts.

First, some nuance: Eduwonkette is an anonymously written blog piggybacking a major print publication’s website (Education Week, a regular serial for the k-12 educators set). They write as an expert (savant?), to a specific audience and to a specific purpose. This is an effort clearly directed at a single, narrow goal. It is not a citizen’s movement.

Posts such as this one (about the policies of a particular New York Department of Education admin) play rhetorical and political hardball, instead of sermonizing on the righteousness of webroots democracy in action (as many netizens are aught to do). The anonymous blogger names names and doesn’t hesitate to play up beefs with individuals, as long as sound theoretical evidence supports those beefs.

The point is this: blogging can take an activist bent when working with a specific audience that has a good chance of reading and understanding the shit someone puts online. It allows for a blogger (and maybe a group of bloggers – I like the blog Crooked Timber for higher ed in this case, or the blog Daily Gotham for NYC Democratic politics – though it sways a bit more towards the overzealous netizen style that I find a bit silly) to wield power within a particular bureaucratic environment, influencing specific people on particular policies.

Blogging can target the personalized nature of bureaucracy (those who get ahead do it by knowing the right people), because it allows anonymity and personalization. In the same way that Perez Hilton stages takedowns of celebrities he doesn’t like, certain bloggers in the right environment can stage takedowns of the folks that wield power in that environment. It provides an alternative to bureaucracy by giving folks at the top of the pile something to fear.

The DoE example in this case shows that a blog, persuasively written and widely distributed, produces an alternative point of power that weighs against the otherwise unchecked authority of bureaucratic higher-ups. Regular folks get shit done because Eduwonkette writes about it – that’s an important thing.

But it’s not the only thing that matters. (To the Obama-folks: just keep posting, maybe something will change! Or maybe not.)

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