Monday, October 02, 2006

The Outsider's Perspective

I've been reading some of the blogs set up by those taking Colin McEnroe's course on blogging. Tonight's class will cover the Senate primary and Colin's students have spent the past few days immersing themselves in our local political blogopshere and blogging about the experience on their own sites.

DSterner, one of the student bloggers, had an insight that really struck me:

The blog diehards are like fans of politics--political junkies. They are not unlike fans of other media. A lot of people watch a popular show like Lost, but then there are the hardcore fans who consider every clue to solving the show's mysteries and debate them among themselves, including the various references that the show's creators put in the episodes--hints and connections that might be lost on a more casual viewer. The show can be enjoyed by both types of viewers.

Is politics another form of fandom? Or maybe the question is: Has the blogosphere created a political fandom?


TrueBlueCT said...

Fandom? Hardly.

I'm politically active in an attempt to bring some accountability into the system. (like keeping Lieberman from selling us out on things like the Bankruptcy Bill, Bush's Energy Plan, torture, Social Security, etc.)

And then there is the destructive politics of the GOP. And of course this ridiculous war.

What the blogosphere has done is grow a group of hyper-aware citizens. Heaven forbid if we relied on the newspapers and the 24/7's to inform ourselves.

Genghis Conn said...

That's a really interesting question. The net lends itself well to creating and driving fandoms (I give you the Admiral Piett Fan Club, as one geeky example), and to a certain extent maybe that's happened with politics.

It may be simplistic to say that instead of obsessing over video games or Stargate SG-1, we obsess over politics. There's more to it than that. People get into politics not just because they think political signs are neat or they're fans of politician "X". There's an awful lot more at stake.

But sociologically speaking, political communities (especially online ones) do exhibit some of the characteristics of a fandom, such as our knowledge of all kinds of tiny details, stats and stories about politics. I've often compared people who follow politics seriously to hardcore sports fans.

I'll have to do more thinking about this. Great question.

cgg said...

Looking back, the state convention in May did feel like some of the Trek conventions I'd attended as a teenager. Even with the tension surrounding the votes people were happy to be among like minded folk, others whom they could discuss politics with to their heart's content.

I don't think politics as a whole is a fandom, but there are some real comparisons that can be made. Take the questions as literally or as figuratively as you'd like.

Genghis Conn said...

There really are a lot of similarities, now that I think of it. The internet and related technologies (like this one) are making it easier for these fannish tendencies to develop. For example, we now have people making their own political ads, and parodies of other people's ads. It's uncomfortably close to fanfic.

Not that this is a bad thing. Politics used to be very closed. It was like a members-only club. You had to know someone to get access, or you had to almost force your way in. Now it's open to anyone with an interest. That's a good thing. All the interest we drive here does bleed into the real world, too.

bluecoat said...

For me, it's a hobby and I do it to relax while staying up on things - as hard as that is for some to beleive. I am very selective about where I blog.

Anonymous said...

Definitely a "hobby with consequences". Politics has always been a source of entertainment in this country, dating back to the 1800's.

Blogs just allow us junkies to chat about it nonstop!

Anonymous said...

This is kind of a no-brainer.

Take this site for example. It's made up of three demographics. Republican staffers who post anon. Democrat staffers who post anon. And then,.....there's the rest, who are no different than the Star Wars geeks minus the dress up aspect. I don't think wonk is a new term.

As for the noble "holding government accountable" aspect to blogs. To anyone who believes that I say, "You're adorable, so cute and innocent. I want to pinch your cheeks."

Sue123 said...

I posted a diary at which had a link to Steve Berry's (running for state senate) site. In about an hour, his site was down.
I really don't know how many people read my Lorenzo Sunflower diaries, but that was scary.

dsterner said...

One big aspect of fandom is buying merchandise, including clothing, and sites like Daily Kos have their own t-shirt shops, so you can wear your subcultural capital--like you would your Trek fan shirt.

cgg said...

Political buttons and bumperstickers are a sort of uniform too. There's also a growing consumer culture around politics that feels fannish.

Kai said...

There are different types of political junkies. Some are most definitely groupies attracted to various cults of celebrity, which should hardly be surprising given our media culture. For such people, electoral politics are pretty much reality-TV for the elite. But some political junkies are simply community activists who lend a hand wherever they can, whether it's a cause celebre or not.

Personally I think the importance of bloggers in the CT primary has been vastly overstated by both MSM and blogs. I'm a Lamont volunteer and a blogger, but here's what I wrote the day after the primary:

"As I see it, blogs certainly helped out, but they didn't determine doodly-squat. What propelled Lamont to victory was local, non-blog-related support, especially from old money in Greenwich and disaffected families in eviscerated working class towns like Bridgeport and New Haven — and neither of those groups is particularly into faux-hip internet culture.

"During the course of Tuesday's primary election, I was lucky enough to give rides to the polls to various voters in Stamford and Bridgeport. All were aware of blogs, but none had been particularly influenced by them. The basic line I heard was this: blogs are good at distributing the burden of research to a collaborative social network and offering rapid response to specific attacks, but that's all. People repeatedly told me that blogs were great at quickly exposing things like Richard Goodstein and the $15/month website, but nobody voted for Lamont because of anything the blogs said. People were voting for Lamont because they fundamentally agreed with his message, and his local outreach organization just worked. In terms of organization, it seems to me that Lamont's experience as a successful entrepreneur was as central to this political fight as Lieberman's utterly out-of-touch DC-fat-cat incompetence."