Sunday, January 20, 2008

I am wondering about the real importance of blogging to democracy.

Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture agrees with many other advocates of the blog. He argues that blogs allow for asynchronous public discourse. That is, discourse in which people talk about public issues, but they don't all have to be in the same place at the same time. For decades, local democratic traditions of town halls and the like have been atrophying. Lessig and others believe that blogs create a kind of virtual town hall. They also argue that blogs take control of public discourse out of the hands of the corporations that own the news media.

On the other hand, other internet experts have pointed out, correctly, I think, that the internet tends to make people focus on their own increasingly small areas of interest and expertise. I could read blogs all day and only ever read ones that I agree with.

So are blogs a tool of democracy or of narcissism? I guess it depends on how a blogger uses them. But are there rules or cultural norms that bloggers should be expected to follow to make blogs a more effective space for public debate?