Posts from December 2001

Top-down and Bottom-Up Models for Online Politics

Scott Reents and Thomas Hill have written an interesting article on why political sites fail, and what they can do about it [Democracy Project]. Bottom line: political sites fail because they are based on the one-way model of traditional campaign media. As the authors put it:

In particular, current political sites are failing to adhere to the new rules of the "citizen-centric" Internet. Because the Internet puts citizens in control over the information they access, it requires that political organizations think and act as service providers to, rather than as mobilizers of online constituents. A citizen-centric campaign recognizes that it is most powerful when it practices the enlightened self-interest of true cooperation, ceding control to citizens as the most effective way to accomplish shared goals.

It’s worth noting that the most continually successful politically-oriented sites on the web are services such as Independent Media Center and Free Republic, Feminist Majority Foundation Choices Campus Community, and innumerable e-mail listservs all over the Internet, which center around forums for user-contributed content.

My hope is that the trends exemplified by Internet users here will successfully drive political candidates and groups more and more towards bottom-up, participatory democracy as the primary form of web interaction, that the mood of the Internet user will force them to adopt this strategy in order to survive. The Internet as it stands if full of limitations – we need to work hard at making Internet access and resources more available to people in poverty, making it a less toxic space for women, and developing software and hardware that empower users apart from mega-corps like AOHell-Time Warner and Microsoft and Netscape). But I hope and believe that it can also be opening up a horizon for truly democratic spaces in ways that traditional media have systematically ruled out. We have a great hope of winning this one, if we fight.

For further reading:

WOMB Rally for Reproductive Rights in Michigan

For any readers I may have in Michigan: A while ago I ran across the page for Women Outraged by Michigan Bureaucracy (WOMB), an active pro-choice group spearheaded by Flint feminists. They’re doing work around the Michigan state government’s hostility towards abortion access, as well as general feminist organizing. Check them out!

The End of Free

The End of Free is a weblog chronicling the dying of free/ad-supported content and the transition to fee services "and beyond." (Here’s hoping that the beyond includes a good micropayment scheme in the very near future, because if it keeps going the way of subscription services, the prospects are grim.

For further reading:

  • GT 10/5/2001 Salon makes itself more useless to web readers
  • GT 6/9/2001 Feed and Suck go under
  • GT 3/23/2001 Salon announces death of free content on the web with the introduction of their for-pay premium service