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Friday, February 03, 2006

Mining For Ideas...

I am an occasional reader of Slate magazine (an online editorial site) and one thing I've noticed about them is that they have really started to focus on the culture of the internet. It should come as no surprise to me then, that I stumbled across a section of their magazine entitled "Today's Blogs." Apparently in this section they are keeping tabs on what bloggers are talking about on any given day.

On today's list, for example, they say that bloggers are "alarmed by Muslim anger over the publication of caricatures of Mohammed. They are also saddened that drug smugglers now are using puppies as mules." A couple of days ago, not surprisingly, the blog topic was the State of the Union address.

I think it's interesting that Slate has instituted this recurring section because it suggests that blogs are prevalent enough to pay attention to (something we are coming to grips with) and that bloggers tend to latch onto similar ideas on any given day. The other interesting facet is that the majority of these topics are stemming from our news media. The Muslim anger they mention is over some "cartoon drawings of the Prophet Mohammed in newspapers around Europe" and apparently the Muslims are turning to their blogs to vent. It's interesting that we can now instantly gauge people's reactions to the news and to events by simply searching for blogs. A topic's relative popularity, the vehemence it inspires, or the debates taking place can more accurately indicate how people feel about political decisions, corporate scandals, or the latest celebrity haircut. Should we be polling blogs to find out how people really feel?

I've been a little leary of assuming that blogs have taken on prominence in our culture. Just because a large section of the population has one or reads them doesn't mean we really have something to say. And in truth, communicative power is still concentrated in the hands of a few. There are a couple hundred really popular blogs that have gained enough noteriety to be mentioned as valid sources. There are still more newspapers or television journalists to tell us what to think. But I think this Slate piece points out something that I had not noticed before, that blogs as a medium has vast potential. If you don't like something, blog about it, because chances are, if enough people get on and rant, someone will notice and report it in the traditional media where it cannot be ignored.

If we truly live in a democracy then maybe blogs are the best way we can exercise our individual voice. If the government is going to insist upon scanning our internet histories and search records, perhaps we should add our opinions, whatever they may be, to the national record through our blogs.



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