Reflections of a Blogger?: The Medium is the Message

by on August 11th, 2005

Just caught the streamed video from NPI’s Reflections of a Blogger about the emerging role of the Internet in progressive politics which, BTW, I highly recommend. Lot’s of lessons to take away there but the overall message I gleaned was that, to paraphrase the obscure post-modern words of the infamous McLuhan, the medium is that message. Not to be unduly obscure myself, all I mean to say is that it’s not our father’s – or mother’s – media anymore. I know, Duh! But my belabored point here is that the medium by which the content is delivered or exchanged directly influences the nature of that content and how it is processed.

Again, duh. This phenomenon is of course obvious to bloggers and bloggees(?). Blogs are a medium that is much more a conversation than a lecture. At least the progressive ones, that is, as Kos noted. Most of the top conservative blogs don’t even allow comments; more a handing down of talking point inscripted tablets from on high than a lateral exchange of ideas and critiques of same. Progressives on the other hand have settled on creating talking points by committee, as it were, or more to the point by community. Both Kos and Trippi pointed to media as being merely a flexible tool that can be, and is, applied any number of ways given it’s producer’s goals and philosophy, be it radio, the net, print or the coming 1000 channel satellite TV. A hammer to be used to create either shelter or mayhem.

What is clear is that the GOP machine of late has almost unerringly weilded media and technology to hammer the Democrats and commit mayhem upon the progressive cause. Kos, Trippi and Simon were all three on message in exhorting progressives to match the conservative new media blitz in all it’s manifestations, but to do so in their own unique way. Gore’s Current TV is one early attempt. Its distributed community based content approach certainly contrasts with the disciplined, centralized message machine that is Fox News. Current and Link TV are but two channels of what Murdoch plans very soon to be 1500 on DirectTV. Given his less than subtle politics, you can be sure that the conservative message will be well represented. It’s crucial that progressives strive to match if not surpass those offerings in quantity if not style.

So, yes, it can be said that we progressives are behind in the adoption of new media and net technology as conduits of a simple yet resonant message for the 21st century. but I submit that progressives have already leapfrogged conservatives in our approach to these tools. I happen to favor an organic interpretation of the world and advocate over-growing rather than annihilating the opposition. Like our blogs, we have been and should remain decentralized, distributed and bottom up as we leverage our hammers to rebuild the movement and retake our future. The net and the coming interactive digital broadcast medium will inherently lend themselves to just such a complex, adaptive and open system style of operation. In the way of such systems our resurgence can be an emergent one, born of a million voices; forged by a million hands. No rigid, centrally controlled machine can long resist that. Yes, they can own it but, ultimately, they cannot control it. Though it be dammed, dredged and leveed the river finally, inexorably, will find its own course again through the endless actions of infinite tiny but interactive forces. So will we again find our way.

Kit Robinson