The Next Wave
Chris Bowers comments on how new social software systems, like MySpace, could become the next wave of online political organizing tools.
I feel pretty confident this will take off, even if Essembly or MySpace do not turn out to be the ideal platforms. With the rise of the netroots, it has been revealed that the demand for DIY political organizing is clearly very high. The political blogosphere, for all its free-wheeling nature, it ultimately not a very effective location for organizing actions and events. While Democracy for America and MoveOn.org have shown some promising ways to find like-minded members of their organization near where you live, those networking actions are still, generally speaking, limited to the events officially sanctioned by the parent organization. Eventually, platforms will be created for mass public use where anyone can begin organizing an political event they want. They will be able to find like-minded people in their local area, or build mini-national email lists and discussions around their actions. ...
One thing that appears to be different from this new wave of social software (MySpace, etc.) and the previous wave (blogging, etc.) is that the newer system has even less of the centralized aspect than does blogging. Chris picks up on this right away.
At least with a community like dKos, you have one place where you go to basically find out what everyone else is talking about. But with MySpace you have a true web of social connections with no central "place" where you go to find out everything that is going on. Instead you just have friends who connect with friends who connect with other friends and thereby create conduits for information to travel into new social regions. You have to have an element of trust that something useful will come your way.
It's the closest the web has come to an emergent social network: one that can produce a form of macro behavior without anyone centrally dictating that behavior. Even blogging still has some central control with the owner(s) of the blog having an overwhelming influence on the direction of the site. dKos is probably the closest the blogging model will ever come to being truly decentralized, but it is still, ultimately, Markos' space.
Ironically, I'm finding it difficult to get into the MySpace phenomena because my personal online grammar, the way I learned to interact on the net, just doesn't fit very well into this new social mold. I find myself wanting to find that "central place" where you go to find out "everything that is happening". But such a thing doesn't really exist. Instead, I need to just start making connections and hope that someday something will develop from it.
It will be interesting to see how this develops as a political tool, but my initial feeling is that those who want to use it as a deliberate organizing tool may be disappointed. I'm just not sure it is something that can be made to behave in a certain way. It is what it is and in order to make it work for you, you have to learn to work with it.