Digital Delusion

Friday, October 02, 2009


Conventional wisdom says that the Internet has democratized politics by giving a direct voice to citizens. And while the bar for publishing - via blogs, podcasts and YouTube videos - has never been lower, there’s a difference between speaking and being heard. The Myth of Digital Democracy author Matthew Hindman explains.

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Comments [5]

bob purcell from san francisco,ca

In an age of when "hear comes everyone"
true voices like Matthew's becomes like the op-ed page of The New York Times.


Oct. 09 2009 03:24 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven

My friend, John Baringer always said, "Do anything long enough, Chris; you'll get good at it."

As you know, I do not write widely. Just here, occasionally the New Haven Independent on-line newspaper website and, now, Facebook, but I am not at all concerned that the niche-casting that this represents limits the effectiveness of my reach as I am confident, given the life I have lived, that the people who matter in the English-reading world pay attention to this little site.

As my eldest brother (the one who paraded armored personnel carriers through town here one day in May but, now, we can call "tank boy") said just Monday. "You don't have an active FBI file, now," but through accidents of fate, despite that history, I have already been able to confront or communicate with many of those elites directly in unforgettable ways and I suspect that I've taught them to keep watching!

A high school diploma from a good, well-funded suburban school is a terrible thing to waste.

Oct. 09 2009 03:57 AM
John Lloyd from Chicago

There was a time when books were very rare. They may have been written on lambskin with exotic and expensive inks, painstakingly transcribed by teams of monks, or slaves, and in general were not available to ordinary people. In order to "get published" one would have had to convince an important patron (e.g., the Church) of the quality of one's work. And even then, circulation would be minimal.

That is not exactly the case anymore. In a given year, one can expect half a million books published in the United States, and another half a million in the UK. With those kind of numbers, it seems almost a statistical certainty that most of those titles are going to be crap ("Effective Phrases For Performance Appraisals, Tenth Edition"). This would have been inevitable, regardless of digital media. Good old-fashioned analog media are quite capable of "democratization", in the sense of being available to everyone. If the portion of people writing goes up, which no doubt it has thanks to the internet, then the average quality of writing will presumably suffer - I would contend that it has. But, I must say, I'm not so concerned with the average quality of writing, as with the best; as far as I can tell, the best of the best is about as good as it has ever been. And even if the average quality of (published) writing goes down, that doesn't mean the average level of literacy is going down with it. If more people, who have no business writing in public, are posting blogs (God bless them), I might not want to read them, but maybe the bloggers are at least learning something. It seems to me, writing often becomes better with practice.

Oct. 06 2009 11:49 AM
Ben Peters from

A refreshing, sobering, and less heard take on the state of things. It is a striking tribute to the human capacity to sustain analytical dissonance that we manage to maintain thematic tropes of the at once professionalizing and the democratizing nature of the blogosphere. Still, following Plato, Lippmann, and others, I sense that Hindman's critique of digital democracy may have more to do with his concerns about the institution of democracy itself than with any particular set of tools.

Oct. 05 2009 03:01 PM
Ana Landis Velazquez from New York, NY

Hindman opened up inquiries into the area of commonly held perceptions about internet democracy; discussing the number of advanced degree of bloggers and amount of money paid by internet filter systems for certain news to become a stop story is rarely discussed. Good job OTM and Professor Hindman!

Oct. 04 2009 04:25 PM

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