Does Twitter matter? Should the left be nervous?



Originally a discussion thread ... I saved it as a page and restarted discussion in a new thread at the bottom of the page -- jon





JonPincus: @michaelturk's "Why Twitter Matters & The Left Should Be Nervous" (posted at the techPresident and The Next Right) talks about the string of posts by people on the left that are dismissive of conservative's presence on Twitter -- and how this illustrates a collective blind spot that conservatives are likely to capitalize on. In the comments on Twitter and the Next Right, several progressives gave examples of the kind of attitude Michael's talking about -- most visibly @markosm who tweeted "'I'm DEFINITELY laughing at the notion that Dem's inevitable demise will b traced back 2 Twitter" despite not having participated in any progressive hashtags or replied to tweets about a recent dKos #diversityfail.

There's a lot of good stuff in Michael's blog and the comments, including @mlsif's and my opinions. What do others think?

jon

on techPresident: http://techpresident.com/blog-entry/why-twitter-matters-left-should-be-nervous
on the Next Right: http://thenextright.com/michaelturk/why-twitter-matters-the-left-should-be-nervous


bphoon: Turk makes some really good points. As I see it, the recent fall of Republicanism and neoconservatism is mostly due to the wide spread of hubris among party leaders. That attitude trickled down (ironic, isn't it?) to the rank & file and they began to believe they were invincible. Kind of like the young star (sports or otherwise) who starts believing her own press. WE RISK THAT TODAY! @markosm personifies that in the tweet you cite. In any successful endeavor, group or otherwise, there will be hubristic expression. The art is to keep it to manageable levels.

I don't remember the quote but it's referred to in the movie "Gladiator". One tradition in Rome was that when a conquering general returned a slave would ride with him in his chariot and as the accolades of the people rang all about, the slave would whisper in the general's ear that all fame is fleeting. And to paraphrase Sun Tzu: Never underestimate your enemy. Just because the Right is down right now doesn't mean they're all dunces and that they can't figure out this social networking thing. They will. We do well to remember how motivated we have been over the last eight years in particular. Many of them, I'm sure, feel the same way right now.

We have a golden opportunity before us. We need to work hard but thoughtfully to take maximum advantage of it. If we don't watch where we walk, though, as we do, the next step we take could be into the abyss...

bradjshannon Good thoughts, but he's missing the point.

Let's look at blogs. There's an assumption going around that, boiled down, says the Left dominates blogs and blogs = win. Massive oversimplification. Blogs are a medium, not a solution to political problems. What they do is allow ideas to bounce around between more smart people than ever before. As a result, those ideas evolve into more and more useful forms. There's informing. There's mobilizing. But above all there is distributed cognition: brainstorming works a hell of a lot better when 500k people are involved than when it's just you and your friends talking politics at a coffee shop.

With Twitter, you have a different kind of collective action going on, but it has the same potential: more people involved in the conversation, contributing ideas and shooting down the bad ones. However, potential is not reality. I'm going to repeat that.

Potential is not Reality.

The Reality is that the Left is using blogs not just for spreading information to a wider audience. They're using it for distributed cognition / brainstorming, and that leads to massive mobilization efforts and solutions to political problems.

The Reality is that the Right is way behind on distributed cognition, regardless of the medium. They're not promoting the rapid evolution of ideas that results in new, practical solutions to political problems. Proof of this: for all the millions of Repubs/conservs on the internet, the GOP still has no direction six months after the election.

The media used really doesn't matter, anyway; Once you're in the realm of social media, the game is on. Just because the Left is behind on Twitter doesn't mean that the Right has any advantage. Look beyond the tools and notice how each side is using them.


Thoughts?

Dinkyshop

I agree with bradjshannon's many points...

Keeping people focused in orgs is always a tricky thing.. democracy (as we all know) is messy. People in different factions may share common beliefs, but might differ on finer points. Even in our own families, where one might be the most likely to share the most beliefs, people will disagree. But what makes that family cohesive is the ability to focus on the larger issues, prioritize AND the ability to relinquish control (administratively) in order to move forward together, get things done.

Progressives' undoing won't be Twitter, it wd be the inability to stay focused on greater issues, prioritize, & not stomp off like petulant children because your specific idea/method/approach/diatribe/agenda or action item wasn't picked first. I think PBO's Sup Crt pick cd do more to fracture p2s than anything the right could say/do-- but only if we let it.

As for (some) self-involved bloggers.. you should all remember that the act of blogging itself is (for many, not all) a narcissistic endeavor, not always an altruistic nor benevolent act. If "playing well with others" was a blogger's best character trait, they wd not be looking to grow their subscriber list. (It'd just be the work, for work's sake-- no?)
Blogger: Here, look at me! Listen to what I am saying, dammit! My thoughts/opinions on this subject is what matters! And you should like me (too).
I'm not saying community-minded, benevolent bloggers don't exist. I am saying these (now) celebrity bloggers (and celeb wanna-be tweeters) are getting full of themselves. They risk losing the sensibility that made their earlier work interesting, attractive.

But such people won't be progressive politics undoing.. unless in-fighting, and selfish agendas supersede everyone staying focused. Advancement for any group comes from selfless acts-- not selfish acts.

bradjshannon

Agreed about blogging as narcissism.

Also this: "Blogs provide an unprecedentedly effective medium for exposing instances of intellectual overreach; they provide a rapid means for irritated specialists to explain that some generalist does not know as much as he claims" (Freese 2009, 48).

Dinkyshop

Also, I think more and more people are rejecting the politics of the GOP, their ideology, attitude, contempt.

Structurally, the public sees basic unfairness in GOP policies, actions. (The use of Twitter by the GOP can't/ won't erase the perception of basic unfairness by even non Progressives.) And true poverty and instability is creeping back into what was suppose to be a "safe" middle class. Working hard and showing up isn't enough anymore to prevent one from dying (literally) due to a lack of wealth. People won't stand for continuing this spiral to poverty for the middle class -- regardless of political party.

Twitter is a conduit... it doesn't replace the faulty ideology. Which is why 6 months later, as bradj points out, the Right's ideas aren't resonating (not even online).
One more thing.. I never really liked the DailyKos. (And I don't like the DK writing style.) It didn't really speak to me. Too disparate. I find HuffPo a better aggregator for info, commentary, ideas, info, news. Even MediaMatters & AlterNet (and a few other sites) do a better job, imo, than DailyKos --but then, so too does the Daily Show.

myrnatheminx If all bloggers are narcissists than so are all writers. So. What. In general bloggers have inserted themselves into the media and often turned it on its head--that's a very valuable service whether they are narcissitic or not. And yes, I'm a blogger. The question is why are people like Markos, recently deigning to join Twitter? Because its become evident that it's a space they kind of needed to be in. Why? Because millions of people are there, because news travels quickly there, because you can send a message or start an action in that space just like you can in Facebook and in the blogosphere--sometimes more quickly and with more immediate response. My point is that all of these spaces are different and important--and they complement each other. Democrats better make sure they inhabit them or it leaves a potential vacuum. Sure, Twitter may not be the end all, but its part of a tool set that we better master.

JonPincus

> the Left is using blogs not just for spreading information to a wider audience. They're using it for distributed cognition / brainstorming, and that leads to massive mobilization efforts and solutions to political problems. the Right is way behind on distributed cognition, regardless of the medium.

Both the left and the right are way behind Voces contra las FARC, the Obama campaign, Join the Impact, and the disaster/vote reporting community on Twitter for distributed cognition. Blogs have a lot of problems as a primary medium here, for example their tendency to reinforce male dominance (a huge issue in the "progressive" blogosphere). So while I respect the work the blogosphere has done and their ability to mobilize, what I think we saw in 2008 was a social network-based strategy outperforming blogs.


> Progressives' undoing won't be Twitter, it wd be the inability to stay focused on greater issues, prioritize, & not stomp off like petulant children because your specific idea/method/approach/diatribe/agenda or action item wasn't picked first

Totally agree that this is a way progressives have come undone in the past and have the potential to once again going forward. I'd also add failing to truly commit to diversity and act as effective allies for women, blacks, latin@s, immigrants, lgbtq's, and others -- an attitude of privilege and entitlement that interferes with building coalitions.

> My point is that all of these spaces are different and important--and they complement each other.

Totally agreed. #amazonfail was blogs + Twitter; the Facebook TOS protests were blog/Facebook/Twitter. Important synergies here.

jon

bradjshannon

"If all bloggers are narcissists than so are all writers. So. What. [...] My point is that all of these spaces are different and important--and they complement each other. Democrats better make sure they inhabit them or it leaves a potential vacuum. Sure, Twitter may not be the end all, but its part of a tool set that we better master."

By agreeing, I didn't mean to imply that narcissism is a problem, rather that it exists perhaps more in some media than others. More of an interesting social phenomenon than anything relevant.

Agree that all these spaces are different and important.

bradjshannon

" Blogs have a lot of problems as a primary medium here, for example their tendency to reinforce male dominance (a huge issue in the "progressive" blogosphere).

So while I respect the work the blogosphere has done and their ability to mobilize, what I think we saw in 2008 was a social network-based strategy outperforming blogs.


Totally agree that this is a way progressives have come undone in the past and have the potential to once again going forward. I'd also add failing to truly commit to diversity and act as effective allies for women, blacks, latin@s, immigrants, lgbtq's, and others -- an attitude of privilege and entitlement that interferes with building coalitions. "

Can you elaborate on the male-dominance reinforcement point, or give some links? I've not heard that before and it's interesting.

Yes, social networks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_networks) on and offline are the key to spreading information and mobilizing. I think some new media (Twitter is a good example) are better than others (blogs) for the growth of social networks and communication within/among them.


I believe the attitude of privelege and entitlement you mention exists on an aggregate level rather than an individual one. That is, few people when asked will be opposed to promoting diversity, but progressives as a community do not advance those sorts of causes as much as others. If this is the case, perhaps it is a matter of prioritizing other causes, or greater awareness of other causes, or greater agency in other causes. Minorities are underrepresented on the Internet and representation in a social space certainly mediates any issue public's efficacy within it.

Which of these represents the limiting factor in promoting the diversity agenda through progressive new media?

Wow, I'm using way too many academic terms. I need to finish my research papers, already.

Dinkyshop

...

bphoon

"
Wow, I'm using way too many academic terms. I need to finish my research papers, already."

They're also business buzz words & I tend to over-use them, too...:)

All excellent points that deserve further study and discussion as we go along. As more of a strategic and tactical thinker, though (the Army and the business community have been my academe) I see the potential of a general attitude of male-centric hubris settling in as the greatest threat to the gains progressives have made over the last decade, as I said above. That's something that can cut across all communication platforms and factions. There are examples of it evident already on a micro level. That's natural and as long as it stays on a micro level it's manageable.

Our greatest potential for continued progress, as bradj and Tracy point out, is in using all possible technologies--both existing and future--to leverage our message to the broadest possible audience.

As Dinky points out, 4/5 of the public has finally gotten wise to the cons' con game. As long as they stay static we'll have pretty much a free hand. We need to keep an eye out, though, because some on their side will eventually get up to speed on communication technologies and distributed cognition and we can't let them sneak up on us.

Damn...how's that for buzz words? I need a vacation I guess... :)

JonPincus

Great discussion so far, touching on a lot of important issues. I'm summarizing it at http://p2pt0.wikifoundry.com/page/Does+Twitter+matter%3F++Should+the+left+be+nervous%3F and will try to include Twitter stuff as well ...

Some of the key questions on the table at this point:

- Does Twitter matter?
- Should the left be nervous about conservatives' early organizing lead?
- Do @markosm's and others actions support or refute @michaelturk's suggestion that many on the left are being overly dismissive of Twitter?
- What are limiting factors in promoting diversity agenda through progressive new media?
- Can #p2 be a news aggregator in a way that complements huffpo, dkos, mediamatters, alternet, daily show?
- More generally how does Twitter complement other important spaces like blogs, Facebook, MySpace, my.barackobama.com, ...?

Wet paint threads get messy when they're long, so i'm going to lock this and start a new one.

Please continue the discussion at http://p2pt0.wikifoundry.com/thread/2801537/

jon

More pages