Monday, March 2, 2009


At the risk of seeming too mainstream-media effected, I thought that this piece by Professor of History and Public Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University, Julian E. Zelizer, raised the very question that (DIS)ENGAGED is meant to explore: are facebook and its net roots cohorts really a new force to be reckoned with in our political discourse?

The good professor doesn't take any sides but does correctly state that, although Barack Obama may have been elected to the White House with a lot of help from the "roots" and facebook, it is not yet clear whether these two new players can really affect legislation or policy. As Zelizer aptly points out, the tools that raised the President so much money during his campaign and ultimately put him into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, was not used as a means to an end during the fight over the recent stimulus bill. As the article ponders, it will be interesting to see if it can be effectively deployed to help with the upcoming budget war, or beyond that into more specific policy areas.

There is a great video from the BBC cited in the article and it is a pretty stinging (if not entertaining), yet painfully accurate, commentary on how many people actually spend their time on facebook:

Though it is unclear how likely it is to happen, Zelizer contends that the new power of citizen-generated policy could supplant the muscular "political machines" of our not-so-distant past. If this Presidency can effectively use web 2.0 to navigate the legislative and political hurdles that loom large on the horizon, we could indeed be witnessing the beginnings of a new political order. It will just take someone savvy enough to pull the networked strings of our culture to get the job done in this potentially newly-engaged world.

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