Lydia DePillis has a fantastic cover story in the Washington City Paper about Dave Alpert how the Greater Greater Washington blog he started has become a key node in a politically influential community. There are sort of two different threads here, one about policy and one about politics, and since I always bore everyone with my “parking, density, blah blah blah” stuff lets talk instead about politics.
Political power stems, fundamentally, from an ability to produce organization. Hence the clout of the dread “special interest groups.” The neat thing about the internet is that alongside interest groups it creates communities of interest. There’s a whole group of Dune fans who’ve gone and built a Dunepedia. In principle, these communities can be mobilized to engage with political issues that touch on their concerns. That’s probably not going to be Dune fans, but you can easily see how people interested in music or technology can be drawn into political discussions about intellectual property. Or about how residents of a given city who like playing around with made-up subway maps can get involved in local debates.
The internet is still a very new technology, so at the moment most things done on it still have a classic “early adopter” demographic skew—male, white, educated, few senior citizens—that to an extent undermines the progressive, egalitarian potential of this trend. But I think it’s a very hopeful phenomenon for the longer term.