APALSA event

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Adding Asian-American Voices to the Political Blogosphere - Gwen Hochman

This morning I attended the APALSA panel on the potential impact of blogging on Asian-American political participation. The panelists included Erik Hananoki, a blogger previously employed by Al Franken; C.N. Le, a UMass Sociology professor who blogs about Asian-American social issues; and Phil Yu, creator of the popular pop culture commentary blog AngryAsianMan.com. The panelists generally agreed that blogs have the potential to affect political change; Erik cited the Dean campaign as everybody’s favorite example of grass roots blogging, and the format of blogs (updating quickly, often engaging in dialogue with comment from readers and other blogs) was cited as encouraging a new level of reader participation.

A particularly interesting point in the panel came when an audience member directly confronted the panelists with Sonnenstein’s argument about the possible detrimental effect of further fragmentation and balkanization of viewpoints that may result from the internet and blogging. C.N. pointed out that this effect was already happening before the internet, and the panelists uniformly insisted that adding more voices, even if they did not represent the mainstream, was good thing. This belief seemed somewhat contingent on the fact that Asian-Americans generally have lacked representation in political dialogue, and it is unclear how far the “adding voices outweighs unity/objectivity concerns” argument could extend beyond the specific case of the Asian-American community or other groups for whom lack of representation of any kind is the most pressing concern.

Relatedly, Phil Yu’s AngryAsianMan blog seems to suggest that the goals of providing “objective” news or information and broadcasting newer, opinionated voices may not actually be irreconcilable. Phil’s blog is openly left-leaning, and as evidenced by his obvious discomfort with expressing himself in person, it provides an outlet for a political voice that otherwise might not be heard. At the same time, however, Phil’s blog provides an aggregated source for news stories of interest to the Asian-American community and which are largely excluded from the traditional news media; even readers with differing political views have voiced appreciation of that aspect of his blog. Perhaps, as Phil suggests, just getting a group of previously uninvolved people, like most Asian Americans, interested in a subject and blogging or reading about it is itself a contribution to the political process, regardless of what kind of action may or may not follow.

Blogging and Asian Pacific American Political Awareness - Amornchai Sirithaporn

I also attended the APALSA conference on Blogging and Asian Pacific American Political Awareness. The following are what I learn from this conference.

First of all, Eric, one of the three panels, said that blogging has an effect not only on a political sphere but also social sphere. He referred to the Dean campaign as its purpose to reach the glassroot, to raise the fund. Eric helps create a blog for Al Franken. The purpose of Al Franken’s blog is not only providing political issues but also giving more insight information about his personal life style such as telling his stories and telling jokes. Thus, the purpose is also to let people know more about him.

There’re several questions asked the panels in the conference.

First question is whether blogging helps increase glassroot movement/mobilization.

  • The answer is yes. It is fast and easy for one to create a blog and post something he/she wants to share with others through the Internet. Considered a column written in the newspaper, once the author puts down the pen, it usually takes about 5-6 days for publishing that column and in turn such column often out-dated. However, people can post something in the blog right away.

Another question is whether blogging increase political awareness.

  • The panel responded that blogging helps/directs people what they should think or concern about. It also helps educated people by increasing an opportunity to access to the information that will not be available on the mainstream media. Moreover, different blogs can have different issues and thus in turn can fulfill different needs. Blogs increase the participation of individuals. People are not only receiving political information from others but now they actively participate by sharing and contributing their ideas to the community. In the mainstream media, say newspaper, if the reader want to communicate or share his idea, he can only send his idea to the author (it is hardly for him to share it with other people who read the same newspaper), but blogs enable him to share his idea with other blog readers. Another important results deriving from blogs is that everyone can have a voice by creating his blog as his media in order to make his voice heard by others. The larger the collective voice, the more the concerned issue will be heard.

Moreover, there is a specific question about whether blogging has an impact on the Asian American society.

  • The answer is again yes. Blog helps Asian American to be in part of American political mainstream. Asian American cans response to the political actions through blog. There might be a misrepresentation made by one of an Asian American showing that his need/voice presents all other Asian Americans needs/voices and blog is one way that others can correct such misrepresentation.

Another interesting question which seems to relate to Shirky’s article is how can one create creditability for his blog.

  • There are two answers to this question (which do not seem to appeal to me). One answer is that it is true that if no one knows about your blog, no one is going to read it. However, as long as you keep writing your blog and writing it well, others will recognize your blog. People will tell others that your blog is good or other blogs/websites will contain a link to your blog. Thus, you just need to keep adding your blog and one day others will recognize it. Another answer for this is that individual’s prestige, such as being a professor or earning a PH.D., helps a lot in creating creditability for your blog.

Finally, one participant asked whether there is any downside of blogs. He also raise question about Sunstein’s article “Daily we”.

  • The answer is that Sunstein’s point might be true but he believe that the benefit of blogging is outweigh the downside since blogs give people more opportunity to raise their voice, create more discussion forum for people to discuss their common concerned issues, and enable people to work together which in turn will lead people to achieve their common goal.

Blogging and Asian Pacific American Political Awareness - Drew Bennett

Insights from the APALSA panel on Blogging and Asian American Political Awareness:

  • This panel featured Asian Americans who had taken to the blogosphere for a variety of reasons, but the thread that connected them all was their motivation to voice the opinions of an under-represented minority. This reminded me of many of the virtues of blogging and citizen journalism that Dan Gilmour extols in his narrative of the development of 'New Media.' Specifically, on p.15, Gilmour writes of Dave Winer, a Mac developer who felt the trade press was getting the story wrong about Apple's work and started what was essentially an early blog through an email newsletter to broadcast his insights. Gilmour notes that "He'd [Winer] found journalism wanting, and he bypassed it." This is exactly what all the Asian American bloggers cited as their reasons for taking on the medium and the media, which they viewed as being bankrupt of Asian American viewpoints or furthering stereotypes of the group.
  • One of the panelists: "My blog is an extension of myself"
    • When we talk about the internet's relationship to politics and democracy, our focus is often too narrow and we forget that identity politics are an important way in which we engage with each other as citizens and express our demands to politicians.
  • Phil: "Our generation isn't seeing the front page of the newspaper for their first taste of news in a day, they're going to CNN or Yahoo or their favorite blog."
    • I think this is pretty accurate, but may not bode well for the future of blogs: are they going to be competing with corporate Internet giants once everyone finally puts down the paper news? And in this competition to be the people's portal, are blogs more or less likely to provide a daily me or a daily we?
  • Great quote from Eric, who blogged for Air America and assisted Al Franken on his blog: "I have to credit activists of 20 years ago - how did they get anything done without the internet?"
  • The inevitable question of credibility comes up and among the responses is the criticism that msm journalists are far from credible. Phil and C.N. referred to the recent controversy over a racist column printed in Asian Week. All of the bloggers cited the importance of blogs and web-based campaigns in delivering the message of public disgust to the magazine.

Overall, this panel really keyed on the impact blogs and internet technologies can have on democracy and the national discourse by moving people into that discourse from the margins.