Sarah Lai Stirland writing for Wired magazine calls this Democratic Convention the “techiest” (her term) convention ever.   That’s not hard to believe as lots of people bypass the talking-head-pundits on the broadcast networks and seeking out their own streaming video of the convention (as Jon described yesterday), or looking for outside-the-mainstream commentary from their favorite bloggers at the convention.    All this makes me think about Todd Gitlin’s famous book, The Whole World is Watching (1983), about the role of the mass media in the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.  But, the world has changed since 1968…. and, it has even changed since he first published the book in 1983.     Gitlin argues that mass media news coverage is a form of anti-democratic social management, an analysis he extends to mass media coverage of other movements.    In the preface to the new edtion of the book (2003), Gitlin makes only one reference to how the Internet has changed things, writing:

“Meanwhile, the Internet affords abundant possibilities for access to smaller markets… rendering the hold of big media somewhat more tenuous than before.”

This seems to understate the case considerably.     Other scholars like Doug Kellner and David Perlmutter, argue for a much more profound impact of bloggers on the political landscape than Gitlin seems to suggest.  For example, in Perlmutter’s recent book,  Blog Wars, he argues that blogs are no longer fringe elements of the communications landscape and have, as of 2008, gone mainstream. He goes on to assert that blogs represent a technological innovation that is, in general terms, a good thing for democracy.  While it’s overreaching to suggest that the “whole world” is connecting to the Internet (or even if they were that they’d be connecting to learn more about the DNC), but there is a fundamental shift going on in how big political events are covered by mass media.  And that shift is happening because of bloggers, from the bottom up, grassroots style.   We’re still “way before the beginning,” or, as Beer and Burrows (2007) put it:  “before sociologists have begun to get a handle on the phenomena” of blogging.    Sounds like a great dissertation topic for an emerging sociologist.