Corey Inscoe


Online Community

There are three necessary components of an online community: purpose, policy and people. The purpose of these sites is fairly obvious, to promote and discuss progressive politics at different levels of government: local (OP), state (BlueNC) and national (DKos). This purpose is explicitly stated at each website, and, as I mentioned earlier, the administrators of these sites work hard to make sure that the users stay on topic.

I discussed the policies of each of the sites in the “Guidelines” section of this site. Though they may vary in degree and quantity, each of the three political blogging communities has a set or rules or accepted behaviors that govern users. There are various punishments (comments deleted, anonymous comments in gray on OP, or entire accounts being deleted) and several rewards for correct behavior (front-paging, recommending from other users on DKos).

And, of course, all three of the sites have people, the most essential of the three “p”s. OP has 368 members, BlueNC has 2566 users and Daily Kos has more than 100,000 registered users. Though the number of users varies greatly between them, each site has a sufficient amount of users given their scope. As discussed in Chapter 1 of Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins, there are various types of users in an online community. Some members are more respected in the community because they repeatedly provide good information and insight, like Wezzie in the Survivor spoiling Community who specialize in “location spoiling.” In these political blogging communities, these people usually are or end up being administrators or “front page posters” (DKos). They earn this privilage through posting good content and being very active in the community. On the other hand, there are plenty of “lurkers” who read the site regularly but do not create any new content. Daily Kos encourages their members to lurk on the site before they start to post their own content so that they get a feel of how the site works. That is why he implements a one-week waiting period before a new user can create a diary.

Knowledge Community

In his book, Jenkins talks about collective intelligence and groups forming online to create knowledge communities. Jenkins defines collective intelligence as the “ability of virtual communities to leverage the combined expertise of their members.”

“No one knows everything, but everyone knows something,” Pierre Levy said and Jenkins quoted in Convergence Culture. This is essentially the idea of a knowledge community, a group of people coming togther to share information and foster collective intelligence that allows them to learn more and/or solve problems.

Jenkins says that these new communities are defined through voluntary, temporary and tactical affiliations, meaning that members may shift from one community to another freely, the group can easily be disbanded and there has to be a purpose for the group.

So are these political blogging communities knowledge communities? Yes.

These communities are voluntary in that anyone can join them and can quit whenever they want. Users are free to enter and leave the community whenever they want. These communities are also temporary. If Kos suddenly felt like Daily Kos had done its job and was unnecessary, he could shut it down. And these groups are tactical, they have a distinct purpose, as I have mentioned above.

On top of this, they are classic examples of people coming together and sharing information to add to the collective intelligence. There is no way for everyone to know about every Senate or House of Representatives race. Whether because of location or sources, some users have more information about these races than others do. On Daily Kos these users come together and put up what information they know. Suddenly, information about campaigns from all over the country are being compiled at Daily Kos by many different users.

There is a great example of this happening at OP in March 2006 when a man drove a Jeep through the Pit at UNC.

Discussion of Pit Incident

Discussion of Pit Incident

The initial post was submitted by BrianR with just very basic information and little detail. Over the next four days, there were over 170 comments made on this post, many of which added more information to the discussion as it became available. The first comment, as you can see above, shed some light on the incident by telling the make, model and color of the car and how any people were hurt. As the discussion continued, more information was presented.

“Celebrity” bloggers

Each of these blogs has what I call “celebrity” bloggers, or members who are prominent in the community or in politics. Politicians use the site to talk about issues that they care about, promote their campaign or to answer questions from other members. They add to the value of this knowledge community because they are the people “in the know” and have the political power. Some examples are Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton at Orange Politics, NC Senator-elect Kay Hagan at BlueNC, and President Jimmy Carter at DailyKos.

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