Huffington Post & Localocracy

04Oct11

Recently, The Huffington Post announced its acquiring of a University of Massachusetts based project called “Localocracy”, which “is an online town common where registered voters using real names can weigh in on local issues,” where “citizens have a real influence on issues that matter, governments engage with real constituents, and journalists find the real stories” (DHG).

The site promotes citizen engagement and participation in community events and issues, while allowing local governments to communicate with their citizens as well as acquire research about “where [their citizens] stand on important issues”  (Localocracy). In addition journalists can find the “real stories” and stay on top of reporting about things that are prominent but often overlooked in their communities.

Chapter 5 touches on Boltanski and Chiapello’s point about the “the rise of discourses within both capitalist management and public policy that seek to harness participation, creativity, and individual autonomy for economic ends” (Flew, 61), which have been even furthered by the rise of the Internet age and Web 2.0 technology. The Internet is, as described by the OECD, “a new creative outlet [that] has altered the economics of information production and [that] led to the democratization of media production and changes in the nature of communication and social relationships. Changes in the way users produce, distribute, access and re-use information, knowledge and entertainment potentially gives rise to increased user autonomy, increased participation and increased diversity” (62).

We have talked a lot about grassroots journalism, etc. in class but Localocracy is an interesting incorporation of both citizens and professionals coming together and contributing their input to the issues that really matter in the community. It is a good example of the democratization of media, and in general, reflects this “new spirit of capitalism” which encourages participation and diversity. Localocracy allows for the possibility of increased participation on a local level, which in turn can lead to a more broad but specialized range of content from journalists, and a more in depth look at community issues that really matter, as well as government participation and research leading to, perhaps, policy reforms or other changes when “certain hard decisions need to be made.”

All of this reflects the shift from the mass communications model of the past to the convergent media/web 2.0 model of today, including the “de-massification and segmentation of media content, and the greater empowerment of users/audiences through interactivity” (Flew, 62).

-Annie

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