Can blogs affect politics and society?

As a lead-up to mesh in May, the Gang of Five — that is me, Rob Hyndman, Mark Evans, Mike McDerment and Stuart “call me Chairman Mao” MacDonald — have been talking a lot (not surprisingly) about the themes we want to look at, and crawling the blogosphere for evidence of how Web 2.0 and blogs are — or aren’t — affecting media, marketing, business and society/politics.

We decided to look at that last one in part because of the effect that bloggers had on the coverage of the Iraq war, on the election of George Bush and even on events such as the Jayson Blair affair at the New York Times — but also because of the effect that bloggers like Michael Geist and Ed “Captain’s Quarters” Morrissey and Joey DeVilla had on the Canadian election, when they helped destabilize and possibly derail the candidacy of Sarmite Bulte, the record labels’ best friend.

But we want to talk about more than that during the panels on the Web and politics/society at mesh in May. Could blogs and other Web-based technologies help non-profit groups and disadvantaged groups gain more of a voice, and thus help affect policy? And even broader than that, what are the implications of “open source” tools such as on human society — do they make it better or just reflect the worst elements of human nature? Mark wonders what Jane Jacobs could have done with a blog, and Rob asks whether they turn the blogosphere into an echo chamber. Stuart has some thoughts as well.

There’s plenty of material there for an entire conference, let alone a few panels and keynotes. Hopefully we’ll be able to pack enough of it into the time we have, and get plenty of participation and comments from attendees. If you have any thoughts or links, you can post them here or head over to the mesh wiki and throw them onto a page, or tag them with our links (described at the wiki).

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