There has been great debate about the abilities of ordinary citizens in affecting change in society. Whereas professional journalists used to dominate mainstream media, ordinary citizens have gradually participated in journalism and provided different perspectives to popular causes. In effort to not only add their cents but also stir public discourse, ordinary citizens often utilize social media, which has gradually become an integral part of society. As part of the “Doubt” camp, authors such as Malcolm Gladwell and Matthew Hindman believe ordinary citizens fall short in affecting change and doubt the effectiveness of social media to influence society in the long run. Gladwell and Hindman believe that ordinary citizens, in comparison to professional journalists, fail to produce immediate change. Authors like Clay Shirky and Zeynep Tufecki are part of the camp titled “Potential” for they recognize ordinary citizens’ motive to spread important information through social networking and help develop people’s perspectives. They both commend social media for being tools of which ordinary citizens take advantage in order to affect change. On the other hand, Axel Bruns and Katie King are part of the “Collaboration” camp, arguing that collaboration between professional journalists and ordinary citizens would be better off in collaboration in influencing society. Unlike the authors of the other two camps, Bruns and King believe ordinary citizens and professional journalists complement each other and by working together, they will instill change with long-term benefits. This debate ultimately decides whether social media is truly a worthy and important part of shaping society or whether it is given too much credit and overvalued.
Pointing out the lack of power and influence of ordinary citizens, Matthew Hindman in his exerpt, “Blogs” The New Elite Media,” displays doubt in the ability of ordinary citizens to affect change in society. Hindman focuses on the emerging popularity of blogging, which were assumed to empower ordinary citizens in allowing them to voice their opinions and expand their viewers’ perspectives. Hindman notes that some people have favored the work of ordinary citizens over that of professional journalists (Hindman 102). Explicitly stating that this belief is mistaken, Hindman examines the people behind the blogs and those reading the blogs. By comparing the people behind and in front of the computer or phone screen, Hindman is able to conclude that ordinary citizens have not made enough advances to overpower professionals. In 2002, a Pew survey identified only three percent of Internet users as bloggers whereas in 2004, the percentage increased to twenty-seven percent (104). Despite the increase in participation of blogging, Hindman questions if blogging has any influence on society. Many expressed disgust about blogging by ordinary citizens for their lack of accuracy and credibility. After studying the top ten political A-list bloggers, Hindman reveals that the list consists of highly educated and successful people, many of whom were former or current professional journalists. In addition, most of the top ten bloggers attended elite institutions of higher education as well as receiving a JD or PhD (117). Although most people picture bloggers as “a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing (Colford 2004), the most popular and successful bloggers happen to be part of the elite. Hindman states, “The top bloggers have more education, from more prestigious schools, than do most journalists or most members of the public (122).” Hindman defies people’s expectations that ordinary citizens dominated blogging and social media. While anyone could start a blog, those who maintain blogs that become widely read and popular are not ordinary citizens but elites or professionals. Although people would like to believe that ordinary citizens have greater influence on politics through blogging,...
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