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on June 2, 2014
Hindman's research brings solid data that describes web traffic and voice distribution. Yet his conclusions sometimes seem predetermined. Does the dispersion of voice among a multitude of small blogs proves that they are irrelevant? Or does it prove that voice is indeed distributed? It seems that Hindman is measuring the new media according to old media logic. He ignores outlets that reach less than 1% of the readers and uses this as proof that big outlets still dominate the market, even though he himself acknowledges that they cover only 20% of the readership, and that if we are to under stand the reading habits of the top 50% of readers (top as in reading the top read websites) we have to widen our view to include the top 500(!) outlets. One cannot ignore the feeling that Hindman had a certain conclusion in his mind before writing this book, and that his interpretation of the data is somewhat biased due to that. Still, it is an interesting book for whoever is looking for a simple review of current trends in online political participation.
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on December 6, 2011
Hindman starts by discussing the academic origin of the book, and a broad review of the generally optimistic expectations most have of the Internet's impact on US democracy. Hindman repeatedly states the naive early read on how the Internet would impact US elections. It runs like this, the Internet will give voice to those silenced by big media.

Hindman avoids going into any details about how US democracy works by simply saying the term is merely a positive adjective, not a logical set of principles. After arguing at some length that democracy can't be defined, he promises the book will study logistics. This seemed like a great promise, but upon reflection seems to require Hindman to reassess his unwillingness to define democracy. What sense can logistics make without logistic goals, something a definition would offer. As best I can tell, Hindman intuitively links democracy to 'giving voice to the masses'. This is clearly the scale Hindman uses to measure the Internet's impact on US politics.

I was hoping Hindman would offer a discussion of how the Internet influenced political group formation and relative balances of power, but the only two groups contrasted were 'bloggers' and 'journalists'.

The following was covered in some detail:
1. Frequenters of political sites are predominately liberal. I suspect one could argue this, but Hindman lays out a very factual argument for the conclusion, but never speculates on changes the 60-40 split might eventually produce.
2. From Howard Dean's 2004 campaign, we can deduce ways the internet activates non-activist volunteers and offers new fund raising opportunities. Since this has little impact on 'giving voice to the masses', these logistical breakthroughs are describe in a somewhat disappointed tone.
3. The mass of internet users rarely visit political sites, but those that do select a very narrow set of sites. After going through some painful math, Hindman concludes the Internet is no more 'concentrated' than print media. In other words, the 'voices of the masses' are no more likely to be heard online than in traditional print media. Hindman's attempts to say there was equivalence between traditional journalism and online journalism seemed overly academic. For some reason, I got the feeling that Hindman was really arguing that the peer review processes of university life were superior to blogger independence, but it is never explicit.
4. The most popular bloggers are not a group of home based average Americans sitting around in pajamas when they write. Instead, the highly popular bloggers are generally men with graduate degrees from the best schools. Hindman makes something of a nostalgic lament for the good old days when 'big media' outlets virtually monopolized political discussion. In this by gone era, political pressure could force these media organizations to allocate op-ed jobs on the basis of statistical measures such as gender, ancestry, etc.

While I agree with Hindman's cautionary perspective, pandora's box is already open. The cat is out of the bag. Most people will be reading the book for some insights into the future. Readers will probably be wondering what Hindman thinks an Internet enabled electorate will mean for future US economic, taxation and military policy, but such views are hard to parse.

A book with more on the future of technocratic democracy, see "Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro: Trafficking, Social Networks, and Public Security" by Enrique Desmond Arias.
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on April 29, 2015
Well researched and written, but with insufficient evidence to support what ultimately seem to be invalid conclusions.
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