Blogs are Bringing SexyBack to City Elections

In an interview with a newspaper, Fred Boykin credited “the blogs” for making this most recent election cycle “more interesting.”

This race by far was the most eventful for Boykin, who ran unopposed in 2001.

“This election was different because of the blogs,” Boykin said. “Some of the electronic media made it more interesting. There was more information going back and forth that was covered in more detail than with the traditional media. The anonymity of the blogs made it a little mean spirited at times.”

Aside from the occasional sniping on the blogs, Boykin said the Internet made fact-based information such as campaign finance reports available more quickly, which was beneficial.

Two years ago, I couldn’t for the life of me determine any notable differences between the candidates running for office.  There may have been unspoken, behind-closed-door differences, but that didn’t help this resident who couldn’t hear beyond the doorjamb.  Hopefully the public dialogue this time around helped people make more informed decisions in their respective races.

I also hope the candidates’ extended foray into interactive media will make them – and other public officials – more comfortable with using it in the future.  We’ve come a long way in just two years and I think we’ve proven the added value of an easily accessible, public online environment, regardless of the occasional “sniping”.

Dare I say it, but the community blogs of today have a higher calling than just trying to fill any newspaper gap.  They should strive to take their “community service” to a new level, providing not just a platform for stories (well-written or not), but also informed discussion on a city, town or region’s most pressing issues.

h/t: InDecatur

How Community Affects Decision Making

A recent article in NY Times Magazine’s “Green Issue” explored the question “Why Isn’t the Brain Green?”,  searching out answers to why humans have such trouble focusing on long-term problems – in this instance climate change.

However, probably the most interesting element of the article has little to do with the environment at all.  It’s all about how we make decisions.

In the article, psychologists assert that we analyze a problem in two ways: analytically and emotionally.  Not too surprising, right?

But what’s really interesting is that they also discovered that they could affect the way people thought about an issue depending on how and when the issue was presented.  Asked to make a decision individually before joining a group, participants used phrases like “I feel…” much more frequently, showing an initial emotional response to the issue.  However, when the same question was presented in a group format first, respondents were much more likely to be analytical about these problems and used words like “we” and “us” demonstrating group identity.

So what?  Well, this obviously could have implications across all spectrums.  Not just regarding climate change, but any and all decision-making.  So when cities, towns,  corporations across the country, sit down to solve a potential problem, much of the possibility for solution is apparently determined by when the information is disseminated and how you promote teamwork (apparently giving teams identities – i.e. “you are the blue star team!” – works pretty well).

This gets me wondering not just about how this study and its results apply to our city’s own decision-making process, but also about any potential impact that a community blog might have vs. a newspaper.  While I can see how it can be argued that learning about an issue in either a blog or a newspaper is learning and deciding on an issue individually, I think there’s an argument to be made that a blog with an active and productive feedback/discussion mechanism could provide an element of community cooperation that could never be promoted by a hard copy (or unmoderated) newspaper.  (And no wonder AJC comments are all unbridled emotion.) I doubt its a strong enough incentive as sitting across the table from a bunch of fellow citizens, but hey, its better than nothing.

Interesting stuff.  Sounds a bit like Otis White, doesn’t it?

h/t:  Otis White