Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Incredibly Powerful Negative Internet 

The EU Observer is an interesting site. I haven't been going there very often, but I intend to step up my visits.

According to an article posted yesterday, the No vote in France on the EU constitution was heavily-influenced by the internet.

"The web served as a political tribunal for those who considered themselves distanced from television formats or big-time media, transforming the web into a sort of negative medium", according to the authors of the research, Franck Ghitalla and Guilhem Fouetillou.

This negative medium appeared to help reinforce the negative vote, they add.

The article relies on a study "carried out by researchers at the University of Technology of Compiegne," which apparently found that "those against the constitution mainly invested in websites for their campaigns."

The first thought that struck me was: of course! If I had been trying to persuade people to vote against the treaty, the first thing I would have done is ask them to read it. All of it. Every last blithering page. Whereas if I supported it, the last thing I'd want would be for anyone to actually read it, since a document of such length, breadth, and depth is inevitably going to contain at least one provision to piss off every voter on the continent.

If you want to get people to read it, the net is the obvious medium of choice: infinite capability for sharing texts of any length with any number of people—practically, if not literally, for free.

That, like I said, was my first thought. Or my first series of thoughts.

Then I thought: no, not fair. It's not fair to assume supporters wouldn't want voters to read the full text—after all, they're supporters. They'd be operating on the assumption that it was a winning and persuasive text.

I reread the article, and this paragraph jumped out at me:

It also showed that on the 295 sites dedicated to the referendum campaign, 67 percent of those asked to give their opinion on the EU charter voted no.

In other words: On the web, 67-33 against. In the election, the actual vote was (about) 55-45 against.

This doesn't suggest to me that the internet "was instrumental for the no campaigners." It suggests to me that despite being 100% better represented on the web (67% of anything is 100% larger than 33% of the same thing), the no campaigners could still only muster about 23% more support in the actual vote (55% of anything is around 23% larger than 45% of the same thing).

In other words, the real story seems (to me) to be that the internet didn't do much good for the "no campaigners." Or that, even if it helped them, the "yes campaigners" got much more bang for their buck.

It seems to me that the only way to call the internet at all helpful for the no campaign would be to somehow illustrate that without such overwhelming support on the internet, the actual no vote would have been significantly lower. And how on earth do you prove a negative like that?

You'd have to show that, in a world without the internet, the vote would have gone one way, whereas in world with the internet—and not just with the internet, but with an internet tilted heavily against the treaty—it would have gone another. So to be really scientific, you'd need an alternate world as a control. Who's got time for that kind of research?

But probably I'm just missing something... after all, I'm an American.

Monday, August 22, 2005


The first night I'm blogging again, and already another shooting in Nørrebro?

This one was apparently an accident: two groups of men ("of immigrant background") were meeting to discuss the honor of one man's sister, which had apparently been called into question. One of the guys (no specific indication who, in this article) was apparently so worked up about the issue he'd brought a pistol, and when another one of the guys hit his hand it went off twice. Both shots went into the ground and ricocheted off the cobblestone... one hit a guy in the wrist, another guy took a shot in the groin.

Both of the guys who got shot were on the same side of the issue as the gun owner, so it clearly was entirely accidental. I don't want to make light of the tragedy, but the episode raises an important social question I can't ignore:

Is cobblestone really necessary?

Actually Back 

Today's Almanac is up, and I used it to get caught up on everything.

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