Recently Crikey’s been running the thoughts of a few politicians who blog. But most don’t.

Despite a recent Queensland state election just behind us, and a 2007 federal election looming around the corner, the numbers of Australian politicians making use of the blogosphere remains almost negligible. In fact, with a few exceptions, the chances of seeing an Australian politician blogging is as large as seeing John Howard avoiding a cricket match.

And the number of politicians blogging during the Queensland state election could be counted on one hand. In the US on the other hand, monitoring bloggers has become a part of understanding the modern political campaign. Since 2004, blogs have been used both by the Democrats and the Republican to generate candidate visibility, to float stories, and to trigger discussions for political activists.

Blogs like The Daily Kos and Howard Dean for America (now called Blog for America) raised millions of dollars for candidates, organised meet-ups where activists were encouraged to write direct mail to the electorate, and develop the candidates to creative ways to communicate the campaign’s core message.

To briefly illustrate the significance of blogs in the US it is worth mentioning that bloggers played a significant role in both claiming the scalp of Senate Majority leader Trend Lott in 2002 and Dan Rather in the so-called “Rathergate” scandal in 2004.

In an interview with IQ Inside last week, Joanna Jacobs (editor of the recently published Uses of Blogs) claimed that with 45 million blogs on the net, blogging is now a mainstream communication tool for people under 35. Despite this, only one Queensland candidate had listed their blog on Technorati during the course of the campaign.

None of the major three parties has a blog linked to their official website, and only once during the election campaign did they even publicly mention blogs. In what seems almost like defiance towards this, Australia’s most established political blog (Larvatus Prodeo) frequently discussed the election campaign and received 42 comments on its busiest day during the election. As the popularity of sites like Larvatus Prodeo increases, a need to understand the potential power and influence of these blogs arises. Up until now, knowledge about the phenomenon has been fairly limited.

In an effort to generate some critical thought about this aspect of the political landscape, I have created my own blog on the topic as part of my masters degree at Griffith University. We are living in an era where being a part of the general conversation is not only more important than ever, but also easier than ever, thanks to the internet. As the forum for political communication moves away from the airwaves and televisions and into cyberspace, politicians will have to wake up from their dream of one-way communication and realise that interacting with the politically involved citizens of cyberspace will become an important way to achieve electoral success.

If you want to read more about my project and share your thoughts on the topic, visit my blog.

Peter Fray

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