With the launching of Millennial Star, it now looks as though there are two group blogs that have more or less spun off from Times and Seasons, one of which tries to position itself to the “left” of T&S and one of which tries to position itself to the “right” of T&S. Or so it seems to me. Both blogs include bloggers who also blog at T&S (traitors!). Does any of this mean anything?
T&S originally started out with the vision that we could create a place that was faithfully Mormon, but in a way that allowed the competing intellectual camps of Mormonism to engage one another in a respectful and meaningful way. I wonder if the proliferation of Mormon group blogs aimed at providing a more ideologically homogeneous offering is a sign of the failure of this project. In his book Republic.com, Cass Sunstein argued that one of the great dangers of the internet is that it allows people to tailor with ever greater specificity the information that they will receive, making it easier for people to retreat into an ideological shell, a process that Sunstein calls the “Daily Me.” The virtue of the traditional media, according to Sunstein, is that it forces people to suffer through exposure to opposing points of view. In his earnest, good-government, left-of-center, law-professor style, Sunstein argues that to cure this danger on the internet, we need various forms of regulation to insure that people cannot limit their exposure to a single ideological position, because after all the internet is already regulated so a little more can’t hurt. When it first came out, I was extremely skeptical of Sunstein’s book. It seems to me that his argument rests on a rather romanticized vision of the traditional media, and content regulation of the internet seems impossible to me without destroying precisely the openness that makes the internet so vibrant. Also, I am really, really suspicious of the idea that the government can be trusted to properly regulate our intellectual hygiene. Still, I wonder if the evolution of the bloggernacle might suggest that there is something to Sunstein’s concerns with the “Daily Me.” Of course, T&S has its own limits. I suppose that we represent a certain ideological spectrum and to some extent we police the discussion here in order to avoid death by flame war.
T & S has enjoyed a first-mover advantage in the market for Mormon group blogs. Generally speaking I think that low barriers to entry and competition are good things, so I can hardly lament the rise of alternatives to T&S. (Although there are T&S bloggers who have a rosier vision of protectionism.) Personally, I have enjoyed reading T&S’s first knock off from time to time, and I look forward to reading Millennial Star. The mix of voices is fun. I simply hope that the bloggernacle doesn’t degenerate into the Daily Me (or Bi-Monthly Me) already available elsewhere.