Worth reading, I think, is Graham Lampa’s “Imagining the Blogosphere: An Introduction to the Imagined Community of Instant Publishing” but I do wonder about the level of historical perspective in comments like this:
The low-cost appeal of instant publishing promotes a democratic feeling that permeates the blogosphere, but when one critically considers global Internet access and usage, it is clear that the community represents a relatively small number of global elites who have the luxury of time, talent, and expendable wealth. In this way the blogosphere parallels ancient Athens, with a system of enlightened democracy that was nonetheless restricted to the wealthy few. While there are no formal mechanisms barring entry into the blogosphere, the mere luxury of Internet access remains out of reach for the vast majority of global citizens. Although many blogging services may be free, the substantial amount of capital and operating costs needed to simply access the Internet are insurmountable obstacles to many in the developing world.
Setting aside the characterization of ancient Athens, I wonder whether this emphasis on elitism isn’t more than a little overstated. The barriers to expressing oneself on a global scale have surely never been lower in human history, and that goes even for determined people in developing countries — I’m thinking of personal anecdotes I’ve heard from friends about street kids in Africa finding ways to check their Yahoo email accounts.