Geert Lovink, in his book ‘Zero Comments’ (2007), argued that blogs were the cause of a “decay of traditional broadcast media” … exhibiting “a ‘nihilist impulse’ to empty out established meaning structures.” In a network based on reciprocal linking and peer-recognition, he wrote that the “lowest rung of the new Internet hierarchy are those blogs and sites that receive no user feedback or ‘zero comments’.”

Zero Comments is something that I know about….

The report MPs online: Connecting with constituents published today by the Hansard Society touches on the decay of traditional media in its investigation into the attitudes of our Parliamentarians towards ‘new media’, it’s use and its value to them in political communications.

The internet creates “an opportunity to restructure communication between MPs and their constituents” writes Andy Williamson in the Background to the report. ” This has,” he writes, “led to both an increase in opportunity and, in some cases, motivation for MPs to communicate online.” He continues

“It is not just the volume and immediacy of communication that is changed by the internet, new network technologies change the very nature of communication, conversation and engagement and this is clearly visible across the wider online world.”

While the use of ICT has increased year on year, much of the experimentation with internet based communications by political parties, elected representatives, government departments and other bodies such as local Councils tends to miss opportunities for modifying the practices of communication away from vertical, uni-directional marketing and message propagation. Frequently we see not ‘zero comments’ but actually no comments at all. Where the experiment is with a ‘social networking website, some corporate bodies have ‘zero friends’ (although Stockport Council has a few friends now, following an ‘OLD media’ source printing a story about it).

Andy Williamson concludes that

The internet has had a demonstrable impact on parliamentary communication. Most MPs are now communicating online and many have websites, some blogs and a handful maintain a presence on social networking sites. Although the internet does clearly support MPs to become more independent, the primary paradigm remains rooted in the party model. The foregoing suggests that the internet is a tool to communicate outwards, self-promote for the purposes of re-election and to gauge opinion and it is not seen as a tool to aid representation or to enhance engagement: internet-based communication by MPs is largely about delivery and devoid of strategies for engagement.

(MPs online: Connecting with constituents, 2009, p. 6)