an open letter: CC, new media and the Harvard LeftBelow is a letter that we're sending out tonight on email lists and to friends. Give it a read. Please let us know what you think about CC, New Meadia or the Harvard Left.
Last spring, a website called Cambridge Common was founded to add more voices to our campus’s political dialogue. This fall, all four of us took up the project, using the blog to offer thoughts about campus, national and international politics and society, and encouraging our readers to do the same. We’ve had some success and, along with a handful of other emerging blogs at Harvard like Team Zebra, Quenchzine, and Demapples, have started to build an online community of political perspectives and dialogue, offering a great alternative to old-school print media and top-down opinion writing. We’re writing this letter in the hopes that you will join the community, either with Cambridge Common or by starting blogs of your own.
New Media, including blogs, has sparked enthusiasm worldwide. Whereas in the past only the wealthy, the powerful, the connected or institutionally-endorsed had easy access to public discourse, now anyone with a computer and an internet connection has a shot at gaining not only an audience of observers, but a community of contributors. In other words, the internet has created an entirely new public sphere. At Harvard, this creates a particular and exciting set of possibilities: our community is small, we are privileged enough to have technology and time, and we are here to learn, most often from each other. The radically democratic ethos of New Media—the understanding that no one person’s beliefs or arguments or politics should be privileged by volume instead of quality and that everyone should have equal access to expressing themselves—gives us the opportunity to engage each other in a new way.
As we said before, this letter is intended to encourage you to join us, teach us, learn with us and express yourselves. Just because we have started to write on a blog doesn’t make us the best or only qualified people to share our thoughts. We know from classes, friends, student groups and the comments section of Cambridge Common that there are a ton of you who are passionate and articulate about political and social issues but aren’t joining the public dialogue. Some are too shy, too busy or too humble. For the shy and humble among us, we hope you’ll recognize that everyone’s contributions are works in progress that serve the greater community. Bloggers needn’t know all the answers; sometimes it’s just important to bring up good questions. For the over-committed, we hope you can make time. If not, encourage others who you think can and should to consider doing so. We don’t just need pundits; we need activists and organizers, thinkers and questioners, writers and facilitators.
Over the last 40 years the left has been gradually losing power in America. Partially, we think, this is a result of the fact that we are no longer easily driven by a single cause that is simply defined, or even a small handful of causes with obvious connections; as a community we have come increasingly to recognize the importance of a variety of viewpoints in the context of our political perspective. This is difficult because it divides us, but it’s important because it broadens and deepens our understanding of the world and our ability to change it. We will never again have a singular cause or just three or four causes. Our task now is to become each other’s constituents, overcoming our divisions in order to celebrate and advocate a whole host of common causes. This is not an original thought: attempts at building multi-issue campaigns and diverse, united communities have met with varying degrees of success. We simply hope that Cambridge Common can contribute to this ongoing effort, using diverse voices to find common causes.
Right now at Cambridge Common, our goal is to recruit more people who self-define on the political left—liberals, radicals and moderates; Democrats and democrats—to join our team of regular contributors to the blog. We’re looking for people of various perspectives to join our community of writers and thinkers, discussing among ourselves and with readers the issues and ideas that animate us.
If Cambridge Common is not a project for you, we still hope you’ll take advantage of New Media. If it is, we would love to hear from you. You can get in touch with any of us individually or join us at the Cambridge Common Open House: Thursday, February 9, from 8 to 10pm, location TBA.
Thanks for reading and sharing your wisdom,
Andrew Chimaobi Deb Katie