ServeNext.org Blog

User Generated Product Reviews are Patriotic?

Posted by Zach Maurin on May 21, 2009

National, community, and, of course, military service are all considered patriotic.  Serving in the State Department…also considered patriotic.  But reviewing a consumer product or service online?  Is that patriotic?

“According to Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, writing reviews and rating services online is becoming a civic act not unlike traditional forms of public service,” reports Andrew Lavallee of The Wall Street Journal.  The article goes on to add:

Posting information about products and experiences as everyday as hotel stays (”Generally all my reports are shower-related,” he said) helps other people make more educated purchases, he said during a panel session Tuesday, and can ultimately lead to better customer service when large numbers of people weigh in on social-media forums.

“The only way these sites are going to work is if people start participating in the millions and tens of millions,” Mr. Newmark said. “Participating in these sites is an act of compassion, in some sense patriotism.”

Enabling fellow citizens make smarter purchases is helpful and a nice thing to do, but it’s certainly expanding the common notion of patriotism by calling it such.  If you agree with Newmark (which I don’t), this is another example of how social technology is blurring lines in our world: social networks have combined personal and professional relationships and activities; blogging has enabled a convergence of professional reporting and citizen journalism into the mainstream; any other examples?

And while I don’t agree with Newmark (I just think there has to be some distinction between helping someone, say, buy a better digital camera versus helping raise money online for a social cause) there is a broader point: social media and technology is forcing us to rethink conventional approaches to civic participation, journalism, social change, government accountability, and more.

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