First, Raven, I love you man! Thanks for putting this together for me. I know it's not as perfect as you would like. But I'm happy to finally have a place of my own to put my thoughts.
Meanwhile, I don't have time to write thoughts. So here's something I wrote back in August. I was trying to come up with an accurate metaphor for the blogosphere.
...we do have power. But not the kind that one individual can wield to bend one person's will. It's bad strategy to demand what we can't get, unless the process somehow leaves us in a stronger position. We are no longer just a loud lonely dissenting voice. The trend has shifted towards more people starting to agree with us, and we need to play our hand better. It's not that any one blogger is powerful or that any one blog represents exactly how people feel. Blogs are a powerful tool for building critical mass so that movement can happen. A blog is not like a megaphone. It's more like a laser. Do you know how a laser works?
Imagine a tube, and on both ends there are mirrors pointing inward. On one side is something that hooks to an electrical source, or rather a stream of moving electrons, which is what electricity is. On the other end there's a hole. Inside the tube is a gas or a liquid or a crystal - a lasing medium.
So what happens, electrons enter the lasing medium, and collide with other electons, filling them with energy, causing them to jump up an energy level into an excited state. When the electrons fall back down to their normal energy level, they release the absorbed energy as photons. Because of the nature of the lasing medium, the light is all of the same wavelength. The light bounces around in the tube until it exits through the hole as a stream of intense monochromatic light - bright, focused, all of the same wavelength.
Anyway, you can't have a laser with out the lasing medium. All the other parts of the laser are just parts, but it is the lasing medium which makes the laser work and makes it special. Blogosphere power comes from exciting the medium, the netroots community, so that they can produce that focused beam of light...