Posted by: paulfbove | April 21, 2008

Politics Online

Any proper discussion of the burgeoning Web 2.0 scene has to include a discussion of politics, especially in light of the current election year. We are discussing online politics and the affect of new technology on campaigning in class right now. Our class is taught by Garrett M. Graff, who was a driving factor in creating Howard Dean’s web presence during Dean’s push for the 2004 presidency. Graff wrote a book entitled “The First Campaign” about that race. (Garrett, do I get extra credit for shilling your book??!!) Anyway, the details of the Dean campaign are relevant because it is amazing to see how much of the presidential race is run on the Internet. The 2004 campaign was a great start to what has become one of the most important politicking tools.

One thing that amazes me is that I only vaguely remember the Dean campaign’s online push (sorry, Garrett!). It’s not that I don’t rememember it, I guess it’s that it seemed so logical that it would be online. I guess if I try to think back to 2003, everything seemed to be online already. Napster had come and gone, blogs were getting somewhat popular, and MoveOn.org was a major force and a source of political information. The big factor though was that you could see every move that happened as it happened. And I think that’s where the online political movement really shined. The fact that people could mobilize for a cause was also a huge consideration. The use of MeetUps meant that people could rally together simply by checking out a Website. That kind of speed and organization was never available in previous campaigns.

I remember one of my co-workers showing me Dean’s site at the time. This guy was about 6 or 7 years older than me and was just starting to come into his own technologically speaking. But I remember when he told me how happy he was that he could donate to Dean’s campaign and get his news online. A few weeks later he received his campaign materials in the mail (bumper sticker and whatnot) and he was so pleased! I nodded my head and probably went back to reading up about Phish (who also had a very important Web presence). See, the problem is that I’m one of the most apolitical people I know. I just take so little interest in American poliitics that it kind of boggles even my mind. Hell, I have a B.A. in Political Science for Christ’s sake!! One would think I have more interest, but no. Anyway, the notion of indifference has gotten me thinking as we study online politics. 

So, can all the new technological bells and whistles help people take a more active roll in and care more about politics? I’m not sure. To an extent, yes, but I also think the people who want to be reached will be reached. Those who don’t will still be inactive. Because of a constant barrage of online news about the presidential campaign I do read more about politics, so maybe the bigger picture will help people like me take bigger steps later down the road.

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