The Futurist: Campaign Dispatches
Life on a bus is not all it is cracked up to be. I suppose that may be the difference between being a rock star and a guy running for the U.S. Senate. My bus stops in over 20 small towns a day. Keeping track of where I am would be a nightmare if it weren't for the real time GPS navigation in my BlackBerry P90--the first projection-screen BlackBerry.
I love clicking a button and viewing my BlackBerry's screen on the wall. I struggle with small screens because I hate wearing my contacts--even though I know they'll dissolve in my eye into a moisturizing solution after 24 hours.
On the road--when I am not connected to campaign headquarters through a barrage of video conferencing cameras placed around the bus, or checking in with my family online through the series of house cameras back home--I am "lifecasting" my campaign live through a digital camera attached to my ear. It fits just like the old Bluetooth earpieces.
"Lifecasting" is great for my campaign. My campaign manager came up with the strategy to broadcast everything I do and say, almost 24 hours a day. With voter sentiment at an all-time low, it is an amazing way for me to build an emotional connection with the public. They see my passion firsthand and also identify with me as a real person every day. The downside is the lack of privacy and the toll on my family.
Lifecasting is just one example of how campaigning has become a nonstop live dialogue between the candidates and the public. Competitively, we've got a key advantage against the other guys by using Google's local television tools. We watch live feeds of my opponents as they speak from market to market. We then immediately (from the bus) buy inventory in those same local markets in the nightly news, and attempt to undermine all of their talking points. We're seeing startling results, watching Nielsen's engagement metrics spike on each commercial served. Voters respond to my ads by turning a knob on their remotes that shows how interested they are in each message they see. We can determine a commercial's relevance on a second-by-second basis.
When you are being watched and scrutinized constantly, you have to be on your "A" game all the time. This personal blog is one of the only ways to express myself privately, and I allow only friends and family to see it. However, this new world is not just about watching what I say. The bus driver can't speed or run a light, because we know one of my competitors is tracking the bus on Google Earth live and monitoring our speed through residential areas.
The bus emissions must be up to code because of the EPA full disclosure law I helped pass in the state senate. The law allows the DMV to post real-time emission levels of all registered vehicles publicly on their Web site. The bus is pretty safe; it's built by a new automobile company started by some Silicon Valley guys and is considered the most eco-friendly in the world.
To relax, I take a few moments to simply gaze out the window as the California landscape streaks past. Serving this great state is such an honor. Unfortunately, even this rare Zen moment is interrupted by billboards displaying my name as they read the RFID (radio frequency identification) tag in my dog Bailey's neck. The billboard is also equipped with Bluetooth, which beams directions to the nearest pet store to the bus's navigation system.
I'm attending my son's virtual back-to-school night, where I will meet all his teachers, or at least their avatars. I swear, though--if his English teacher's avatar shows up as a penguin again, I am pulling him out of that private school.
Now that every real-world event seems to have its virtual counterpart, it's a crutch for those of us often on the road. I even miss the tediousness of being home: taking out the trash. Our new home-monitoring service sends me mobile notices about all sorts of things. When the trash is full, I leave a video on my son's Post-It widget to take it out. I made him install that widget on all of his devices so there's no excuse. It's the least I can do as a temporarily absentee husband and father.
All this connectivity takes some sting out of the sacrifices we make to pursue our calling--as long as I remember to turn off the lifecasting camera at the right moments!
Jonathan Haber is director of Innovations West, Initiative. (firstname.lastname@example.org)