Rock the Vote! Take back our Congress! A New Direction! ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s right, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢sÃ¢â‚¬Â¦election season? Sorry, but didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t we just finish being democratic a couple of months ago? Due in part to the magic of New Media, each candidate now has the chance to whore himself for nearly two full years. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m a big fan of voting, believe it or not; IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m the guy who went around on Election day and reminded everyone I spoke with that they should vote. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve actually got the election portion of democracy down to a pretty fine scienceÃ¢â‚¬Â¦we just never bother to follow up on those elections. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a fairly universal feeling, I think, that once elections are over, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re pretty much stuck with those folks until the next election. Unless they are indicted for criminal sexual indiscretions, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re here to stay.
It makes sense on some level, I suppose; and election is a contest, and we Americans love our contests. Like American Idol Ã¢â‚¬â€œ anybody can win. That part that comes after the election Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the writing of letters, the protesting, the petitioning Ã¢â‚¬â€œ well that just feels like work. So why the political tirade?
This week I met Nicholas Geidner, who is something of an expert on the use of new media in political campaigns. He gave a very interesting presentation on this topic, specifically with regards to the sites of Hillary and Obama, among others. He made the very interesting point that using the web as the primary source of communication and fundraising allows the candidate to have more control over their image, so future candidates are going to make increasing use of this method over live media like TV and radio, which always include some chance of getting Ã¢â‚¬Å“Howard DeanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢dÃ¢â‚¬Â.
That kind of shift in media strategy is certainly going to have some serious implications. Demographically speaking, the Left is going to benefit more from a web-based campaign, since we know that liberals are more likely to be Internet-savvy. However, traditional media campaign paradigms are still very well entrenched, so I wonder if we will begin to see a rift opening in media use Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the Right focusing more on TV and Radio while the Left spends its time and money online. This then has further implications Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the age discrepancy between the Left and Right will also grow unless conservatives take steps to appeal to younger voters.
Another issue we touched on dealt with the nature of the media in question. I think that, at least in their current conceptions, campaign sites can be of limited use in appealing to the ever-elusive swing voters (such as myself) in that they require some action on the part of the user, while TV and radio can just wash over me as I lie comatose on my couch. Geidner pointed out that some of the campaigners, such as McCain, are now using Google ads, but theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to have to get more aggressive than that to get my attention; I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even look at those sponsored links. I purposely overlook them because I want Ã¢â‚¬ËœunfilteredÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ search results. Then we started talking about data mining. This is something that makes me a little queasy. I know that there are truckloads of information about me and my habits floating around online, and that thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nothing illegal about collecting that information. That said, if I show up at a site IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve never been to before and they already know my name, my favorite color, and the last three things I bought on Amazon, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m going to be pretty pissed. All this talk of customization is nonsense, if you ask me. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want a website to appeal to me like that. I consider it a tool, and I go to a site looking for something that I want. A well designed site will do this reasonably well for most people. I suppose the problem is integration Ã¢â‚¬â€œ if I can tell that a site is using data mining, it just freaks me out and makes me want to leave.
Any discussion of data mining will probably eventually include MySpace Ã¢â‚¬â€œ which ups my personal paranoia factor by several orders of magnitude. LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s remember who owns MySpace Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a rather vocal conservative. Are we to believe that the infinite pile of data on this site is going to be offered to all sides equally? Seems unlikely to meÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Then again, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not sure what politicians would want with narcissistic emo teens, a lot of bad bands, and web cam girls.
Clearly, a lot of people have been trying to figure out how to squeeze every last penny out of prospective constituents. It sure would be nice if we could focus that energy and innovation on improving participation in the rest of the political process, as well.