Tuesday 28 October 2008

Intervjuad i Kristianstadsbladet

I dagens Kristianstadsbladet intervjuar David Hylander mig om YouTube och det amerikanska presidentvalet:

- Ingen som vill vinna ett val kommer att kunna ignorera kanaler som Youtube, säger Nils Gustafsson, doktorand i statsvetenskap på Lunds universitet.

Han forskar i hur sociala webbmedier som Youtube påverkar politiken. I årets amerikanska valrörelse har de haft en tydlig effekt. Var tredje amerikansk väljare har sett en kampanjfilm på nätet, och McCain-kampanjen har till och med producerat reklamfilmer exklusivt för webben i ett försök att ta igen Obamas försprång.

Webbvideoklippen når inte lika många människor som de traditionella tv-annonserna. Däremot erbjuder de ett nytt sätt att sprida ett budskap. Principen är enkel: När man ser ett klipp man gillar delar man med sig av det till sina bekanta, till exempel genom att lägga upp det på sin blogg eller sin Facebook-sida. Kompisarna ser också klippet, gillar det och sprider det vidare. I vissa fall uppstår en snöbollseffekt, och plötsligt har miljontals människor sett ett videoklipp utan att någon betalat en krona för att marknadsföra det.

Fenomenet utnyttjas redan inom reklambranschen, och börjar spela en roll även inom politiken, tror Nils Gustafsson.

Uppdatering: Nu även i Hallands Nyheter.

Mike Gravel in Lund: Abe Simpson?

As I mentioned before, I took the opportunity to go and listen to former U.S. senator Mike Gravel as he stopped by for a talk in Lund yesterday.

Gravel ran for president in the Democratic primaries and dropped out pretty quick; he then tried to run as a candidate for the Libertarian Party, which also failed. However, he gained fame and cyber-stardom for appearing in some of the most avant-garde political campaign videos ever to be produced.

Indeed, before Gravel hit the stage, the videos "Rock" and "Power to the People vs. Give Peace a Chance" were shown on a large screen, creating a strange genre-synthesis moment as YouTube met cinema.

So you might have thought that Gravel would talk about his presidential campaign. And he started out by giving the background story for the "Rock" video. Apparently, Gravel had no idea what was going on. He was told to stare into the camera and throw rocks in a lake (as several takes were shot, the film crew had brought a whole bunch of rocks from L.A. to the location in San Fransisco). The producers/directors of the film asked Gravel whether he wanted to give his approval for the final cut. He answered "It's your stuff. Do what you want with it." Then he left the set.

This intrigued me - a candidate for the U.S. presidency not caring about how he is presented in the media - and I asked him if he had the impression that the online videos had created an image of him that he felt he could not control and how he felt about that. Gravel's answer was as surprising as obvious: he needed help in order to break through, and he needed it dearly because he is broke. The fame he gained during the campaign has made it possible for him to tour the world and sell books. As he explained, his first wife takes his retirement pension, and his second wife keeps him alive.

This is the key to why Gravel could go avant-garde: he had nothing to loose. He never believed he could actually win the nomination: running for president was just a way of getting a platform for discussing his political pet: the national initiative, basically a plan for direct democracy.

Tomorrow night, at 8 pm, Barack Obama is airing 30 minute ads on NBC, CBS and Fox - causing the Major League Baseball to postpone a game in the World Series by 8 minutes, should it be necessary. Obama can afford a lot of things, apparently, but he can't afford to be avant-garde.

So, how was Mike Gravel? Well, his main point was that representative government is bad. I was not convinced. Also, his rather angry style and plentiful divertments made him look a little like Abe Simpson - an old man aimlessly raving on about whatever comes to his mind.

I guess that might be a little unfair to a man that successfully fought the Nixon administration in the 1970s - among other things making the Pentagon papers publicly available - but I'm not sad about him not becoming the commander in chief of the world's remaining superpower.

Sunday 26 October 2008

Pro-American Europe

Sitting at an American-styled restaurant in Malmo, the Southern Kitchen Cafe, I come to think about the attempt of the republican party to connect progressive views with anti-Americanism. This, of course, was never true. Also, Europe has never been anti-American, only anti-conservative. But we might be able to show our love in a more flamboyant way.

Saturday 25 October 2008

Mike Gravel comes to Lund

Mike Gravel ran an unsuccessful but interesting campaign for president of the United States as a Democratic candidate. He was up to Clinton and Obama and really never had a chance, but during the campaign he appeared in some of the most interesting, avant-garde-y political campaign videos that were ever made.

He is coming to Lund on Monday, 27 October, in an event arranged by the Academic Society. The event starts at exactly 7 pm in the Café Athen.

I have been invited to ask "a really good question". Here are my earlier texts about former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel:

Amerikanska politikers närvaro på Wikipedia (Swedish)
När kampanjvideon blir konst (Swedish)
Mike Gravel is not the next POTUS, but he's failing in an interesting way (English)

Also: link to the Facebook event.