Saturday 8 November 2008

Obama campaign continues in White House

Obama won and the turnout was probably around 64 %, which is the best result in decades, but still a bit low comparing with, you know, like, umm, Scandinavia.

The important part is that 64 % still are historic numbers in a U.S. context, and it's a proof of the energizing power that especially the Obama campaign had on voters. Tens of thousands of pages will be written about this campaign, and I will probably add to them.

For now, I am satisified with learning that Obama apparently will try to use the powerful network that his campaign built in taking over the administration. Via Politics Online and the BBC I learn that Obama is using a new website,, as a hub for continuing his successful web strategy.

There's a blog with updates, information on policy areas, an invitation to share thoughts with the new administration, and even job application forms. I don't know whether the new Obama administration is going to actually listen or if it's a brilliant illusion, but I do like the look of it.

In order to retain the enormous goodwill he got during his campaign, Obama must show that his talk of change and inclusion was not a campaign phenomenon only. If he wants to be re-elected, an eternal campaign is his best option.

I predict that this new form for e-government (or trick, depending on how cynical you are) will be copied as well as other parts of the campaign in various parts of the world in the years to come.

And speaking of copying, people in the Republican Party are also calling for change.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

OK, so he won, but what's the turnout?

Tonight and early tomorrow I team up with a few expat Americans and Amero-manic Swedes to talk politics, drink American beer and wait for the results.

I hope Obama will win, I think he will, but one of the things I'm most interesting in finding out is what effect this long, dollar-drenched, ingeniously organised, media-hyped, social media-driven campaign has on voter turnout.

Young people? Poor people? Minorities? And, depending on what numbers we will see tomorrow - 50 %, 60 %, 70 % - I have a few recommendations for European political parties. Even if turnout is generally higher than in U.S. elections (in the Swedish parliamentary election in 2006 it was 82 %) there is always a danger in letting voters become disinterested.

Especially the Obama campaign, whith its caleidoskopic array of techniques for organising volunteers and contacting voters, will serve as a source of inspiration.

I'll get back to you on that. For now, an interesting way of self-promotion:

Saturday 1 November 2008

Henry Jenkins on US election viral videos

MIT media scholar Henry Jenkins (Convergence Culture etc) sums it up nicely in a recent blog post:

As we pass this content along, it facilitates conversations among friends and it allows us to signify to each other our mutual recognition and respect for the civic rituals which surround the political process. When people send me this video, they intend it as a gift -- which is to say, they intend it to reaffirm the social ties we feel towards each other.

Politics - as much as any other part of culture - always had an important social dimension, but the ease with which it is now possible to share and reconceptualise media content is elevating the process to another level.

Also, an attack on the term "viral":

If I had my way, the term and "memes" along with it would be retired from our vocabulary of talking about how media circulates. There's something sick and unhealthy about the concept of viral media. The term, "viral" operates off a metaphor of infection, assuming that the public are unwilling carriers of messages -- yet I doubt very much that the students who sent me this video were in any sense unwilling or unknowing about what they were doing. The concept of "viral media" strips aside the agency of the participants who are sending along this video for their own reasons -- in this case, a mixture of political zeal and personal affection and probably some sense that I would find the video intellectually interesting.

Personally I wouldn't worry too much about that. I'm not committed to the metaphor, but I do believe there is a virus-like quality to a certain kind of cultural content. It is that urge that makes it irresistable to share it with friends. And yes, quite often that might be unknowingly done. Jenkins proposes "spreadable media", which really could be anything from papyrus rolls to radio.

Also, introducing the MIT Center for Future Civic Media!

Also, a funny clip I hadn't seen before: McCain REALLY is the Penguin!