Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Marriage of Politics and the Internet is Scary and Creepy

Adam Greenfield compares data visualization to the Million Dollar Blocks study of America's criminal justice system11:08 a.m. I'm missing the first seminar to blog about the morning break-out session. Ubiquitous technology. Its impact on political campaigns. Pervasive politics. Pattern of past purchases becoming politically meaningful. Fascinating stuff.

FYI, my hotel Internet connection died while my computer hibernated. It's taken me all this time to get back online. Sigh. The perils of being a blogger on the road.

Julie Barko Germany, Director of IPDI, takes the stage with Adam Greenfield (critical futurist, author), Jonathan Taplin (University of Southern California Annenberg professor and former employee of Bob Dylan), and Bob Boorstein (Google representative, former Democratic political campaign strategist, and NOT a technocrat as Julie describes). Phil Nobel is missing, probably still sleeping, Julie surmises. But then, he's not on the list of scheduled speakers. Despite being the person who said, and I paraphrase, "Although we have come very far, we're still at 8:00 a.m. on the first day of the Internet revolution," Phil can afford to snooze.

I'm scared. And creeped out. IPV6. RFID. UWB. YMax. Visualization. Location. Layered protocol. What do these technologies mean to the average person?

According to the panelists, Big Brother is here. In the not so distant future, maybe within the next eighteen months, integration of various technologies will create a global inferential memory so strong, so powerful that the average person walking to their polling precinct and passing a Starbucks will receive an advertisement for a double latte as well as a "Vote for" message from the most techno-savvy candidate.

How will this development translate to future political campaigns?

According to John Taplan, the viral nature of the Internet and ability to quickly broadcast a candidate's message will put an end to the "swiftboat tactics" used in the 2004 election. Adam disagrees. "The meme does not lose its force," he proclaims. The tactics will remain, they'll simply adjust to technology.

I'm with Adam. Although he's the first to qualify his conjecture by saying these pontifications may be premature. No one wants to go on the record. At least that's the way I interpret this equivocation.

Well, with the proliferation of new media, it's no longer an option. Statements will go on the record as soon as they're made. Candidates will be scrutinized harder than before. Bloggers are everywhere. Case in point right here. One caveat. Live blogging is especially difficult and should be viewed with a grain of salt. Yes, we're listening, but we're also concerned about feeding our audience. Content gets lost. Shuffled around. Misheard. Word wise to the reader: Blogging is fraught with misinformation and live blogging even more so. Hey, we try. But we may get it wrong due to the nature of the pace. That's the price we all pay for new media. As Adam says, view all new media with a grain of salt.

Most bloggers are biased. We all know that. Which raises another interesting question discussed by the panelists. Personalized media v. privacy. To what degree do our specialized choices of media leave us less informed? The panelists all agreed about this particular danger. That's why John listens to Rush Limbaugh and Bob, who can't bring himself to do even that, reads FoxNews 45 minutes every day. Combining information from different political perspectives is crucial to the person trying to stay politically informed. Too many people refuse to integrate perspectives. This is a huge mistake.

Wrapping this up, John mentions the "political summer vacation." Before the advent of new media, political candidates had time to breathe over the summer months. Is the Internet destroying nappy time?

In a word, yes. And what that means to the political process, they're still not sure. Bob thinks this will lower the level of people who go into politics because high caliber candidates won't have the stamina to withstand the pressure. Perhaps. But I think not. Humans are by nature understanding and forgiving. As Adam said in response to whether there will still be margins to make mistakes, "We will all become French." Which sounds like a nice way of saying, "We will forgive mistakes if there is reason to forgive."

So all of you political wonks, take heed. Your candidates are being scrutinized and there is very little margin for error. The biggest mistake candidates can make as politics and the Internet become more integrated is sitting on their backsides and hoping the message goes away. It will not. If anything, it will multiply.

11:54 a.m. Quick, effective, decisive counter message is the only viable response. Otherwise, risk adverse messages going viral and having an impact. And as any good political strategist knows, the only impact your candidate wants a message to have is a positive one.

12:16 p.m. I lost my connection twice and my computer shut down for lack of battery power. But I'm ending this post. Welcome to the dawning of the new age of media.


Sanford Dickert said...

Thanks for liveblogging as much as you could. Love the thoughts being discussed. Sounds like it was quite lively.