Hi folks, time for a quick plug for some upcoming events of note:
Looking a few weeks off, the Digital Media Conference will descend upon the AFI Theater in Silver Spring on June 22nd. It’s apparently “a ‘must-attend’ event for media, entertainment and technology businesses, investors, and policy-makers involved in the digital distribution of media and entertainment.” I’ll be there in full-schmooze mode; cocktail hour starts at 5:30.
After that, we’ll all need some adult interaction, so don’t miss Hank Dearden and the Capital Cabal’s 2nd Tuesday New Media Happy Hour on June 12th. 80s music! Door prizes! Appetizers! What more could you want?
Me! Mmmm hmmmm, that’s what you could want (oh, baby)! But if you’re hankerin’ for a hunk of Delany on the 12th, look downtown: I’ll be at MCCXXIII (1223 for the Roman-numeral impaired) for a fundraiser on behalf of the New Organizing Institute. The low! low! price of $12 nets you a chance to hang out with a ton of cool folks while you support an organization that’s doing a terrific job training progressive online activists. If you can’t come, you can still donate online and store up good karma. But it’d be much more fun if you come by and spread the love on-site — the event runs 5:30-9:00, with sound and visuals by DC-based producers Reehee & Shred. C u there.
In a techPresident column posted yesterday evening, Nancy Scola raised some excellent questions about MySpace’s plans to offer political campaigns new fundraising tools, including ones designed to allow supporters to raise money on behalf of a candidate. Of course, if MySpace is collecting the money, it’s also collecting data on who’s giving and how much they’re contributing. As Nancy said:
On the one hand, MySpace is a free service, and presidential campaigns can simply choose not to deal with them. That said, high-profile presidential campaigns not using MySpace to build vibrant online followings open themselves up to stories like “Smith Fails the MySpace Test.” The situation the ’08 campaigns find themselves in points to a certain truth — “free” sites like MySpace and Facebook really aren’t free. We just pay for them in a currency other than money.
Others have raised questions about whether the service constitutes a campaign donation in itself and also about whether MySpace’s new status as a campaign contribution “bundler” will give the company at least the appearance of extra political influence. A question I haven’t seen asked — will this service be open to other campaigns, i.e. congressional or state races? What about fundraising for causes? Let’s keep an eye on this one.
Inspired by the May 16th e.politics/techPresident article on the conspicuous lack of presidential campaign widgets, a group of software developers has started to build their own — if the campaigns won’t help their supporters spread the word, these guys are happy to do it for them.
Based in the thriving tech hub of, um, Idaho, the folks at Widgetnest have taken the first steps toward creating a comprehensive suite of widgets for campaign promotion. As a start, they’ve built some nice-looking widgets to display RSS feeds for Edwards, Obama, Romney and Guiliani. Here are the ones for Romney and Edwards:
The folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute must be beside themselves with glee this morning: the Post has discovered their underwear.
To highlight what they’re portraying as misguided regulation of washing machines, the CEI is urging people to mail their (clean) underwear to the secretary of energy. And, they’ve prepared a quick YouTube video to promote the campaign. It’s a very straightforward but probably also fairly effective piece — it shows a CEI employee talking about the “problem” while standing in front of a washing machine in someone’s house. It’s short, uses naturalistic lighting, and the spokesperson does a good job of speaking directly to the camera.
But did the video do its job? Well, the underwear campaign got exposure today in the form of Cindy Skrzycki write-up in the Post’s The Regulator column as the featured example of the use of online video as an advocacy tool, so in that sense it’s definitely made a splash. The article stated that the video had been viewed 1300 times in the first week after its March 16th debut; as I write this, it’s been seen close to 1600 times. Not exactly a big audience (particularly since we have no idea how many times it’s been watched by CEI employees…), but we also don’t know how much promotion they’ve done. Video rarely gets seen unless you’re sending people to it.
Of course, plenty of advocacy groups have been using online video for many years, and video sharing sites such as YouTube for at least a year, but its use is increasing in frequency and quality as people get more experience with it. The U.S. presidential campaigns’ video frenzy has probably helped as well. As Skrzycki points out in her article, video’s becoming just another tool for campaigns. What matters is HOW you use it — and how well you integrate it into a comprehensive communications strategy.
“We live in an age of anxiety, a time of stress, and with all our sophistication, we are the victims of our own technological strength. We are the victims of shock…of future shock.”
Start with: a base of early ’70s technological/apocalyptic thought. Season with: wacky synth tracks. Drop in: a healthy funk bassline and a sense of dread. Serve with: a side order of social disruption and ennui. What do you get? Future Shock!
Yes, this little cultural nugget gathers all our favorites into one earth-toned package: Social anxiety! Creepy talking dolls! Orson Welles! ROBOTS! Sheer genius! Check out the first ten minutes:
To toss you guys a final morsel from last weekend’s PDF unConference, Josh Levy led a great discussion of activism in Second Life, using as a starting point a short documentary he created. The film itself is an excellent introduction to Second Life and its use for education and persuasion — if you’ve never played in this virtual world, the video will give you a sense of what it’s like and why people are drawn to it as a place to spread political messages.
Josh doesn’t shy away from some of the tough issues involved, though — he asks appropriate questions that Second Life evangelists sometimes gloss over. Would time and energy spent in Second Life be better used to make something happen in the real world? More subtly, can the cathartic experience of “visiting” a Second Life exhibition on an issue (Josh goes to a Darfur education display as an example) actually make people FEEL as though they’ve already done something substantive and end up making them less likely to take real-world political action? As I watched the video, I couldn’t deny the beauty of some of the worlds and characters created in Second Life, but I also couldn’t help but notice how empty of people much of it is. If you ask me, the jury’s still out on this tool, but give the film a look and see what you think.
A Monday night segment on viral video on NPR’s Marketplace got me thinking: are we really ready for the sheer volume of political video that’s going to be unleashed over the next 18 months? Think about it: when the presidential campaigns are joined by senatorial, congressional, gubernatorial, state legislative, mayoral, etc etc etc, campaigns, all down to the level of local school board candidates, everybody just step back — this thing’s going to get huge. Add in the video clips created by media outlets, interest groups and citizens, and the amount of political video available is going to be mind-boggling — we have to assume that the number of clips related to the ’08 elections will rise into the millions or tens of millions.
So, what happens in that kind of world? As political video becomes a mass commodity, what trends of the wider video world will it follow — i.e., will all candidates have to become unbearably cute kittens? (Might be a particularly hard stretch for John McCain.) Some predictions: (more…)
At Saturday’s PDF unConference, I caught a fascinating discussion led by Beka from the NotAnAlternative arts collective/production company about setting up street actions with an eye toward getting them the most online exposure possible.
She showed the group a great short film of a fun bit of cultural disobedience that she’d helped organize for Greenpeace, targeting Kleenex. The tissue company’s been promoting its products with a campaign in which random people “pour their hearts out” to a stranger on a couch, and the Greenpeace folks decided that they had a couple of thing to get off THEIR chests: namely, that Kleenex tissues are made from 100% virgin fibers, largely from the fragile boreal forests of Canada. Hilarity, and excellent theater, ensued. Note the careful positioning of cameras to catch all the action, along with the general level of staging involved in the prank. This action was made for video, quite literally.
Just like the lolcats phenomenon — 2 much Internets indeed. “If cheezburger’s plan unfolds successfully, we’ll soon have a site that combines cute animals plus caption-writing plus a voting competition. That should be just about unstoppable.” Where’s that damn robot army when you need it?
Don’t worry, here are some Democratic and Republican presidential candidates who just might save us all (before you scoff, think: how many brains would a zombie Ronald Reagan REALLY need to eat to survive?)
In a discussion about the recent French presidential election at the Personal Democracy Forum unConference this past Saturday, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry presented an interesting thesis: not only did Ségolène Royal’s ‘net-centric strategy fail to win a majority at the polls, but her campaign’s emphasis on citizen participation may have actually backfired entirely by undermining her perception as a leader and by leaving her dependent on a fatally unrepresentative group of voters.
Check out Jose Antonio Vargas’s article in today’s Post for a quick snapshot of the relative power of the presidential campaigns online, which is already stirring up a good bit of discussion online. Nothing in it will be shocking to regular followers of online politics, but it does have some good quotes from some names that’ll be familar to the e.politics crowd, including David All,Daniel Glover and Kung Fu Quip’s Mike Turk. A relevant excerpt:
One reason for the disparity between the parties, political insiders say, is that the top Republican candidates are not exciting voters the way the Democratic front-runners are. Another is that it takes a certain level of technical skill and understanding to be an online strategist, and Republicans admit that “the pool of talent in the Democrats’ side is much bigger than ours.”
But an underlying cause may be the nature of the Republican Party and its traditional discipline — the antithesis of the often chaotic, bottom-up, user-generated atmosphere of the Internet.
Judging from (beer-fueled) conversations I had with several Republican strategists at this weekend’s Personal Democracy Forum conference, the Post article hits the mark quite well — the main sentiment I heard from that side of the partisan divide was frustration mixed with fatalism. Republicans may have to get the pants beaten off of them a couple of times before they start to build a lasting online infrastructure. But bear in mind that tactics have switched sides before: Democrats started the extensive use of political direct mail, for instance, but Republicans ended up turning it into a decisive tool. So let’s nobody get complacent here, either way.