Politics and Social Media

Newsweek magazine named YouTube’s Steve Grove as one of its “12 people to watch” in 2008. He is head of news and politics at YouTube, and I enjoyed sitting next to him and chatting at the New Media Academic Summit in Chicago. 

When it came time to speak in a session on presidential politics, Grove noted that technological innovation occurs in great leaps during wartime out of necessity, adding, “A presidential campaign is a lot like a war.” He said campaign strategists and online citizens have pioneered a lot of technological innovation during the 2008 presidential election.

For example, campaigns and independent campaign supporters now create videos for YouTube viewing. That didn’t happen in the 2004 presidential campaign… because YouTube didn’t even exist in 2004.

Camera phones and audio recorders now ensure that no candidate is ever off-the-record. That’s how Barack Obama’s statement at a private California fund-raiser about economically embattled Pennsylvania voters — quote: “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations” — became national news.

Tech-savvy candidates now “twitter” (social networking through micro-blogs). When North Carolinian John Edwards suddenly stopped twittering, that became a sign that he was withdrawing from the race. One of Obama’s twitters made national headlines when he wrote of a Hillary Clinton suggestion: “In Columbus, MS & wondering how somebody who’s in second place is offering the vice presidency to the person who’s in first place.”

At the Chicago summit, a moderator commented on the political party nominees: “Obama is glued to his Blackberry, while McCain is a dinosaur who calls himself computer illiterate. But McCain does have open access for bloggers on the campaign trail.”

Finally, one speaker noted that corporate communications and political communications used to be separate concepts. Now they seem so similar, with their own versions of “product launch” and “crisis communications.”

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Explore posts in the same categories: Media and Politics, Social Media

One Comment on “Politics and Social Media”

  1. Glenn Scott Says:

    The current issue over politically sticky wikis illustrates your point again. Observers are noting that the Wikipedia sites of the eventual vice presidential nominees were heavily edited in the days preceding the announcements of running mates. The campaign organizers clearly were buffing up the bios, knowing that thousands of people would go to Wikipedia to learn more about Biden and Palin.

    We’ll be exploring issues like these in my Media & Culture course this semester. See our budding course blog: http://mediarising.wordpress.com


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