More on Internet Campaigning


Some of our discussion in class last week reminded me of this article in Rolling Stone.  The article discusses some of the techniques that Obama’s campaign is using, including novel uses of the web.  It discusses the social networking site “MyBo,” includes an approving quote from Joe Trippi, and explains how Obama has generally built and improved upon the basic internet framework that Howard Dean developed in 03-04.

However, I think one of the most interesting parts of the article is a brief discussion (on page 2) of how the Obama campaign has intentionally played down its internet involvement in order to avoid being labeled “the next Howard Dean” and treated merely as a flash in the pan.  Unfortunately, the article does not really elaborate on this point.  Would playing up his internet credentials really cause Barack Obama to be taken less seriously?  Would some voters be turned off by social networking sites dedicated to him?  Would Howard Dean comparisons be fatal?  I believe that the answer to all these questions is probably “no,” but clearly at least one media director in the Obama camp felt otherwise…

A South Park look at the (lack of) Internet


As we’re getting to the end of the year, it’s time to answer that question of whether the web is different.

I just wanted to highlight a recent South Park episode where the plot is that the Internet stops working – and no one knows why. (Watch the full episode here, it’s titled “Over Logging”)

A warning though! The episode is in full South Park style…..

It seems to me that the writers of South Park think that the Internet and the Web make a difference!

Quick Question


Hi All,

I want to set up a blog to post my final paper (and perhaps to continue discussing Generation Y [or 9/11 Yuppie, depending on your political stripe/ageist tendencies] legal and cultural issues throughout the summer).  I haven’t done the whole blogging thing before, but I was wondering whether anybody had some basic advice for a blogging novice such as myself.

First, I want to know whether respectable blogs can use free web hosting?  The last time I did any web publishing, I used Frontpage and Angelfire.  Have norms about credibility and pay vs. free web hosting shifted in the last five years?

Second, should I use blog software?  Are there distinct advantages to doing so?

Any recommendations on those two issues, or any others, are very much welcome.

Hope you’re all enjoying the sun.



Is the Web different? And should teaching be objective?


I’m in the slightly awkward position of having blogged some thoughts about the overall question of whether the Web is different, and about how we might talk about this during the last class. It’s awkward because I haven’t talked about this with JP and he may have a very different (and, inevitably, better) idea. As might you. Plus, I’ve tipped my hand about where I stand on the issue, in case you hadn’t guessed already.

At the meta level, this is reminiscent of the debate about journalistic neutrality, balance, and objectivity (which are, of course, three different things). Would it be best for a teacher to keep her personal views on such topics hidden from the class? Or is transparency the right approach?

For journalism, I personally tend to think transparency is usually best, although that may take the form of maximally neutral reporting along with a blog (or something else) that makes the reporter’s background, values, and biases apparent. That way, we can check out the biases we may suspect are at play.

But it’s different with teaching. For one thing, teachers and students are in a power relationship. This is formalized in the grading system (stupid, stupid grading system … a rant for another time) but is likely to exist even outside of that system because the teacher is the one who sits at the front of the classroom. Obviously, the student-teacher relationship isn’t only about power, but it seems to me to be an almost inevitable component of that relationship. (Exceptions exist, modalities and degrees exist.)  So, there’s less at risk if you disagree with a reporter’s stances and values than if you disagree with your teacher’s.

I’m not saying that that power imbalance can’t be overcome. Every (?) teacher hopes that her students feel genuinely free to disagree, even and especially fundamentally. But when students enter a classroom, they take the measure of the teacher and quickly gauge the extent to which they are free to argue back, to reason differently, to engage outside the day’s topic. Don’t you? That’s different with our relationship to reporters.

I apparently have taken a stand on this meta issue as well, by posting about the Web difference (the topic and the class) on my personal blog. I did so on the grounds of transparency, because you could always google me and get a pretty good idea of where I stand anyway, and to get pushback from my readers. I’m just not 100% comfortable with having done so.

First 21st Century campaign?


That’s what Ronald Brownstein argues in this piece in National Journal.

A .pdf you should look at



Daniel Solove gives a really solid overview of current law regard Informational Privacy and how the current mish-mosh patchwork can’t cope with the societal ills which database aggregation represents.

Facebook: Your one stop shop for a class action lawsuit


So it seems that Facebook is being sued in Texas over the use of members pictures and names to sell merchandise in Beacon ads, specifically in Blockbuster movie rentals. While this might cause some problems for Beacon ads generally, this particular suit is based on a the Videotape Privacy Protection Act which prevents videostores from disclosing your rental history.

It’ll be interesting to see, where, if anywhere this lawsuit goes and if it raises other legal question (say right of publicity) about Beacon ads in general.

Facebook: Your One-Stop Shop for Web Updates


Two announcements this week indicate that Facebook is on its way to becoming even more of an update site than it already is. First, Facebook is going to integrate updates from Flickr, Yelp, Picasa, and Delicious into the News Feed. Second, Six Apart, former owner of Live Journal, has developed a Facebook App called Blog It, which will let you update your Facebook status, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, and LiveJournal all at once. I find the first announcement very exciting. But I also found it surprising given Facebook’s increasingly strong position in the market for on-line photo sharing. Why increase the visibility of Flickr and Picasa to Facebook users that currently use Facebook to share photos? Evidently Facebook thinks they can expand their audience and uses to a wider population, but I think they risk losing their core users to other sites.

Facebook-era politics: more talking? or just more clicking?


This blog has a post talking about a panel discussion hosted by NYU entitled “How the Web is Changing American Politics,” which featured Arianna Huffington, among others. (Politics group, I tried to see if this was on your blog/ wiki but couldn’t find it…sorry if I’m duplicating anything!) From the blogger’s account, it seems like it was all about how great Obama’s campaign has been about using Facebook and other social networking sites to his advantage — rather than about a more fundamental impact on politics. Then again, maybe online social networking IS a fundamental change in politics. This post raises a few questions about Facebook-era politics and its implications.

First, in social networking sites’ advent onto the political scene, are we entering an era where Americans wear their votes on their sleeves much more than before? And if so, does that matter?

We’ve been talking a lot about how grassroots approaches are more en vogue than ever, in part because of the Web…but I wonder if the other side of that is that voters “pick sides” more conspicuously — by joining Facebook groups, becoming a “supporter” of their favored politician, etc. (I know I have been much more up front about my allegiances this time around, largely because of Facebook.) This may not be a bad thing if it means more people are engaging with the issues and contributing to the political debate. On the other hand, I think there’s a legitimate concern that social networking sites might lead to politics becoming more of a superficial popularity contest. Now that people can broadcast their political preferences with the click of a button, I see the potential for quite a “bandwagon” effect. Ultimately, will the benefits from increased political participation outweigh the potential harm of fostering (or deepening) a “herd mentality” among voters?

Second (and harder to answer): is Web political involvement (including on Facebook) as meaningful as “real world” political involvement? When people join politicians’ Facebook groups, are they strengthening democratic ideals? Or encouraging a sort of “democracy-lite” society? (In this respect, we run into a familiar question: is the Web a substitute for or add-on to real-world behavior/ media/ relationships?)

NYT columnist Thomas Friedman has one view, expressed in this article that appeared in the Times last fall. Trippi (who thinks the internet has encouraged campaigns to engage people in “real dialogue”) and DW seem to have a different view. In Broadcasting and the Voter’s Paradox, DW (who will kill me for quoting from his writings) says: “Voting is gloriously paradoxical. Each person gets one and only one vote, equal to everyone else’s. When we vote, we are mere faces in the crowd, yet we rejoice in our mere-ness. Yet with that one vote, we express what is unique about us.” And later: “We don’t yet know what the effect will be now that we have remembered that democracy is about connecting as much as about standing alone in a voting booth facing a lonely, existential decision.” So he seems to think Web involvement may end up being MORE meaningful in some ways.

Will voting post-Facebook still involve expressing “what is unique about” ourselves? Or will we veer too sharply toward becoming “mere faces in the crowd” of our Facebook groups? Will we really do more talking and “connecting”? or just more clicking?

Politics and open source


One of the readings for today talked of the great potential of applying the Linux open source model to political campaigning. Is the open source model really different? Here’s an article describing the rapid increase in open source acquisitions by wealthy investors. Is open source going “corporate”? What type of effect will the outside money have? Is this symbolic of other trends of web differences?