Archive for the 'democracy' Category

A Human Rights Web Difference


This is an interesting story on CNN right now. A UC Berkeley grad student was arrested while attending an anti-government rally in Cairo and used a Twitter message to to tell his friends. They then posted the message (and others that followed) on their blogs, and eventually UC Berkeley sent a lawyer to get him out of jail.

“Why Democrats Rule the Web”


As a follow-up to the politics discussion from last week, here is article from TIME stating that McCain is behind the curve on the web…
Why Democrats Rule The Web

Also, here is an old article (from last summer) about Obama’s web campaign.

If the democrats truly rule the web, will that make a difference in the elections?

Can PR Save the Beijing 2008 Olympics?


“Can PR Save the Beijing 2008 Olympics?”

This blog usually covers a number of the topics that came up during our class discussion with DW on Astroturfing and Marketing “Conversations” and this whole entry, including the comments, relates to the conversation with Ethan Zuckerman about Western Media Bias and the Chinese Olympics.


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…

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?

Web’s Effect on Political Debates


Dan Gillmor has a great post that talks about what the future of political debates could look like.

Transparency and Fundraising Online (warm-up for politics online project)


Apparently the Clintons have decided to yield even more transparency after releasing their tax returns for the past 7 years. Now the Clinton campaign has unleashed a new technique for web fundraising. When you contribute online for the Pennsylvania primary, you can choose where you would like the money to go. The website, “MyPA” shows the campaigns’ progression in meeting goals for each category. The Clinton camp has been innovative; in the past there has been a musical contest, a chance to watch a debate with Bill and a chance to roll on the trail with Chelsea. Time will tell if this innovation can surpass Obama’s new million in a minute campaign, began by independent supporters.

Live Blogging Lessig on Change Congress


6:31 More Questions.

Why not a pledge for lobbyist? Pledge to give information but not money. This is a good idea and Larry seems to like it as well.

How do you protect this organization from abuse and give it trust? Ummm… Larry doesn’t know. I think the key is to try and keep it bipartisan and out of the ugly political trenches. Is that doable, I don’t know, but it should be a goal.

What is the future? What about gerrymandering? Who knows.

What is the real problem with PACs? They aggregate small donors into real donations. But the problem is the lack of transparency that ends with one entity have amplified power.

6:12 Questions.

Why don’t incumbents support public financing? I think that equal dollars being spent would make incumbents even harder to out.

What do we need? Some victories. That is true. But which issues should be first?

6:10 Congressman Cooper:

The system is hopelessly broken. We have to make change happen. (and he is done, wow that was quick).

6:07 – Is this destined to fail? Can we Change Congress? Perhaps, but nonetheless we need to try. </end>

__(‘Read the rest of this entry »’)

China blocks YouTube


I thought this was relevant to our earlier discussions about blocking of YouTube. China is currently blocking YouTube after videos of foreign media reports about the crackdown in Tibet appeared on the site. The AP’s story is available here.

In somewhat of a tangent, this is similar to something Tom Clancy wrote about in one of his novels. In The Bear and the Dragon, Clancy suggested in 2000 that the CIA should broadcast CNN’s coverage of a war against China on a website available to the Chinese public to try to stir them into action. See the Wikipedia article here.

Live music festivals — beneficiaries of the web difference in the music world?


“The record business, or at least that of the major labels, is foundering, as CD sales spiral downward. But South by Southwest thrives on the plain fact that people still love music: making it, hearing it, dancing to it, even marketing it.” -Jon Pareles, NYT

The NY Times featured an article this past week on Austin’s South by Southwest music festival, and it made some interesting observations about today’s music industry that I thought were relevant to our discussion of the web difference in the music world. The author reiterates the point made in class that more and more musicians will turn to concert sales to make their living (as opposed to record sales). He ultimately characterizes the festival as “as close as the concert business gets to a level playing field.” He adds, “Big names and small play the same beery clubs, through the same sound systems, without their accustomed arena video setups or undistracted audiences.”

So in the growing popularity of these live music festivals, we see another example of the Web breaking down barriers to entry in the music business, a development which we in turn expect to improve information flow, increase choice, and drive competition.

I don’t know much about the festival, but Wikipedia says it is the largest revenue-producing event for the city of Austin – bigger than things like UT football games and even the more storied Austin City Limits music festival! (For more, see this article.) So it seems clear that the internet – by bringing about phenomena like the decreasing importance of major record labels, the popularization of off-label music on the Web, and increasing fan demand for live concerts – is also having a significant impact on local, non-Web entities like local governments/ economies. I think all this is interesting because music is one area where the Web has enabled a distinct online culture (MySpace, Bradsucks) to develop, but everything we’re seeing now suggests that the benefits from this online community are being transferred to (or at least shared with) the non-Internet world.

Brad of Bradsucks seemed to be focused more on the opportunities to make (and distribute) a new kind of music that have been made possible by the Web. He said he was less into the live performance opportunities, and is happiest when he’s at his computer, mixing and recording songs. But for many other musicians, the internet is changing the landscape of the live music industry and, in so doing, creating all kinds of opportunities to do what they love most – perform in front of a music-loving audience. All in all, it seems like the web difference in the music world has benefited all musicians. I wonder if this is truly a Pareto improvement vis-à-vis the artists themselves – or if there are some musicians out there who were happier before all these changes?