October 20, 2004

Conference on Internet & Society 2004: Votes, Bits & Bytes

John Palfrey talks about a Berkman Center Conference and Internet & Society, "to consider, from a skeptical viewpoint, the impact of the Internet on politics."

I probably shouldn't do this, but their recent Filter newsletter asked for the "hardest, most interesting questions that might serve as the organizing principle for a specific panel or discussion session on the primary day of conference, December 10, 2004.". So, despite my not being in the best graces there, and perhaps against what would be better judgment, I had sent them some of the following comments:

> An example might be: "Are campaigns more effective at engaging young
> people in campaigns by using Internet technologies?" Give us a
> better one.
> The Question: Is this a question you'd show up to hear discussed?

No. In fact, it sounds like a softball question designed to be an advertisement for somebody's pet project. Here's some of my thoughts as to "the hardest, most interesting questions":

"The Selling of the President 2004 - from Detergent-Boxes to IPO's?"
[The reference is a riff on the classic Selling of the President 1968, which talked about the candidate being a bar of soap or box of detergent]
As technology advances, so does marketing. Are we merely witnessing innovations in candidates-as-products? That is, is the political pitch moving from consumer staples to a bubble-stock public offering?

[Clay Shirky did an excellent analysis of the Dean implosion]

"Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss?"
Most people don't want to be political junkies, they have lives. This creates opportunities for a class of professionals to spin and control the political debate. Maybe we are just seeing a shift in the base of that professional class, from one media to another.

[a.k.a. "Power Law"]

"You Talk Too Much: Does The Internet Really Matter To Voter Involvement?"
Some have said that one blogger is worth ten votes, via political engagement. Others counter that one blogger is worth one-tenth of a vote, due to isolation in an echo chamber. Which is right?

[Note only would I show up, but I would pay, to see a debate here between Jim Moore ("Second Superpower") and Andrew Orlowski :-)]

We'll have to see if these provided anything besides amusement.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on October 20, 2004 10:05 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Re "You Talk Too Much:"

One genuine Internet-related innovation in campaigning, and one which has nothing to do with blogs, is the way it's brought "bundling" down to the grass roots.

In previous elections, a big macher would ask a few hundred of his rich friends to give *him* checks made out to "Smith for President", and then give the bundle of checks to Mr. Smith, thus demonstrating that the macher was somebody worth pandering to.

Now, if you sign up to be a Kerry volunteer, and other people donate money to the campaign by following a link to a page associated with your account, then you get credited for the money you've helped to raise ... thus, you can inflate the campaign's bank account and your own ego simultaneously.

Posted by: Seth Gordon at October 21, 2004 09:48 AM