I had an epiphany yesterday while talking to my ultra-hip cousin who lives in Harlem and is a big Obama supporter. We were discussing how it is that the traditional corporate media outlets continue to act as if today’s Internet is still stuck in 2004. How they continue to offer their Orwellian take on reality as if most people don’t compare the corporate narrative to the common narrative found and nurtured online.
They clearly don’t get us or IT. (Information Technology to those who are acronym challenged.)
Politics 2.0 (mirrored by Web 2.0) arrived in the form of Howard Dean’s candidacy in 2004 and the huge grassroots movement it inspired. The evolving social networks were still in their infancy. Bloggers and blogging sites were still developing the technology and processes by which this new medium would operate. Internet users were still in the process of navigating these new information sources, bonding with peers and sharpening their rhetorical blades for the battles to come.
It wasn’t enough to drown out the corporate media’s echo chamber, though, as they painted Howard Dean as that year’s lunatic-fringe candidate. It wasn’t enough to lift an electable populist over a marginal centrist. It wasn’t enough to encourage millions of new people to turn out and make Ohio an impossibility through the weight of shear numbers.
It wasn’t enough then, but four years later, an eon in Internet time, and the environment is totally new.
Politics 3.0 has arrived in the form of multiple revolutions in broadband access, computing power, social networking & blogging sites and convergence media technology combined with wide-spread acceptance of the online world as having as much, if not more, credibility as traditional broadcast media. We now have instant access to dozens of sources to double-check every factoid offered up by the press or pundits. We know multiple people online who bring new levels of understanding to just about any debate with multiple references of their own. People that we trust because we have verified their references in the past and found them to be accurate. Reality has a context and a nuance that the corporate media can never deliver – like watching a movie with no sound.
It’s a brave new world four years after the 2004 debacle, and I believe Aldus Huxley would be pleasantly surprised.
I just finished reading Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. In it he speaks about the nature of epidemics and how they are started. How are they spread? Who is responsible? What does an epidemic, a viral message, look like? It looks like the current evolution of the Internet. The reason I think Gladwell’s book applies so uniquely to what we are seeing is the role that peers play online. The peer role in social networks and blogging sites is every bit as important as to who you listen to (and more importantly believe) in real life.
My cousin and I were discussing how we used to hear something on TV and the gut reaction was skepticism. Something about that statement just doesn’t feel right. But it’s only been the last few years that you might have already heard and researched a dozen differing views of that story by the time you hear it for the hundredth on the corporate media. In fact, the reasons most of us hear anything the corporate media has to say these days is by seeing it on sites like Talking Points Memo or in the first place. They are the gateway to information for a growing number of Internet users.
Barack Obama and the team he has assembled clearly understand the Internet and the changing environment ushered in by Politics 3.0. They understand how to communicate their message through the white noise created by the corporate media. They know that more people will go to the BarackObama.com YouTube page to get confirmation of something they saw on CNN than to take that erroneous information at face value as in years past.
Barack gets us and IT. I have high expectations of an Obama Administration because of the level of understanding he clearly has. What’s more is we have a directive from the man himself that the election is only the first step in this process. There is no more luxury of voting every four years and then going back to sleep. We have Congressional representatives that need virtual and literal foots in their asses to get this legislation written and passed. There are corporate special interests that need to be replaced by citizen special interests. There are a million and I things that need to be done that no one man can do alone.
Having a president who understands how technology can weave us together to face and overcome those challenges as a united front. We certainly live in interesting and exciting times.