Election Time!

Normally we finish a semester with the class on politics, but Mike and I figured that we should rearrange the schedule this fall to acknowledge that a campaign is actually unfolding right now. Thus we have a special guest next week for class next week, just before the election, and will devote the class to talking about the election. For the discussion, you are encouraged to wear your best political paraphernalia—t-shirts, buttons, baseball hats, whatever you have politics-wise—to class Wednesday night.

There is, as one might imagine, a tremendous amount of reading one could peruse about online politics. If you have time and/or interest this week, please read some excerpts from my book on the 2008 presidential campaign, “The First Campaign.” Here are PDFs of the Introduction, Part I, the chapter on web campaigning, and the conclusion. The book, of course, reads a bit dated right now in parts (you know, with the whole 2008 election having happened now), so for the retrospective, make sure to also read this Obama campaign piece (PDF) I wrote after the election, as well as Edelman’s Obama write-up (PDF) and Michael Silberman’s Obama write-up. Unfortunately, with all of the campaign tomes that came out on the campaign afterwards, none of them spent much time talking about the campaign. Ari Melber also wrote a first-year report on Organizing for America that’s worth perusing.

For your blog post this week, apply Clay Shirky and your other readings to the Obama campaign and the administration. What was the promise, bargain, tool of the Obama campaign? How, in your opinion, has he done in following through as President on the Cluetrain Manifesto rules? Or, for that matter, on his promise?

To get you started, here’s a little thought experiment for you—I’ve taken the first ten theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto and replaced the words for political purposes:

1) Campaigns are conversations.
2) Campaigns consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
3) Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
4) Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
5) People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
6) The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
7) Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
8) In both internetworked Campaigns and among intranetworked voters, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.
9) These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.
10) As a result, campaigns are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked campaign changes people fundamentally.

So what else in Cluetrain is relevant to where Obama is now, going into the midterm election? How does a campaign differ from actually being in elected office in terms of Cluetrain? In terms of Clay Shirky?

Don’t forget to email us BEFORE class on Wednesday, that is BEFORE 7:45 p.m., with your community snapshot. Just like in the real world, there are no extensions.

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